Service project is ‘hair-raising’ experience for students

Jackie Duteau, 9, a third grade student at St. Mary’s Academy in Baldwinsville, loves her short new haircut. She smiles shyly as she explains she cut her long hair to, “Help other people.”

   Jackie and five other girls from St. Mary’s Academy cut their hair as part of a school-wide service project, Wig-it Wednesday, to raise money to purchase wigs for cancer patients. The school was inspired to participate in the project after learning their principal, Renae Henderson, had a close friend who needed to purchase a wig after going through extensive chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

   “Service projects are very important to us at our school,” explained Henderson. “We call it the ‘hidden curriculum.’ We teach a virtue each month such as friendship, courage, respect or giving and our service projects play into these virtues. Our students learn that the world is not just about them, it’s about learning to care for and give to others. It’s something they need to learn in life and if they learn how to value others here, we are doing our job,” stated Henderson.

   Unlike most service projects for the school that last a few weeks, this particular project lasted throughout the school year. Each week from October until June students would donate 25 cents toward the Wig-it-Wednesday program. The students’ hope was to raise enough money to purchase two wigs for the American Cancer Society.

   Two teachers coordinated the Wig-it-Wednesday project: Linda Kippen, who teaches Phys Ed and Art, and Sandy Vinette, who teaches fourth grade.

   “Each week the money would be collected in a bucket and the two teachers would roll the coins in front of the students and announce a total every Monday,” explained Henderson. “Whenever the school reached $100 in donations one teacher from our staff would be selected to wear a wig throughout the day on Wednesday of that week. It was a surprise to the students to see who would be wearing the wig. It kept their interest and all the teachers were great sports. Even Sister Bernadette joined in,” laughed Henderson. 

   During the launch of the project in October, Kippen and Vinette also asked students if anyone was interested in donating their hair to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program. The company creates wigs for the American Cancer Society from donated hair. Without hesitation, Jackie, Keri Finn, Mary Nolan, Kyra Schwartz, Claire Siddell and Nina Hickey all raised their hands to participate in the hair donation portion of the project. During the next eight months, while Jackie and her classmates grew their hair long enough to donate, the rest of the school was busy raising a grand total of $885.

   On the final day of the service project, June 4, a check was awarded to Erin Snuff from the American Cancer Society, who informed the students and teachers gathered at the special assembly that instead of paying for two wigs, the money they had raised would actually purchase 20 wigs for cancer patients.

   Before the end of the assembly, Jackie, Keri, Mary, Kyra, Claire and Nina sat in front of the student body as a professional hair stylist cut between eight and ten inches of each girl’s hair. “At first I was nervous but then I was happy I got my hair cut,” said Mary, 9 and a third grader.

    “The entire school was there to cheer the girls on when their hair was cut,” stated Henderson. “Their families were there as well and we were all so proud. When it comes to giving, no one does it as well as our students. They just step up and do what needs to be done.”

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