Stepping into the hairdressing salon, I was greeted with a shy smile from a young girl sitting behind a shiny red desk.
She pointed at the black leather chair. “This way, please.”
After guiding me into my seat, she swiveled the chair around. Facing the mirror, the reflection of the salon was like the front cover of a Vogue magazine—classy and cutting-edge.
As we discussed what hair style I would prefer, another girl emerged, brush in hand, wearing a pink tutu and matching 70s-style platform shoes. She circled around the red, black, and white retro furniture that complemented the black-and-white glossy floor. Reaching her hairdressing trolley, lined up in the corner with the others, she considered its contents as if studying for an exam. Completing the checklist, she added a curling iron, a hair serum, and a pretty clip.
Looking in the spotless mirror, I was captivated by the long white shelves boasting photos of previous celebrated salon graduates, all wearing the same shade of red lipstick. A purpose-built hairdressing salon in a high school. Simply stunning.
And I was about to reap the benefits. The invitation to spend some time with Mandy Jolley at her SHINE in-school program started with a divine pampering session. Afterwards, Mandy and I grabbed a cappuccino from the salon coffee machine and found a quiet spot to talk about her life-changing program.
As Mandy talks about her girls, the forty-something-year-old glows with the inexhaustible energy of Wonder Woman. “I have one year with my girls and it’s jam-packed with opportunities to develop their personal growth, but the success of the program comes from making learning fun. In the salon, my girls are always wearing tutus, always dressing up and expressing their individuality. I see them transforming into beautiful butterflies, stepping into their roles with confidence and humor while learning to love themselves at the same time.”
Early pessimists warned Mandy: never work with “at-risk kids.” It’ll be a mess. Everything you’ve worked so hard to make nice and professional will be destroyed. These girls won’t appreciate what you’re doing for them.
They were so wrong.
Seven years in, through Mandy’s leadership, more than 260 female students have completed SHINE’s multi-award-winning program. Each year, students apply for the program, and if chosen, work in the hairdressing salon one day a week. SHINE teaches students how to work with hair, skin, nails, and makeup. They also gain vocational and life skills to make better informed decisions about their wellbeing.
Not only is learning beauty skills fun for the girls, it may be their only chance of warding off the beasts of poverty, shame, and abuse. The beauty of SHINE is that it has the potential to change the course of these girls’ futures, not only for themselves, but for generations to come…
Photos by Shine Today. Used with permission.
Excerpt from the Starfish Singers Book by Christine G. Camp – Using Beauty to Heal the Pain