For some students at Youngstown State University, spring break was spent away from campus visiting friends and family.
Although it’s not uncommon for students from overseas to stay on campus during spring break, Nasser Alshaheil did something that hit close to home.
On March 9, he took part in the Locks of Love Benefit where participants shave their head to make hairpieces for children and young adults battling cancer.
This wasn’t without motivation.
As a young child in Saudi Arabia, he had to hear the words no one wants to hear: “You have early stages of leukemia.”
He said it was caught early enough, and he was cured.
“I didn’t feel a lot of pain. I had some, but not what a lot of people have to go through,” Alshaheil said.
Today, he is a full-time junior at YSU, majoring in electrical engineering.
When he first arrived at YSU, he spoke very little English. Through making friends, his English has improved.
“Nasser is a good example of a student who is learning English seriously, and by doing that, he talks to everyone he can,” said Lynn Greene, coordinator of the YSU English Language Institute.
Before shaving his head, he said he wasn’t nervous at all.
“I’ve felt before what these kids feel now,” Alshaheil said. “It’s the least thing I can do because I feel bad for what’s happened.”
He said his teachers were impressed.
“The teachers and I were eating lunch together, and he came in and told us what he was going to do. We were blown away that he would do that,” Greene said.
Alshaheil wasn’t the only person in his family who has battled cancer. In some cases, his family members didn’t win.
Before he left to come to the U.S. for college, he was leaving behind his 10-year-old niece who was dying of cancer.
“I saw her before I came here, and she couldn’t walk; she had no hair; had to use a wheelchair,” Alshaheil said. “The doctor told us, ‘I’ll be honest; she’s probably going to die.’”
His aunt and grandfather have also battled cancer.
Now that his head is a pound lighter, he said the first thing he noticed was his head was a lot colder.
While he was shaving his head, he saw girls with hair hitting the small of their backs shaving their heads as well.
“It was awesome. They were there for the same reasons as me, and they just shaved their heads,” Alshaheil said.
He said he plans to donate to cancer foundations and volunteer in the future.