Coronavirus Pandemic: East Palo Alto teachers buzz cut their hair to raise money for struggling families

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- With an electric shaver in hand, David Duval gets ready to transform his look.

"Time for me to say goodbye to my hair," said Duval as he began to shave his head in a recorded video posted on Instagram.

Duval is not shaving his head out of frustration because hair salons are closed during the pandemic. He is doing it for a good cause.

He and other staff members at East Palo Alto Academy have been buzz cutting their hair to raise money for families affected economically by COVID-19.

The #bulldogbuzzcut started at the end of April when teachers began hearing stories from students about the hardships their families were facing.



"The teachers started hearing story after story about the challenges of crowded homes, the challenges of parents out of work. Less hours and the stress of rent and food," said Amika Guillaume, principal at East Palo Alto Academy.

That's when teacher Caren McDonald came up with an idea.

"What is we do a campaign to raise money. We do a bulldog buzz cut challenge and we can then help our students," recalled Guillaume of that staff meeting at the end of April.

To make the challenge interesting, a staff member would buzz cut their hair when a certain amount of money was raised. The goal was to raise $40,000 by the end of May.

"We reached that amount in less than five days. And so we were like, let's keep going," said history teacher Marilyn Travis.

So the staff set their new goal at $100,000. As more money was raised, Travis also cut her hair.



"The most that I have ever cut my hair was shoulder length. I was feeling really nervous but I feel really happy the way it is and I feel even better that it is for a good cause," said Travis.

So far, 17 people have gotten buzz cuts or colored their hair. They include staff members and one parent. One student, Juan Ceron Rodriguez, joined in.

"It was shocking. I have never seen myself in a buzz cut. But I was really happy that I was supporting my staff that loves us and my fellow classmates," said Ceron Rodriguez.

There is great hardship in this community. Nearly 95% of the students at East Palo Alto Academy qualify for a free or reduced-fee lunch. COVID-19 created more hardship.

"The vast majority of our families lost work or lost hours," said Guillaume, who also got a buzz cut in the back of her head.

The campaign reached $100,000, but the school wants to keep raising more money. The donations are already going to help students and their families.

"We have helped kids pay their college registration. We know for a fact we have helped some kids stay in their homes and we have definitely fed a lot of families," said Guillaume.

To contribute to the East Palo Alto Academy #bulldogbuzzcut challenge, visit the school's donation page.

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