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Female teacher shaves head for ailing Otwell Middle students
Before - photo by Kayla Robins

CUMMING — As Jennifer Rupured watched a pile of her hair be swept into a dust bin at a hair salon in south Forsyth, she reached up to feel her newly shaved head, trying to describe the sensation.

Weird, she said.

About 10 minutes earlier, before clippers started buzzing, she got some advice from one of her students who has some experience being bald.

“That’s life,” said Kenan Frady, a seventh-grader at Otwell Middle School.

Chemotherapy caused Frady to lose his hair. Rupured’s haircut Wednesday was more than just a symbol of support.

She set a goal to raise $1,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that raised $39 million in 2014 for childhood cancer research. Its main effort is to get people to raise money and shave their heads after reaching their goals.

Rupured collected $1,500 in about a week.

“It’s really strange, but it’s cool. When you think about doing it, you don’t really think about how long it’s going to take to grow back,” the sixth-grade language arts teacher said. “But it’s for such a good thing.

“All my students know I was doing it over the [fall] break, so it will be fun to come back and show them. When they left for break they were waving and saying, ‘Bye Mrs. Rupured’s hair.’”

Otwell’s principal, Steve Miller, also participated in the fundraiser and plans to shave his head when school resumes.

Rupured is Frady’s homebound teacher, which means she is the one to take him his work when he’s too sick to attend school.

They met at the Great Clips in Cruse Marketplace for the head-shaving event, with Rupured’s daughter and Frady’s mother and sister in tow.

Cathy Jeffries, the stylist who did the honors, said Great Clips will shave a cancer patient’s head for free through its Clips of Kindness campaign.

Frady’s mother, Renee Frady, said her son was diagnosed with acute leukemia two years ago. He is going through his second of three years of chemo.

“He used to keep telling us, ‘I can feel something is wrong in me,’” his mother said. “Then when he was diagnosed he was just like, ‘See, I told you.’”

With an inch or two of hair back on his head, he watched as his teacher’s piled up on the ground.

“He has been the one to keep our spirits up,” his mother said, adding that this was a testament to there being “good teachers out there.”

“I thank God that he put her in my path.”

Frady is one of two Otwell students suffering from cancer, so the fundraiser honored him and Lauren Morris, a sixth-grader in Rupured’s class. She couldn’t make it out Wednesday, but did give Rupured a hat to wear.

“Lauren’s been sick for a couple of years. She missed most of fifth grade,” Rupured said. “She comes to school a little more often now. Technically, she’s in remission, but because of where the [brain] tumor was located, there are a lot of residual effects.”

She is still nearly bald.

“When you come to middle school, everybody wants to conform. You don’t want to stand out. You don’t want to be different,” Rupured said. “Here comes Lauren, bald head and all. She embraces it.”

Rupured has spent all of her eight years in Forsyth County Schools at Otwell, but still learns from her students.

“[Lauren] sent me an email after we did it,” Rupured said, “and she said, ‘Whenever anybody stares at you just remember to keep smiling.”