Principal starts 'Pink Shirt Thursdays' at JDHS

Posted: Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's the first Thursday of the school year and your new principal - he's wearing pink. OK, so it's a little weird. Pink is a girl's color, right? Next week, he's wearing pink again, but this time a couple more staff has joined in.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Students at Juneau-Douglas High School are trying to piece together this puzzle - why Principal Ryan Alsup wears pink on Thursdays. Some of the staff has caught on and more and more are wearing the bright color once a week.

Janell Meade, JDHS nurse, said she noticed Alsup's weekly trend.

"I told him, 'Hey nice pink shirt, your wife get that on sale?'" she recalled joking with him.

No, it wasn't his wife's idea, nor his two daughters'. Alsup told her he wears pink on Thursdays in support of Breast Cancer Awareness. "Cool," she said she thought. Meade went to a consignment store and bought a pink shirt and has joined him every week since.

"My husband's mother died of breast cancer before I even got to meet her," she said. "I think it's affected everyone, breast cancer. I've only been doing it for one month. It's nice for parents, we have some girls whose moms have died from breast cancer. I had a girl in the other day, her mom is a breast cancer survivor."

Alsup said he actually didn't come up with the idea, but another administrator at his previous school in Colorado did four or five years ago.

"He started wearing pink and it caught on with faculty," Alsup said.

During that time, Alsup had an aunt and close family friends impacted by breast cancer.

"So it's taken on meaning for me and I decided to continue it here," he said. "I just felt like it was a good thing to do. It's been amazing to see the last couple weeks, 15 to 16 staff (joining in). Students have noticed too. Because I haven't made an announcement, they're trying to figure it out."

Alsup prefers this method of awareness.

"For me, it's not about the publicity of it," he said. "I think if I say, everyone needs to wear pink on Thursday, some would do it just because I'm their boss. I believe in leading by example."

Plus, he likes the conversation that follows the questions or good-natured teasing about a man wearing pink.

"Doing it this way tends to catch on and is more lasting," he said. "Usually organized events are a one-day-wonder. It's a great idea. Some say they don't own pink, and I've noticed some who said that are wearing pink now. I've just noticed the color starting to creep in. Because they're doing it on their own, it gives them ownership. In my mind, they're doing it for the right reason."

One of the things that happened in Colorado is staff added other color days - like a purple day for cervical cancer awareness.

"It kind of took on a life of its own," Alsup said. "It could potentially happen here."

Alsup likes continuing to add to the awareness, and still wore pink through parent conferences last week.

"A couple parents asked about it," he said. "I do have two little girls, they think it's great their daddy will wear pink, but they don't understand the reason for it."

Devon Searles, a junior, wore pink for breast cancer awareness for the first time this Thursday after talking with Alsup.

"My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer a while back," Searles said. "She's cancer free now. It's a good thing to support."

Searles has braved wearing pink to school in the past and friends usually ask about it. This time, he's doing it for a reason.

"They think it's cool," Searles said of when people find out why he's wearing pink.

He said he thinks more students will pick up on it and start wearing pink on Thursdays.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@ juneauempire.com.



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