Lincoln kids feeling ready to rock this school year with a new hairdo and backpack
Visionary Youth, a decade of free haircuts and backpacks
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN)- One of the biggest August struggles for parents in the Lincoln area is the back-to-school season and with supplies and necessities, seemingly more expensive each year some families find it hard to keep up.
For a decade now Visionary Youth has helped to fight that yearly struggle in the form of their Back 2 School free haircut and backpack event.
Families from around the Lincoln area gathered downtown at the 11 street College of Hair Design to line up to take part in the annual event. With previous years’ popularity, the line stretched around the block with patrons waiting.
Visionary Youth founder KB Mensah said that the combination of a haircut and backpack leaves the youth that visit feeling good but also sets them up for success for the following school year.
“Backpacks and haircuts, just think about it, once you get a haircut, you look good, you feel good, you perform better and that’s all we’re trying to do,” Mensah said. “We want the kids to perform better in school and just give them the right supplies and essential needs.”
After getting their children a haircut, families could find a volunteer to pick out a new backpack for the upcoming school year. This guaranteed that those who stopped by would leave looking and feeling fresh.
“We want to get everyone on the same playing field, we provide this service of giving a haircut, to build up your confidence and get you that sense of belonging, of being here,” Mensah said.
He said that more families come for the backpacks as they included socks, underwear and other items that aim to continue the organization’s mission: to keep youth provided for.
There isn’t a big gap between the two offerings, last year 723 haircuts were given out with around 900 backpacks being provided. This year’s goal was to round those numbers up with a goal of 800 haircuts and 1000 backpacks provided.
“[We started] 10 years ago, it started with doing 75 haircuts and backpacks, and then it grew from then till now,” Mensah said. “It’s just growing bigger and bigger each year.”
Mensah said that today’s efforts are inspired by members of his own community that set out to raise him up to the same playing field that he seeks to do with his community now.
“Our mission is to impact families and change lives by supporting youth to reach their full potential,” Mensah said. “That being said, I was in that similar situation where I needed help in the community. There were community leaders that would always pull me, help me, and lift me up up and I realized once I get to that point I can take care of my family, I wanted to give back to the community.”
Visionary Youth’s website said that they aim to help minority youth which in the recent U.S. Census found that 33.8% of households of color live in poverty, with around 19.5% of those households making up the total population of the county.
We see that the data translates to children in the same way with around 1/4 of children in Lancaster county living in poverty and 1/3 of those children are people of color.
But Mensah said that while minority youth are the most at risk, they don’t solely serve them. Looking out at the line of families wrapped around the building he said that everyone from different types of social backgrounds can take advantage of this opportunity.
“You’re seeing a lot of families that need this assistance and if you go out there and look at that line that tells you right there that we have a problem, that we’re trying to help engage with the community and help them out,” Mensah said.
After taking part in the main opportunities provided, families could spend the rest of the day outside the College of Hair Design visiting the different local and corporate vendors that provided free goods to help add more to do for event goers.