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'A haircut is a big thing': Kansas City school kids get fresh hairstyles for the holidays

Several young children, mostly girls, are sitting in chairs position at portable tables inside a gymnasium. There are different hairdressers attending to them.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Taryn Harbin, right, ties a braid for Madison Doss, 11, a 5th grader at Faxon Elementary on Friday afternoon.

During the holiday season, some parents don’t have the money to spare for a haircut and style. Kansas City barbers stopped by a local elementary school to make sure students look and feel good before winter break starts.

Students at Faxon Elementary headed out of the classroom on Friday and into the barber’s chair to get a fresh look for the holidays.

Children piled into the school's gymnasium to receive a free haircut, braiding or retwist from local barbers and cosmetologists. Meanwhile, other students watched their classmates in the gym’s makeshift barbers’ chairs as they played catch and hula-hooped to Christmas music.

Layla Owens, the parent of a sixth grader, said her son Kahlil was determined to get his hair retwisted and styled.

“His hair is so important to him that he'll tell me that he can't sleep at night because his hair is too long on the sides,” Owens said. “He does really well with keeping his hair up. And it's all about his appearance so he's very adamant about how he looks.”

Kahlil Owens, a sixth grader at Faxon Elementary School, gets his hair restyled for the holiday break.
Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Kahlil Owens, a sixth grader at Faxon Elementary School, gets his hair restyled for the holiday break.

Kahlil said he wanted to get his hair done for free at school because his mom says doing so is usually expensive.

That’s why barber Christopher Harris said he wanted to help give students new haircuts before winter break. During the holiday season, he said some parents don’t have the money to spare and he wanted to make sure their kids look and feel good.

“It's a big thing sitting in class and people cracking jokes on you. It's hard to just focus when your hair’s not cut and all that,” Harris said. “And a haircut is a big thing for any boy… and I'm just here to make the kids feel good.”

Before their kids sat down for their new looks, parents heard about the importance of hair history, texture and care.

The event was put on by The Walker Foundation, a nonprofit that provides free hair services to adopted and foster care children. It recently expanded its services to local school systems.

A woman stands using an electric razor to groom a young man's head. Behind them is another man who is giving a haircut to the first boy's twin brother.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Stephanie Gilmore, left, uses an electric razor on KeMari Livingston, 11, while her son, Chris Harris gives a haircut to KeRon Livingston, KeMari's twin brother at Faxon Elementary on Friday.

Aisha Walker, the organization’s president, said the Black community needs these kinds of services.

“Hair services are very expensive in our culture. You can actually spend easily over three or $400 just getting your hair done,” Walker said. “It's very important for us to not only give back with free hair products and free hairstyles, but just also teaching what are the right products and the right hairstyles to make sure we are using them the right way.”

Tasha Lawson has twins in fifth grade. She says it means a lot to her for the foundation to provide these kinds of services during the holiday season.

“You have some people that can't afford to get their kids’ haircuts or clothing or toys,” Lawson. “I'm grateful. 100% grateful of it.”

As Kahlil sat getting his hair retwisted, he was already making plans for what he was going to do in his freshly styled hair.

“To go over to peoples’ houses and show it off and also to open my gifts in,” Owens said.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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