Free Haircuts on Count Day Helps Success Coach Connect with Students and their Families

When Antionette Pearson, principal at Mary McCloud Bethune Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, told Kyle Williams about her strategy for getting boys to come to school on “count day” last February, he knew right away he could help. 

Ms. Pearson’s plan was to provide free haircuts to boys as an incentive to parents to get their kids to school on a critical day for attendance.  If a child is absent on the day known as “count day,” the school misses out on state aid for that child. 

Mr. Williams is the Pathways to Potential success coach at Bethune Elementary-Middle School and a barber by trade.  He and another barber managed to serve about 20 boys.

Not one to let an opportunity to connect with parents slip by, Mr. Williams made staying with one’s child a stipulation for getting a free haircut.

“This gave me an opportunity to tell parents why I’m in the school and the resources I can provide,” Williams said. He also provided policy updates, program materials and informed them of his open-door policy. 

“The goal was to get the parents enthused about bringing their kids to school because school is cool,” Mr. Williams said. “School is where it’s at.”

Making parents stick around also guaranteed moms liked the haircuts. 

Curtis Reed, a seventh grader at Bethune Middle School, really wanted a Mohawk. “But, my momma said I couldn’t have one,” he said with a grin.

He still received what he considers a cool style.  “It had lines on the side,” Reed said.

When asked how classmates reacted to his new haircut, he said, “They said ‘Sweet haircut!’ And everybody just wanted to be my friend.” 

“Even when they’re facing adverse situations, our students continue to come to school every day,” Williams said. “At school they can get through those situations and create a way out for themselves.  What better place to be when things are hitting the fan than a positive environment?

Cutting Hair and Building Relationships

Like any great barber, Mr. Williams also took this opportunity to get to know the boys.  And it paid off. 

“After cutting the boys’ hair, some of them stop by and see me regularly. They’re eager to share their accomplishments with me throughout the school year.  As a success coach, enabling students and sharing in their achievements has had extremely positive outcomes and perpetuates an environment of success,” Williams said.

Thanks to the passion and energy Mr. Williams brings to his role as success coach at Bethune Elementary-Middle School, attendance is improving for students like Curtis who stop by to say “hi” every day. 

Kyle Williams, MDHHS success coach, and Curtis Reed, seventh grader, bonding and talking about students receiving haircuts on “count day.”

“When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you can take on any challenge!”

We know students at Bethune Elementary-Middle School have challenges ahead, and it’s clear Mr. Williams has the shear genius to help students overcome them.

Mr. Williams said he also agreed to cut the boys’ hair because he knows how important appearance can be for an individual’s self-esteem.  “The smile on a student’s face, when they know they are looking their best, is priceless and is reflected in their willingness to participate in school.”

This article is one of a series highlighting innovative strategies Michigan Department of Health and Human Services staff are using to improve attendance in schools across Michigan.  Through Pathways to Potential, MDHHS has placed success coaches and other employees in over 200 schools across the state. These people work one-on-one with families to identify and remove barriers to children attending school. We are always looking for new partners, volunteers and donors. Visit to learn how you can donate, partner or volunteer.