A fresh new look: Nazareth children receive back-to-school haircuts

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, August 8, 2023

ROCKWELL — As kids prepare to return to school, everything needs to be right for the first day, including their haircut.

Kids in foster care programs like the Nazareth Child and Family Connection Center in Rockwell don’t always have access to the resources other kids do. On Saturday, a team of local hairdressers made sure the kids would at least go back to school in style.

Twin sisters Shanikka Gadson-Harris and Shakeena Gadson-McCombs, grew up in foster care and know how a lack of confidence can impact a child personally. Giving children at Nazareth a fresh cut felt like they were reaching out and helping younger versions of themselves.

“I can remember our hair being an issue,” Gadson-Harris said. “Sometimes, people would close the door in our faces when workers would bring us to houses, and we thought it was about our hair. That’s why we focused so much on hair growing up.”

Feelings of rejection inspired the twins to start experimenting with their hair at a young age, which blossomed into their business today, TwinBlitz, a home studio hair salon in Salisbury.

“We have been doing hair for 20 years,” Gadson-Harris said. “We have been doing the back-to-school hair event for 11 years. This year was special to us. We wanted to choose Nazareth Children’s Home and the foster care agency because of what we went through.

“It is a better way to target the community that actually needs help. We know what it felt like to be in their shoes. It’s our way of giving back.”

Gadson-McCombs shared what she remembers about being turned away from potential foster care families.

“It felt terrible as a kid,” Gadson-McCombs said. “That is why I was so happy to have a twin. We worked on each other’s hair because so many people just could not do our hair.”

The twins are Black. Finding someone who knew how to style their hair was challenging growing up.

“When we went to foster houses that didn’t have little kids or didn’t deal with African-American kids,” Gadson-McCombs said. “It was a struggle.”

Having been in those shoes, Gadson-McCombs, who teaches in Winston-Salem, can relate when she sees certain types of behavior from students.

“When you look good, you do good, and you feel better about yourself,” Gadson-McCombs said. “A lot of times that affected us, and I see it now. I teach 7th and 8th grade, and a lot of times, kids go to ISS because they don’t want to take their hoods off.”

Helping young people love who they are is part of the process.

“This day and age, everyone is going to the natural,” Gadson-McCombs said. “You are seeing the afros coming back. So we’re just teaching kids how to deal with their natural hair that grows out of their scalps and love themselves.”

Nick Schoe, the program manager at the Nazareth Child and Family Connection Center, was eager to give the children that reside there something to look forward to when it came to going back to school.

“They came out to give our kids some back-to-school haircuts so they can go into school looking fresh and cute for their first-day impressions,” Schoe said.

The facility can house up to 56 children, and the center is almost always at capacity.

“Most of them are getting haircuts, but some are keeping the shaggy look,” Schoe said.

On Saturday, Schoe said he could already see its impact on the kids.

“It makes a huge difference for the kids’ confidence,” Schoe said. “There were some kids who did not want to get a haircut at first, and now that they have had theirs done, they have already run out here and put up their new Snapchats.”

Director of Development Hugo Crigler said that the event is something they have done for years but that Saturday was the first time back since COVID.

“Any time you can do something like this for children, it makes a big difference and makes them feel a lot better about themselves going back into school,” Crigler said. “I think it’s something that is really great for this part of the community.”

Crigler thanked the numerous stylists who made the event happen.

“The kindness of the people actually cutting the hair is very important,” Crigler said.

Gadson-Harris said that besides her and her sister, there were several other professional stylists and barbers.

“There were also a few teens that know how to braid come and offer their time to help and share their talents with the public,” Gadson-Harris said in an email on Monday.

The professional stylists and barbers included: Talita and Phil Gilmore, Kendrick and Necola Connor, Sierra Cassell, LaShonda Moore, Kirston Fitzgerald and Tanya Holmes.

The teens involved were Tiffani Gadson, Terriyan McCombs, Jade Sankey, Ny’emia Sides, Kylaih Pearson-Hasty and Jordan Barber.

“When someone loves their community, they give that love back,” Gadson-Harris said.