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Back to school, and lookin’ good

Medford School District to host a back-to-school block party for students and their families Wednesday
Tara Short, owner of Short Kutz Barber Shop & Salon, cuts Nate Short’s hair Thursday in Medford. Short and her staff will offer free haircuts from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Jackson Elementary School, 713 Summit Ave., Medford, as part of the Healthy Start Block Party. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Waiting on a couch Thursday inside Short Kutz in downtown Medford, Nate Short didn’t wait long for his turn in the barber’s chair, where his mom, Tara Short, took the clippers to his long, curly brown locks.

The reason behind a spiffy, new do was to help the North Medford High School sophomore look his best in time for Aug. 29, the first day of school.

“I go by ‘look good, feel good, play good’ — been like that my whole life,” Nate said.

While he admits the start of a new school year can be intimidating, a new haircut definitely helps the situation.

“If you look better than you usually do, you feel better than you usually do,” Nate said.

Nate was just one of several customers this past week who received a haircut at the downtown barber shop from his mom, who will cut students’ hair from 3 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Jackson Elementary School, 713 Summit Ave., Medford.

It’s all part of the “Healthy Start Block Party,” a partnership between Medford School District, Jackson Care Connect and more than 30 other community organizations.

Though the district is helping to spearhead the event, it will not limit attendance to only Medford School District families.

“In the Medford School District, we have our shared vision that all are learning, and learning is for all,” said Natalie Hurd, the district’s communications and community engagement director. “We know that students learn best when they come to us prepared for the day.”

Hurd noted it was actually Jackson Care Connect officials who approached the district and proposed the block party event, which Samantha Watson, community health manager for JCC, confirmed.

“We wanted to create an event to help families get a lot of their health needs met in one place,” she said. “So we reached out to (the) Medford School District to see if they might be interested in partnering on a back-to-school event where we could have these services for folks and have community partners in attendance to help folks connect to resources and information.”

The event will include “well-child checks,” dental screenings, haircuts and other things.

“We know that parents or caregivers oftentimes might work through the end of the day or have jobs with nontraditional hours, so we just felt it was really important to provide a designated time where they can just access all of those services in one place,” Watson said. “It’s really a time-saver for folks.”

Haircuts, in particular, are an important part of preparing for a new school and might be something that is out of reach for a lot of local families, she added.

Tara Short, who has been a licensed stylist for seven years, said her willingness to participate in the event next week stems from the fact that she was homeless during her youth and could not afford things like haircuts.

“Now that I’m an adult and I have the ability to give back, I like to,” Short said. “I don’t think making a ton of money is worth it if you’re not willing to give back to what you started — and I started with nothing.”

She added the Short Kutz staff will be on hand Wednesday to cut hair for kids, part of an annual pledge her employees take to give back to their community.

But it won’t just be Short Kutz represented at the block party -- so will another salon, Cookie Cutters, owned by stylist Tammy Diaz. Other entities represented at the block party will include Rogue Community Health, La Clinica, Medford Police Department, Jackson County Library Services, Rogue Valley Family YMCA and Rogue Valley Transportation District.

Medford School District and Jackson Care Connect also seek to make the event fun — in line with the name, “block party.” Snoball Donuts, CABA Empanadas and Sultan’s Delight are expected to be some of the food trucks in attendance. Students will have the opportunity to play games and win prizes, as well.

“We figure we want to get families to come,” Hurd said. “Everybody loves our local food trucks, so there are some fun pieces.”

Watson, who has two children, acknowledged the first day of school is an exciting time but also stressful not just for students, but parents and guardians, as well.

“That first day can be kind of scary — it’s a change for folks; it’s something that is brand-new,” she said. “We want to give kiddos and their families the best start possible, so they don’t have to worry whether or not their hair is cut or if they have all of the supplies that they might need to be successful.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.