Colonial students experiencing homelessness received free haircuts and haircare training Tuesday. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

Operation Hair Care: Cuts, training for homeless students

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Colonial students experiencing homelessness received free haircuts and haircare training Tuesday. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

Colonial students experiencing homelessness received free haircuts and haircare training Tuesday. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

On Tuesday a steady procession of elementary students climbed into chairs at the Paul Mitchell The School  and were transformed from apprehensive to glowing.

The students were participating in Colonial School District’s Operation Hair Care, a program that offers homeless students help with hair and makeup styling.

It’s also for students whose families are financially challenged.

It involved about 15 younger students who received shampoos and hair cuts and about 15 William Penn High School students, all of whom hope to go into hair care, makeup and beauty.

The younger students were mesmerized by colorful drapes fastened around them for the cuts. One bright yellow included cartoons of jungle animals and really popped against the black of the studio.

It was an honor to be able to work with the kids, said Monique Lusby, a former student at Paul Mitchell.

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“They’re so excited and happy that it’s their first time here,” she said. “I love it. It’s just a great day and it feels good to give back to the kids and make them feel great.”

Senior Chemdiya Apere was thrilled to be working with Paul Mitchell professionals. She was able to tour the studio and listen to talks about choosing hair and makeup to suit your own hair.

History of Operation Hair Care

Lauren Wilson, public information officer of Colonial School District, started Operation Hair Care in 2018. 

“It started out of a conversation I was having with a family crisis therapist,” Wilson said. “We were simply walking down the hall and a student that passed by had his hood up.”

The therapist told her the child likely didn’t want anyone to see his hair because he lived in a motel and his family couldn’t afford to get it cut.

Wilson, who believes the adage of when you look good, you feel good holds true, said it made her think about how a student’s hair affects self esteem and social behavior in and out of the classroom. 

In its first year, Operation Hair Care involved only Wilson’s personal hair stylist, who cut a handful of students’ hair. 

Now, dozens of students are served, with a trip to the hair studio four times a year. 

It’s a win-win, as the Paul Mitchell students need to fulfill a certain number of community service hours.

Most of the younger Colonial students have never been in a professional hair studio, Wilson pointed out, so it’s a great experience that benefits the young students, aspiring stylists and Paul The School.  

The older students also were told what products work best with different hair styles and textures, several cutting techniques and how to properly curl hair.

The talks by Paul Mitchell experts included what it takes to get into the school and succeed in the field.

“We also wanted to show them what is available as they enter into their new world after graduating,” said Lusby, a Paul Mitchell student who recently became part of the staff.

Lusby said the high school students who want to go into the field have a lot of great options.

“College is definitely a great option, but we’re also an option where you can grow and have your own career,” she said.

William Penn’s Apere said the training from professionals while working on the students’ hair is much more interactive and informative than a YouTube tutorial.

“Coming here shows me and the girls how to do stuff independently,” she said. “They helped explain how to do our makeup and how to do our own hair, based on everyone’s individual hair and body.”

Veronica Jones, a Paul Mitchell stylist, said she loves children but doesn’t have any, so her profession is one way to put a smile on a child’s face.

“They can’t take care of themselves so I like them to be able to pick their own hairstyle for me to give them,” she said. “Kids like to look good like we do. They might not care as much, but they definitely have a fashion sense.”

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