Support and solidarity
Published Feb. 4, 2020
THREE RIVERS — When the Katy Perry song “Roar” started playing on the Three Rivers Middle School intercom around 2:20 p.m. Friday, TRMS secretary Kim McCurdy said she didn’t know what to expect.
“I kept saying, ‘I didn’t know we were going to have an assembly,’” McCurdy said with a laugh. “I didn’t think anything of it, I thought we were just going to have another homecoming assembly.”
When McCurdy walked into the middle school gym for what she thought was just “another homecoming assembly,” she was greeted with cheers, flowers, and a hand-made sign that said “We [love] Ms. McCurdy.” Overwhelmed with emotion, McCurdy hugged Middle School Principal Peter Olsen and received the flowers from student Camren Rego and admired the sign made by a few middle school art students.
This assembly was no ordinary homecoming assembly. The assembly was held to show support and solidarity for McCurdy, who is currently undergoing treatment for stage I breast cancer.
During the assembly, two people, TRMS Assistant Principal Jason Bingaman and eighth grade student Jack Miller, volunteered to have their heads shaved to show their solidarity and support for McCurdy, who had to shave her head due to chemotherapy treatment. Two seats were set up in the middle of the gymnasium for this to occur in front of the crowd, with McCurdy doing the honors and Olsen assisting. Behavior Interventionist Sidney Ellis, after asking the students whether he should join in, got in on getting his head shaved as well.
“This was kind of one of those things that kind of happened,” TRMS Behavior Interventionist Facilitator Rhonda McKay, who was involved in organizing the assembly, said. “Staff decided that we just wanted to show her that we wanted to be a part of her journey. A bunch of us got together and said, hey, let's make this happen, and here we are.”
McKay said the flowers and sign were the students’ ideas.
“The kids in the art room decided that, with their art teacher, they were going to make a sign, and they're going to hang it up in the gym and they're going to be able to sign and make notes to Ms. McCurdy during this time, and they presented her with flowers, too,” McKay said.
Olsen said the staff members and student who participated in the assembly were all for it.
“It came up in conversation last week that we kicked around the idea of shaving them down in support of Kim,” Olsen said. Jason said, “I've done that before, so I think that's where the idea was born. I was thinking, ‘It's homecoming, let's go for it, we got an assembly,’ and I suggested it to Mr. Harshberger and Ms. Cornish, and the next thing I knew, it was on. And Mr. Ellis, on the fly, just said, ‘Hey, how about asking them what they think about me doing it.’ I'm like, ‘I'm sure they'd love doing that,’ he jumped in and here we are.”
“I had the student flag me down, and he said, ‘Hey, if I call my mom,’ and I'm like, 'Okay, I've got to talk to a parent before doing this,'” Olsen continued. “She said he actually had it all the way down earlier this year, so that's fine.”
Despite some technical difficulties with the electric razor at first, they eventually got it working. The whole process of getting all three of their heads shaved took about 40 minutes.
“We were going to make sure it worked one way or another,” McKay said.
McCurdy said the entire experience was “overwhelming.”
“I was very surprised and very shocked,” McCurdy said. “They had already done me really good last Friday, when I told them on the intercom that I was going to be losing my hair and I'd be bald on Monday. I thought that was overwhelming that day, but this was even more so.”
She said the students have been very understanding and supportive throughout her diagnosis, and added it was “an honor” to have that much support from the students in the form of the assembly.
“The kids have been amazing through this,” McCurdy said. “I've gotten more hugs, more love, more support from these kids than I ever believed. I think they were sad at first because it was right after my husband died, so it was like a double whammy, but it’s been nothing but just great, great responses from the kids. They have been conscientious of being kind and quieter and nicer during this time.”
McCurdy said she enjoyed shaving the heads of Bingaman, Ellis and Miller, and joked a bit about not being one of the only bald people in the building.
“That was great, so I'm not the only bald one around here, besides the usual balds, Mr. Olson and [science teacher Pat] Kline, so they're one of the club now,” McCurdy said with a laugh.
McCurdy said her current prognosis is “really good,” since her cancer was caught at the earliest stage, and is targeting the end of this summer for her treatments to be complete. Many of her co-workers said McCurdy has been very open about the process she has been going through, and McCurdy explained that openness as giving the students hope in the face of a challenging situation.
“I think they should know that it is survivable, and that we still can keep moving forward even though these obstacles hit us,” McCurdy said. “I like to let them know so they don't have that fear of the unknown.”
McCurdy said she told the students she’d have fun with the situation once her hair was gone, saying she’ll have wigs and fun hats to wear. Olsen said the school is trying to plan a surprise “pink out” to support McCurdy before an upcoming cancer treatment, although he admits it is “hard to sneak anything by a school secretary.”
Olsen praised McCurdy for how she has persevered and stayed strong through the entire experience.
“Everybody knows she makes the school run, and we just sign the stuff,” Olsen said. “All the kids have been fantastic about offering support, and it's awesome.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or firstname.lastname@example.org.