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Orcutt Academy students, staff shave heads to support classmate with cancer

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Though he had never met Jill Mott before starting at Orcutt Academy Charter School, Logan Southern hopped on the barber's stool Monday afternoon to have his head shaved.

"I want to support Jill," he explained as Santa Maria hair stylist Kathleen Landress took a pair of clippers to his hair. "When somebody is sick, you should support them. It's a nice thing to do."

Described by her friends and teacher as a hedgehog-loving, creative dynamo, 6-year-old Jill was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just before last Thanksgiving. She was transferred to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment and has been home-schooled since her diagnosis, with teacher Shauna Wilson visiting three times a week for one-on-one lessons. 

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Orcutt Academy first-grade student Jill Mott, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia, is shown in a recent photo.

Jill's chemotherapy regimen leaves her prone to infection, Wilson explained, and has recently caused her hair to fall out.

To show their support, students and staff at Orcutt Academy spent Monday afternoon getting their heads shaved or hair cut and donated to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that provides free hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the U.S. and Canada.

"We want to show Jill that hair or no hair, you're still beautiful," Wilson said. 

Though they couldn't cut their hair Monday afternoon, Jill's friends Samantha Miya, Peyton Miya and Alexandra Herrera spent the afternoon recording the head shavings and hair trimmings with a classroom iPad. Wilson shares videos and other digital media with Jill during their visits, something that helps her feel connected to her classmates. 

"Jill always cheered up people who were sad and was always there for them," Peyton said. "Everyone here is supporting her. We all miss her very much. Even though she's absent, she's still in our hearts."

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Waiting in line for their haircuts, first-graders Jensen Ayala and Mason Meyer enthusiastically watched eighth-grade student Zack McCurdy get his head shaved.

"You're going to be bald soon," Mason told Jensen, who laughed after Landress advised them to wear hats or use sunscreen to keep their scalps from getting sunburned. 

Zack said he chose to shave his head for Jill after meeting her earlier this year. Though they aren't in class together, he felt compelled to show his support.

"It's important," he said, "it's for a good cause. It doesn't just help an individual but helps other people with cancer."

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.