Local School Celebrates Diversity with Textured Hair Expo Alex Panas March 11, 2022 What started as a brainstorming session during a teacher learning day at Bridge Street Middle School has blossomed into a community event addressing an important need among their students: the care and styling of textured hair. On Monday, March 14 parents and students from all Ohio County Schools are invited to attend Bridge Street Middle School’s first Textured Hair Expo from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. The event was planned by Bridge Street Middle School staff, in partnership with the YWCA Wheeling and several local barbers and hairstylists. Unique Murphy-Robinson, a licensed social worker for Bridge Street Middle School, was an integral part of bringing this idea to fruition. Growing up as a young Black girl, Unique said that it wasn’t always easy to access the information or products she needed to care for her own textured hair. Unique explains, “at one point, I didn’t have people who cared how my hair looked, and as soon as I was able to make that happen for our students I was ready to go…I was ready to make it happen for them.” While Unique is a social worker at Bridge Street Middle School, she sees students in schools throughout Ohio County. She found that the more people she talked to about creating an event focusing on textured hair care that there was a clear interest among students across the county. Unique also noted the diversity of those students interested in attending the event. According to Unique, as soon as students learned about the Textured Hair Expo, there was a strong interest among most students, regardless of race or gender. “I didn’t expect them to be interested,” said Unique. “I thought it would mostly appeal to young biracial or Black females, but I was surprised that everyone was excited.” She notes that while the Textured Hair Expo will be focused on hair care tips that are most pertinent to Black and bi-racial students, there will be universal lessons to be learned, such as washing techniques and other general hair care tips. Bridge Street Middle School principal, Jessica Broski-Birch explains how events like this are crucial to the school’s goal of being a hub where students, their families and the community can feel welcomed. “Often in our area, textured hair isn’t a large focus – especially in our youth,” said Jessica. “We see that they are struggling to find support and information to care for their hair, especially those living in foster care or adopted into households where caregivers aren’t familiar with textured hair care practices.” Unique Murphy-Robinson, Bridge Street Middle School social worker and one of the organizers of the school’s Textured Hair Expo. This event is just one example of how Bridge Street Middle School is creatively engaging with students and caregivers to give kids the tools they need to navigate both academics and the journey of life. Street Time is the school’s larger initiative that promotes the successful navigation of life for its students. During Street Time, teachers get one-on-one time with students where they can talk about things that aren’t already built into the academic day. This time helps teachers identify areas where students might need some extra support and can point them to community resources like Youth Services System, the Wheeling YWCA, and others to assist. The Textured Hair Expo builds on the ideals of this program by inviting caregivers into the school to learn to benefit from these resources too. Ron Scott Jr., Director of Cultural Diversity and Community Outreach for the YWCA Wheeling, frequently works with students and school administrators to provide culturally-specific education, information and workshops. “Events like this and the work that I do in the schools serve an important role in bridging cultural gaps that exist among our youth,” said Ron. He explains something as simple as learning how to wash your hair in school health classes can potentially leave some students underserved if taught only through a white lens. “Events like this can bridge those gaps in one place where students and parents are together…and we come together to create solutions, which makes it even better,” said Ron. At the event on Monday, there will be several stations set up led by local barbers and hairstylists who are trained in caring for textured hair. Students and their families will get to learn from experts about how to style natural hair, hair braiding techniques, skincare tips, and which products are best for their particular hair texture. In addition to demonstrations, there will be informative brochures and coupons that families can take home with them. Event organizers are thrilled with the response from local hair care professionals who have agreed to volunteer their time and talent to share this information. Participating professionals include Rica Lee-Dabney of Just Me Salon, Kylie Williams of Lavish Salon, Bridgette Hardy of Cloud 9 Salon, Jessica Wesley of Frederick’s Day Spa Salon, Chad Stradwick of Stradwick’s Fade Cave, Luke Steed of Stallion Cutz and Zac Zdonczyk, a local independent barber. To learn more about this event and other happenings at Bridge Street Middle School, you can visit their Facebook page. • Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens. 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