Students shave heads to support teacher at North

Annessa Ihde, Features Editor

We’ve all heard of the North Nine. We pass by the posters in almost every classroom, listen to our teachers talk about the nine values, understand, on some level, their significance. But few students have embodied these values as bravely and as admirably as Gabe Retzlaff, Amry Gilkey, Hailey Johnson, Halle Borree, Autumn Teal, Hutch Sobkowicz, Divine Dupree, Sammy Dreher, Kayla Dibbs, and Kyra Verkuilen. These eleven students were motivated to shave their heads in a touching display of support for their homeroom teacher, Mrs. Lucas, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January.

“Mrs. Lucas presented her diagnosis in a very joking, lighthearted way, as to not stress us or herself out, but despite all the laughing and jokes, this was obviously something very serious that would be taking place in her life, and we wanted to show her that each of us is here for her throughout her journey,” Amry Gilkey explained, “we also wanted to show her that she isn’t any less strong or beautiful because she doesn’t have as much hair on her head.” Amry, Autumn, and Hailey came up with the initial idea and decided to present their plan to the whole class. Together, the homeroom decided on the undercut hairstyle with a pink ribbon design and organized the event with Peaceful Purpose, a nonprofit organization that provides wigs, hats, and head coverings for women suffering from medical hair loss. On February twenty-fourth, Mrs. Lucas’ homeroom went to the Peaceful Purpose salon and shaved their heads. Divine said she was kind of nervous because she was worried that they wouldn’t know how to cut her coarse hair. Amry, on the other hand, felt confident and accustomed to the idea of a partially shaved head as she had practiced holding back the bottom of her hair in the mirror. But when the first chunk of hair fell to the floor, her assuredness fell with it. “I freaked! I didn’t think it would be as scary as it was, but within ten minutes I was used to the look and feeling. It was scary knowing I didn’t have the bottom half of my hair, but the happiness and joy I felt knowing I was doing something good for Mrs. Lucas and for other people who suffer from cancer overpowered the fear.” In total, Mrs. Lucas’s homeroom donated ninety-one inches of hair to Wigs for Kids, an organization that provides free wigs for children.

On Wednesday, the homeroom asked Mrs. Lucas if they could film her reaction to a sociology video project, but they surprised her with the Peaceful Purpose video that documented the process of them shaving their heads. Mrs. Lucas said, “I was completely taken back and at the same time empowered by the experience. I felt confident enough after the video to take off my wig and sport my bald head for a few pictures!” Amry reflected on the moment, “I’m personally not an emotional person, but watching her reaction made me tear up. Seeing how excited she was was absolutely incredible. She was her normal, yelling, laughing self, but when she realized the seriousness behind the message we were trying to convey she began to get emotional. Instantly, it felt like we were all even closer than before, if that was even possible. It normalized the topic a lot for all of us.”

Students in Mrs. Lucas’s homeroom shave their heads in support.

Mrs. Lucas started teaching at North the same year her homeroom started freshman year; in Mrs. Lucas’s words they “came into North as ‘freshmen’ together.” Reflecting on the last four years, she said, “I feel so honored to have had these students in my life… the past four years have been one crazy journey. I am so proud of all they have accomplished and cannot wait to see them adult hard next year.”

How can you help? Amry says, “In terms of Mrs. Lucas and other people suffering from cancer, the best thing anyone can do is not let their diagnosis define them. She isn’t ‘breast cancer,’ she is an amazing, intelligent, supportive, funny person who also happens to have cancer. Donating hair or money is an amazing thing that anyone has the ability to do. All you need is non-dyed, eight inch long hair. Also, research where your hair is going! There are many organizations that take donated hair but charge women for their wigs.”

“Compassionate. Amazing. Family.” That is how Mrs. Lucas described her homeroom, and her students share her sentiments; they say she is an amazing, supportive, funny teacher who is always ready to go out of her way for her students. It is certainly no surprise, then, that her students are willing to go out of their way for her.