Concordia social work student Nadia Di Berardo has piloted a new program, Cuts for Confidence, that provides free haircuts to students in a Detroit-area school district.

You know what they say: Everything feels better after a good haircut.

And that’s exactly what CUW social work student and hair stylist Nadia Di Berardo – along with a group of her stylist/barber friends – gave at no charge to dozens of students in grades 6-8 yesterday.

Di Berardo is currently fulfilling an internship requirement within Hazel Park School District for her CUW Master of Social Work program. With a population of just over 15,000 residents, the city of Hazel Park is located about 15 minutes northwest of Detroit, just over 2 miles from the famous 8 Mile Road. Nearly 44 percent of students within the school district meet the requirements for the federal free and reduced-price meal program, one of a few markers that indicate a household’s low-income status.

Ahead of the holidays, Di Berardo received the green light from school district officials to pilot a new program, “Cuts for Confidence.” Students can sign up to receive a haircut on school grounds at no charge.

“Being in this school and seeing the kids’ significant need for haircuts, it tugged at my heart,” said Di Berardo. “Some of these kids go months without a trim. This was just a small way to show them someone cares and to boost their confidence using a trauma-informed lens. They’re at a delicate age where their appearance matters a lot to them.”

In the media

Detroit TV stations Fox 2 and WXYZ took an interest in Nadia’s Cuts for Confidence initiative.

Changing her circumstances, benefitting others

Before Di Berardo decided to shift her attention to social work, she spent decades earning an income as a hair stylist. But when her marriage to her husband, who struggled with drug addiction, ultimately dissolved Di Berardo decided she needed to find a way to take the lessons learned during the trauma of her relationship and use them for the good of others.

“It took me four years to really pull myself out of the depression of it all,” Di Berardo said. “I took two weeks one summer and just prayed and prayed and prayed. I asked God to show me how I can use my circumstances for the benefit of others. Never did I think I would go back to school ever, but one door opened after another after another.”

It was a therapist who initially suggested that Di Berardo look into social work. Di Berardo earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 2022 and then enrolled in Concordia’s Master of Social Work program. Di Berardo says social work is appealing because it affords her the opportunity to impact a broad group of individuals in a variety of settings.

Uniquely equipped to serve

While many people might be overwhelmed by the heaviness of the field, Di Berardo feels her life circumstances have uniquely equipped her to care for broken people. Her first internship through Concordia was in Detroit, working with recovering addicts and individuals who had been sex trafficked.

“I thought that was right up my alley,” Di Berardo said. “I actually fought against school social work initially.”

Di Berardo credits her professor, Dr. Sara Casali, for encouraging her to step out of her comfort zone for her next internship. It’s turning out to be the perfect fit. Di Berardo, who plans to graduate in May 2025, has loved her experience so much that she hopes to secure a job within the Hazel Park School District once she graduates.

In the meantime, as she finishes her degree, she’ll continue to cut hair. It’s her first love and it’s something that she can always keep as a side gig, especially for students in need.

“God gave us these gifts and He wants us to use them for His purpose,” Di Berardo said. “I see my new career in social work and my work as a stylist as a way to show compassion and empathy and to give back.”   

Want in?

Concordia’s social work program uses Christian service, quality research, and hands-on learning to grow you as a competent professional. Earn your bachelor’s degree at CUW and then continue on to acquire a completely online MSW, the most sought-after social services degree. Learn more about our programs by clicking below.