Capstone class hosts an African American hair care drive for Youth Emergency Services


Kamrin Baker

Photo courtesy of Capstone 4460/Kathryn Nizzi

The public relations and advertising Capstone class (JMC 4460) is hosting an African American hair care drive for Youth Emergency Services (YES), a local nonprofit working to eradicate youth homelessness.

YES is in dire need of African American hair care products such as sulfate-free products, detanglers, control gels, moisturizing products, hair combs, hair brushes, hair scarves and hair oils, according to a press release from the Capstone team behind the project.

The drive started March 4 and will continue to March 29.

“This drive will provide products to African American youth in the Omaha area,” senior Kathryn Nizzi said. “Oftentimes, they cannot find donated hair products that work for their hair type, and we never want a child to feel like their hair is not important.”

Aside from donations like those collected by the Capstone class, YES provides a variety of resources for homeless youth in Omaha. This includes an emergency shelter, a transitional living program, a maternity home, a resource pantry, street outreach, mentoring and more.

Hundreds of youth in the Omaha area deal with homelessness each night; their living conditions often caused or exacerbated by physical, emotional and sexual abuse, mental and physical health issues, and substance abuse issues, making it difficult for them to return home or access resources they need, according to the YES website.

Nizzi, the lead contact for the project, said the class voted on a couple nonprofits around town to complete a service project as a part of their course. After selecting YES as their organization, the team learned of the urgent need for African American hair care products and put their project to good use.

A donation drive this specific in nature goes to show that certain groups of youth are not finding or receiving necessary resources when they seek help. While independent organizations will often donate a variety of personal care items, food and monetary gifts to YES, items like African American hair products often go forgotten.

The YES 2018 Annual Report states: “Youth Emergency Services is proud to serve all area youth regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or school district, and provide an environment that is free from hatred, violence, abuse, neglect exploitation and fear. Our youth need this now more than ever.”

Nizzi said she believes the African American youth is “totally underserved,” meaning donors do not always take into consideration the needs of those they are helping.

“I often think we just donate whatever and never think about the population it is actually going to,” Nizzi said. “We need to make the effort to give nonprofits and the youth they serve products they can actually use, products that will benefit them and make them feel confident.”

Kimberly Cushing, another student working on the project, shared the sentiment.

“Some people probably mean well when they donate products to local nonprofits but I don’t think they always take into consideration the diversity of those in need,” Cushing said. “But hopefully this drive will make others think twice when they donate hair care products to nonprofits. It would also be great to see if this sparks some similar drives on campus or in the community in the future.”

Donations can be placed in bins at the following locations:
-Arts and Sciences Hall Room 107
-Community Engagement Center Atrium
-MAVigtaion Station
-Health and Kinesiology Front Desk

To find resources for homeless youth, visit