Playing with hair is a girl’s thing. No wonder Veronica Parnell, the Heights High School Hair Club sponsor, has so many girls in her group. Some of them have an interest in becoming cosmetologists, while others are there just to learn how to take care of their hair. However what is truly unique about the club is its focus on natural hair.
Parnell, who’s worn her hair natural for 13 years, is pleased with the growing interest in having healthy hair, and in particular natural hair.
“We try not to talk about weaves and relaxers,” says Parnell who teaches JROTC at Heights. “We focus mainly on hair maintenance.”
While Parnell isn’t a cosmetologist, she freely shares the knowledge she gained from taking care of her own hair.
Parnell, who retired from the military after 26-years of service, learned a lot about taking care of her hair out of necessity. While she was in the service, she spent 11 years in Europe, where it was difficult to find beauticians who took care of African-American hair.
After Jheri curls and relaxers left her hair thin and damaged, she decided to begin her natural hair journey. In the 13 years she’s been natural, she’s found what works for her, and grown her hair to a length that’s six or more inches below her shoulders.
She readily shares what she’s learned with the club members, or anybody who wants to learn.
“I’m passionate about my love for all things natural hair and the desire to share that knowledge,” says Parnell. “There’s a lot to learn about taking care of your hair, natural or not.”
To help out, she’s developed relationships with several beauty schools – Crave Beauty Academy, Eric Fisher Academy and Paul Mitchell:the School. Students from the school often come out to speak to the girls on industry trends and products. They provide the club members expert advice, often bring along samples of professional products and it’s all free.
Parnell said she treats the Club like any other official school activity; students have to qualify to participate. If you’re on the “D” or “F” grades list, you can’t participate. Grades and good behavior are important.
“I kind of keep it as a mentoring tool,” said Parnell. “It kind of motivates the girls to do what they’re supposed to do.”
The Club has received worldwide web publicity. They were featured in the popular Naturally Beautiful Hair blog where the owner of several beauty product lines found them and offered to send them free products. In addition, the girls have held several natural meet ups in the community, working with groups of women in the community and at McConnell Air Force Base.
The Club is sponsoring a natural hair meet up on Sat., April 1 at the school. Through the meet up they hope to help educate others about natural hair care. Registration is $5 before March 17 and $10 after. The money raised from the event will be used on the girls. Members of the community are invited to participate.
“We have several girls who have an interest in going to cosmetology school,” said Parnell. “Several of the girls will benefit from the money we collect.”
The Club, which meets during study hall, has 40 active members.