A cut for a cause

AHS English teacher shaves head while raising $12k+ for youth programs

Erin Slayton wanted to shave her head this summer. Then her sister, Chrysta, stepped in. 

“My sister was the one who said ‘You can’t just shave your head, you have to do something with it,’” recalled Slayton, an English teacher at Abington High School. 

Abington High School English teacher Erin Slayton post-haircut. Photo courtesy of Erin Slayton.

So the haircut turned into a fundraiser, capitalizing on a desire amongst her family, friends, and colleagues to do something positive during a time of widespread protests following the killing of George Floyd. And in just 12 days, Slayton raised $12,564 for educational and arts programs that will benefit kids in minority communities. 

“I’m so excited. I’m blown away by how many people contributed and showed up and opened their wallet,” she said. “Even if they couldn’t donate, they shared it on social media. It blew me away, to be honest. Also that it all happened in just 12 days. That’s part of the ‘wow’ factor.”

Slayton, 23, who finished her second year as a teacher, is also an artist who owns a jewelry and decor business called Pocket of Sunshine. With no financial goal in mind, but a desire to do something culminating in buzzing her hair off, she posted her intentions on her businesses website on June 2. Almost immediately donations started rolling in.

Last week, Slayton, who is biracial, took part in a virtual town hall discussion organized by the Abington High School History Department on the killing of George Floyd, and plugged her fundraiser, which resulted in another fundraising bump.

In total, she received donations from 486 different people.  

“People were looking for an outlet,” she said. “What can we do? Where can we donate?”

Approximately half the money will be donated to the Boys & Girls Club of Metro South; the other half to OrigiNation, a cultural arts center based in Jamaica Plain. Both programs align with Slayton’s love of children, arts, and education. 

“I had people donating from the Boston area as well as the South Shore, so I wanted that money to go back to those in our community,” she said.

Ashlee Poirier starts to trim Erin Slayton’s hair this past Sunday. Slayton broadcast the hair cut for charity live through her business’ Instagram page. Image from @pocketofsunshine-7

This past Sunday was the big day. Slayton sat in a chair on her front lawn of her Hanson home, while her friend, Ashlee Poirier, a hairdresser, went to work with electric clippers. The whole event was broadcast live on Instagram. The result was a short-cropped, summer-ready ‘do and thousands of dollars for charity.  

“It looks awesome,” Slayton said. 

Slayton, who said she doesn’t shy away from discussing racism and social justice issues with her students, feels timing had a lot to do with the reason why the Floyd death has resonated so deeply. More people have been at home, with theirdaily patterns interrupted due to COVID-19, and looking for ways to connect with their wider community, she said. 

“People have had more time to look at it,” said Slayton. “It’s so in your face, you can’t really ignore it. Whether for good or bad, people are paying attention and don’t want to be left out. Everybody needs to be part of this conversation, because it’s impacts are across the board.”