Business owners help learning come to life at Cleveland school

CLEVELAND-- Students inside Mary B. Martin School in Cleveland got a lesson they may stick with them for years to come, thanks to the help of teachers, business owners and a organization working towards their success.

"We want to make sure that they know that as individuals they are important," said Dr. Gary McPherson, the school principal. "Their hair is important, their skin tone is important. Just who they are as an individual is important."

A unique program is helping to grow the connection between literacy and hair. The Center For Arts-Inspired Learning and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is connecting books like, "Hair Like Mine" and "Crown" come to life for students.

"...Because representation matters," said Kalim Hill a teacher artist with the program. "The kids in the book look like the kids in the classroom. That empowers them, that makes them want to read."

As a part of the assignment, students had to write poems. The winners received free haircuts and styles by professional local barbers and beauticians.

"I see what they're doing here," said Darnell Washington, owner of Mirror Image Barber Shop. "They're trying to encourage kids to learn about themselves and have high self-esteem."

"It shows how much actually the teachers care for the kids. I wish when I was younger I had somebody that I could look up to who actually cared about me the way that the teachers do for the kids," said Graciela Gomez, the owner of Hair By Guilty.

In operation for more than 60 years, the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning said their mission is to ignite student learning.

"It allows them to see that there is so much potential," said teacher Shawn Simchon. "It helps them succeed in the classroom."

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