Students at Baldwin High School@Shubert, a secondary school that focuses on career and technical education, are not only gaining real-world skills in barbering, but are also partnering with the Baldwin-based nonprofit, Bethany House, to provide wigs for women who use the facility's services. The nonprofit provides shelter and transitional housing and supportive emergency programs for homeless women, and women who are victims of domestic violence and their dependent children. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

In a far corner of the barbering classroom Tuesday at Baldwin High School@Shubert — a nontraditional secondary school focusing on career and technical education — three students were clustered around two mannequin heads outfitted with human hair wigs.

One student, Amaya Garcia, 16, a junior, parted the brown hair into sections and, with a flat curling iron, transformed what had been limp locks into bouncy waves.

Beside her were Braydon Castro, 17, a senior, and Harold Aguirre Gomez, a 15-year-old sophomore, who both took turns working on another wig, this one with straight hair and a frizz quotient in need of being tamed with some oil sheen. 

The students were getting real-world experience but also aiding two residents of Bethany House, who will get the wigs at no charge. Students in the school's police science class helped the female residents prepare their resumes. And the school district will also provide blazers for the two women.

Bethany House is a Baldwin-base nonprofit that provides shelter, transitional housing and supportive emergency programs for homeless women, and women who are victims of domestic violence and their dependent children.

The idea to help came last year after discussions with seniors in the school's barbering class about ways they could "utilize their skills to do something kind for others," said Gabriella Franza, assistant director of instructional programs. It came to fruition this year, with students deciding to help domestic violence victims at Bethany House.

Anthony Mignella, assistant superintendent for instruction, said the students' project fit in with the school district's ethos.

"It was a matter of finding them a relevant … learning experience outside of the regular classroom as well as giving back," Mignella said. "But giving back in kindness, I would say, is one of our board of education priority goals."

Franza said the wigs were donated by Hair We Share, a Long Island-based company that provides custom, human hair wigs free of charge to cancer survivors and others.

Castro said while working on wigs was not something students typically do in class, "it's for a good cause." Garcia agreed, adding, "and people need it."

The students' teacher, Daniel Wallace, barber instructor for Nassau BOCES, said: "This is a little out of our realm but we decided to take it on as a good deed." At a later date, the students will fit the wigs for their intended recipients.

The women who will be receiving the wigs did not want to be interviewed, Bethany House officials said. But those officials who were at the Shubert School Tuesday to see the students work on the wigs offered high praise. 

"I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for some of our ladies because they have come from domestic violence situations and they’re not really feeling too highly of themselves, and something like this gives them the opportunity to boost their self esteem," said Penny Shea, residential director of Bethany House.

Dimaex Louis-Charles, assistant manager of Safe Ground for Families, a Bethany House transitional facility, agreed.

"There's a connection between how you feel mentally and how you’re taking care of yourself physically … Self care is very important," she said. "At Bethany House we advocate that, we support that."

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