Scholar Spotlight: Maria Carranza

MariaCarranzaCancer impacts more than 1 million people worldwide. Uplift Williams scholar, Maria Carranza wanted to make a difference in the lives of people undergoing cancer treatment in an unconventional way.

“We do a lot of fundraisers [for cancer patients] based on money but not on their psychological effects.  Many of them suffer from depression [and/or] low self-esteem,” said Carranza. “They have other circumstances, but we don’t really notice them because we are so focused on their physical pain.”

Each year 10th graders must chose a Personal Project as part of the IB curriculum to research independently. Carranza chose to explore the psychological impact of cancer and gather hair donations for the organization, Pantene® Beautiful Lengths.  IB personal projects have to fit into the IB profile of global context .  Carranza decided to focus on identities and relationships.

“I choose that one because I wanted to  involve my community and specifically my school,” said Carranza, “because in order to make a change you need other people and sometimes even the smallest changes can make a big impact in the world.”

The process of planning, research and interviews took Carranza three months. Carranza spoke to two cancer patients. Each one had a different type of cancer and reacted differently to their diagnosis. One patient told her how costly natural and synthetic wigs were along with the physical discomfort some cause. The cancer not only exhausted them physically but was mentally draining.

Carranza said while both did not lose their hair, the patient that did told her, ‘It was very shocking because one day you wake up you have hair, you’re healthy and the other day you just wake up and you know you have cancer and that you might die any minute.’

The patient told Carranza that while she did try-on a synthetic wig, she found it uncomfortable and costly.

The 10th grader put together presentations and posters on the leading psychological impacts of cancer-depression and low self-esteem. She instructed scholars on how to donate and the positive impact it would have on patients.

Carranza found it hard to get scholars to part with their hair.  She too found it difficult but she knew if she wanted to bring awareness to the mental health of cancer patients she had to cut her hair. The sophomore had hair down to her waist and it was the first donation for her project. Carranza set her goal to collect 15 locks of hair that were at least 8 inches to send to the organization. She worried she would not be able to accomplish her goal but before long her sisters cut their hair, her friends stepped up and others began to approach Carranza to get more information on what they needed to do.

“Then out of nowhere it t was like a ripple effect everybody started cutting their hair,” said Carranza.

The sophomore ended up with 18 bundles exceeding her initial goal. She carefully braided and made sure each donation was intact. Carranza sent off the hair donations in early March.

“Cancer patients are already suffering and if we are able to we should help them,” said Carranza, “it doesn’t take a lot you don’t have to give $100 you can just give your hair and make someone really happy.”

Other Uplift schools will be exhibiting their scholars personal projects in April.


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