Platte County students team up to teach peers about alopecia

PLATTE COUNTY, Mo. — Two Platte County School District students have been spending the last few months helping teach their peers about better understanding what makes some people different.

Their lesson is about alopecia, a condition that often results in varying forms of hair loss for 15-year-old Caleb Harper and 10-year-old Declan Taylor.

It’s often not a problem until situations like the one that sticks in Taylor’s mind when a group of younger students walked by him.

“And one of them looked at me and called me a freak,” said Taylor. “And I just couldn’t hold my emotions. And then I got home and I just cried and cried.”

Out of that low point came an idea for a series of presentations throughout the Platte County School District, teaching students what alopecia is and how to learn more when they’re curious about other people without hurting someone’s feelings.

“And a question I have for you guys is what is a respectful way to ask a question,” Harper asked during the presentation.

Harper and Taylor both explain how their hair either grows unevenly or not at all, causing them to choose to shave their heads bald.

Platte County School District Counselor Avery Holsinger says that lesson about how to treat people who might be different can be applied to any other condition that makes someone stand out.

“Oh, I need to seek first to understand,” said Holsinger. “I need to not just comment on someone and make a quick judgement. I think it will really impact them a lot and make them think before they speak.”

But that benefit goes both ways, allowing Harper and Taylor to become more confident talking about what sets them apart and what brings them together.

“It was awesome and honestly, we had so much in common that it was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s just comforting,'” said Harper.

It all helps them form a bond over what would otherwise make them different.

“Honestly, it actually feels good because then you can be unique from the others,” Taylor told a class.

The plan is for Harper and Taylor to keep doing the presentations to older grades throughout the district, eventually working through high school classes.

You can find more information about alopecia from the National Alopecia Areata Foundation and American Academy of Dermatology Association.

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