A Silver Creek Teacher Who's Working to End Cancer for Good
For Silver Creek social studies teacher Jessica Kardashian, advocating for cancer awareness and research has become a way of life. She actively seeks out opportunities to make an impact and instills that same drive in her students, too.
Every year, she plans a cancer awareness week in October with activities like a daily, district-wide trivia competition, staff dress-down day to gather donations and decorations with cancer ribbons, cancer statistics and prevention tips. Jessica also has her students collect pink “bricks” from teachers and other students across the district. On these bits of construction paper, participants write the names of people who are battling cancer, who have reached remission or whom we have lost to this terrible disease. At the end of the week, Jessica pieces the “bricks” together on a wall in the hallway in the shape of one impactful word: Hope.
Jessica’s powerful message isn’t just limited to that week. Instead, she spreads hope to her students year-round through a club she leads called Knights Against Cancer. Comprised of approximately 40 students, the group spearheads initiatives that raise awareness of cancer and raise funds for cancer research. They wear pink for breast cancer awareness, volunteer at Courage of Carly events, make dinners at Kevin Guest House, hold a Mo-vember fundraising campaign and host a hygiene product drive for the local pantry — just to name a few activities.
Where Bald for Bucks Comes In
One of Jessica’s favorite initiatives is hosting an annual Bald for Bucks head-shaving event. She plans to host this year’s event in the spring.
“Bald for Bucks is such a movement,” Jessica says. “It’s so important that kids feel like they have a place to go and share things. That’s why I do the club, too, because I want people to know that they are not alone. Bald for Bucks has been really amazing because kids are willing to shave their head and say, ‘You know what? I stand united with you. I’m a part of this fight with you.’”
Jessica emphasized that Bald for Bucks events aren’t only about students cutting or shaving their hair; they’re about teachers and staff coming together with students around a cause that makes a real difference in the community. She’s been growing her hair out since the pandemic so that she, too, can cut her hair as part of Bald for Bucks. In years past, the Silver Creek superintendent and principal have also participated, which is always a hit among students and speaks volumes to who they are as a district.
“We’ve been very fortunate here and typically have teachers who are a part of the movement. I think that it’s extremely important that our kids know that it’s not just on them. We’re going to do it with you and for you to show we care,” she stated.
Jessica says her students lead by example and become empowered to make an active difference in the fight to end cancer. This, in turn, teaches them critical leadership skills that they’ll carry with them for years to come.
Of course, the fight to end cancer isn’t solely about advocacy for Jessica; it’s personal. Fifteen years ago, she lost her grandfather to lung cancer. A constant source of love and support, Jessica’s grandfather meant the world to her.
“My grandparents growing up were the epitome of love,” Jessica says. “The relationship that I had with them was probably the most impactful and important in my life.”
Jessica’s grandparents were married for 60 years, and she lived with them for eight years during her childhood. When her grandpa passed away, it was a moment that changed everything. She started volunteering with the American Cancer Society and organizing various Relay for Life events but wanted to expand the impact she could make and so she did.
“Watching him go through what he did and knowing what we went through, it made me want to be an advocate and get out there and never let anyone feel the way that I did when I lost him.”
Jessica talks about her grandpa every time she participates in Bald for Bucks. She shares stories about him and honors his memory in a way that’s both cathartic and motivational.
The Magic of Bald for Bucks
Anyone who talks to Jessica can tell that she’s passionate about Bald for Bucks. They can see it in the way her eyes light up when she talks about it and the way she puts her heart into bringing an event to life. This, she says, is where the magic happens. It’s the reason she keeps coming back to Bald for Bucks.
“You have the ability to make Bald for Bucks what you want it to be. You could set up at the gym, the auditorium or the cafeteria, or you could do it outside on the football field,” she says, “It’s not just an event, it is a memory. It is a movement. It is a community that you are bringing together to do something amazing and grand that’s going to help people all throughout Western New York.”
Funds raised through Bald for Bucks directly benefit Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, driving cancer research and funding quality-of-life programs that make life a little easier for those living with cancer.
Learn more about your impact or start your own Bald for Bucks fundraiser.