Eleven-year-old Isabella Pieri is good at getting herself up and ready for school in the mornings. She should be, because she's been doing it on her own for years. Her mother passed away when she was younger, and her father leaves early for work. So it's up to Isabella to get herself up, dressed, and out the door in time to catch the school bus every morning.
Her dad, Philip Pieri, has taught her well, but one aspect of her morning routine has always been a little tricky, and it's one that many dads have struggled with: her hair.
When Isabella was younger, her dad cut her hair super-short because he didn't know how to keep it from getting tangled. (That's Isabella with short hair in the photo with her brother above.) She wasn't fond of the crew cut, so Isabella decided to do her own hair. Most days the best she could do was brush and gather her hair into a loose ponytail, but that approach changed a few months ago. She'd noticed her school bus driver, Tracy Dean, doing another young girl's hair, so she got up the nerve to ask for her help.
While that may seem like a small thing, Dean's efforts have made an enormous difference in the young girl's life.
Now every morning, Dean styles Isabella's hair — as well as the hair for a few other girls on her bus. "I have a brush for each girl and they have been bringing their own hair scrunchies," Dean told MNN. To combat those morning tangles, Dean has a leave-in conditioner spray that she uses to make sure the brushing is easy on the girls. Most days the girls pick how they want their hair done and it's "mostly braids but sometimes I surprise them!" Dean told us.
"It makes me feel like she’s a mom pretty much to me," Isabella told her local Salt Lake City news station. "And it makes me excited for the next day to see what she does."
And it's something Dean gives willingly. Dean went through her own health struggles seven years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, she worried about who would take care of her own little ones. "Not that my husband couldn’t do it, but you know, that’s what mom’s do," said Dean. "They do their kids’ hair."