Filled with humility, advocacy, and understanding, Friday, April 14th marked a very important day on Sierra Canyon’s Lower Campus.
During a morning assembly in the Lower Campus amphitheater, fourth grader Peyton Hemann told her story about having alopecia areata to her peers and teachers. Peyton was accompanied by NFL linebacker of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Shazier, who also has alopecia. The two spoke openly in a Q&A-type discussion.
Over Spring Break, Peyton had decided that she was ready to come to school without her wig and educate her fellow Trailblazers about her experience with alopecia areata. Peyton’s brave decision serves not only as a means of advocacy, but it is also indicative of Peyton’s outstanding character: she is wise beyond her years and marches to the beat of her own drum.
Peyton’s big reveal was preceded by a video that defined alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair to fall out – either in patches or completely. Other than hair loss, there are no side effects, and alopecia is not contagious nor is it fatal. Alopecia areata is especially common amongst youth, who are sometimes teased and bullied due to their peers’ misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about what alopecia really is.
Peyton reiterated to her peers that alopecia areata does not change her or her goals in life. “Being bald doesn’t change who I am. I want to be a mechanical engineer, and there’s no difference between a bald mechanical engineer and a mechanical engineer [with hair].”
Ryan Shazier, who has used his experience with alopecia in his own philanthropy as an NFL player, told Peyton, “[Having alopecia] made me a better person. A lot of people like to judge other people without knowing who they themselves are. It made me think, How can you judge somebody without even knowing who you are? So now, every morning when I wake up and look at myself in the mirror, I ask myself who I am first.”
When asked how alopecia has changed her view on the world, Peyton responded, “It tempers you. It makes you realize you’re here on earth for a purpose.”
Peyton also expressed her gratitude for the support given to her by her friends, who lovingly chanted Peyton’s name as she walked onto the amphitheater stage. “My friends were with me through this entire process,” she said. “They treated me like I was still that kindergartener they met four years ago that loved them.”
As always, Peyton injected her distinctive wit and sense of humor in her discussion with Ryan Shazier. “You’re very aerodynamic when you’re bald,” she joked with Shazier.
Peyton, who is a skilled speller (she won first place in our Lower Campus Spelling Bee this year!) and knows everything about sea turtles, is admired by our entire Sierra Canyon community. At the end of the assembly, Lower Campus dean Adam Horwitz confidently told Peyton, “You’re going to make the world a better place.”
Thank you, Peyton, for inspiring us to be braver, more compassionate human beings.