A Bristol Bay manager has staked his hair on the success of his elders. They all graduated.


Junior Torino, Principal Shannon Harvilla and Nathan Hansen in May 2022. Harvilla had agreed to let Torino shave his head if Torino and the rest of the senior class graduated. (Bristol Bay Borough School District)

Shannon Harvilla is the principal and deputy superintendent of the Bristol Bay Borough School District, which has around 100 students in kindergarten to grade 12, and he wants to help each of these students as much as he can. Last year, his sense of duty was tested when he received a surprising request from one of the seniors, Senen Torino, or Junior.

“Junior Torino approached me at the beginning of the school year, half joking, because I had long hair, [asking] if he could shave it,” Harvilla said.

Harvilla agreed on one condition.

“I let him know that if the whole senior class graduates this year, he might have the honor of shaving my head,” he said.

Torino said he had a difficult start to the school year.

“I was pretty short on credits, and so I didn’t think I was going to graduate,” he said. “But halfway through the year, I started giving a few extra lessons that I needed.”

Torino said his bet with Principal Harvilla motivated him to persevere through some tough parts of Grade 12.

“Oh yeah, that pushed me a bit more,” he said. “I really wanted to see him bald. It was really stressful. I had some doubts, but I didn’t let that stop me from anything. I knew he would keep his word. I never expected not to have a lot of kids come down and watch. But it was fun. I’m glad I got to do it in front of everyone and everyone got a chance to see.

Torino graduated last spring with 10 of his classmates. The students celebrated with the rest of the community; Harvilla said it was the school’s first real in-person event since the pandemic began two years earlier. Torino spoke at the graduation ceremony. He said he was nervous.

“I was one of the speakers in the class, so I had to talk about my whole class in front of everyone at graduation, so I was a little nervous. But once I got up there, it was fun,” he said. “There were definitely some good times with them. And it’s going to be different, but everyone’s going to go their own way, and maybe we’ll stay connected d one way or another.

Afterwards, he made one final trip to the school to shave Harvilla’s head in front of the student body. Harvilla said the haircut was worth it.

“I knew it [Jr. Torino] should do extra work to graduate. And I knew that any motivation we could provide as an adult would help him achieve his goal of graduating,” he said.

Now Torino is working at the borough wharf. Bristol Bay Borough’s 2022 school year begins this week – it’s not yet clear what Harvilla plans to do if all seniors graduate this spring.

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]