By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — GOSHEN — Jeremy Stutsman held six small ponytails in his right hand Friday afternoon as he left the Learning Center of the Boys and Girls Club.
The Goshen City Council member has been volunteering at the center for about five weeks doing a wall math challenge with the youngsters.
“In an attempt to make it a little more fun for the kids, I am letting a few of those who participated cut off my ponytail,” Stutsman said, smiling.
There were six children selected from the top scorers who had gotten the right answers during the math challenge period.
The children were divided by age into two groups for the 20-minute period. Stutsman kneeled on the floor and verbally gave math problems for them to solve.
“Six plus five plus four,” he called out to a pair in the younger group, After a few seconds of thinking, they tried to find their answer among the many different numbers written on two large blue pieces of paper and taped to a wall.
Second-grader Ethan Polito-Smith was happy to be one of the top winners.
“It was fun (the challenge),” Ethan said, smiling from ear to ear.
He liked cutting a pony tail, too.
“It was fun and easy to cut,” Ethan said.
The other young hair “stylists” included fifth-graders Kara Miller and Chylee Vidmar, fourth-grader Diamond Sullivan, second-grader Yadira Martinez-Banos and first-grader Adam Torres.
Salon J owner and stylist Julia Herschberger helped prepare Stutsman’s hair for the event and guided the children with the sharp scissors so she could style his hair, afterwards.
“I’m just having fun,” Stutsman said, laughing at the expressions of the children while cutting his hair in photos that were taken. “I couldn’t see their faces.”
He said the idea for volunteering came after talking with Kevin Deary, president and chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County.
“Kevin asked if I would do something like a fundraiser,” Stutsman said. “I wanted to do something in the club rather than a fundraiser. Although it was Kevin’s idea to cut my ponytail. I just went with it. It’s amazing to see how they (children) have progressed just twice a week. Sometimes they are ahead of me. I think of the numbers and they already have the answer.”
The math wall challenge provided four areas of learning for the children, added, Interim Associate Executive Director Adrianne Penner.
It’s practicing their math facts, mental math, thinking on their feet and number recognition.
“They have learned points by finding the numbers and for a chance to cut Jeremy’s hair,” Penner said.
Fourth-grader Payton Rangel had hoped to have her name announced for the event.
“I like the math challenge. The subtracting was a little bit harder and the multiplication is easier,” Payton said. “I like Mr. Stutsman. He’s fun. He thinks of easy and hard questions and some in-between.”