Celestina Ford spent Tuesday morning, Sep. 8, dropping her kids off for their first day back at school. Then she drove herself to school.
With her kids settled, Ford can now spend the next four-and-a-half hours, worry-free, focusing on her own pursuits: her education.
“If you want to further your education, don’t let kids hold you back,” she said.
Ford, 40, is a part-time student at Hair Design Institute, nestled in the heart of the busy business district on 86th Street, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. She is one of 150 students enrolled in the cosmetology training program, learning skills such as cutting, styling and coloring hair, as well as nail and skincare services.
Like Ford, nearly 50 percent of students enrolled in the school are mothers.
“They are able to drop their kids at a day care or public school and come here and get an education,” Nicole Bryant, an instructor – and former student – at Hair Design Institute said, adding that the school’s flexible schedules attract mothers toward this career path.
Admissions Representative Herlin Ramirez said many students are part of the government’s “Back to Work” program. The government offers assistance for vocational training, such as cosmetology, through this program, according to the NYC Human Resource Administration website.
In 2014, New York was one of the top five states with highest employment rates in the cosmetology industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Practitioners earned an average salary of $29,030.
Money aside, the mothers at this beauty school see another advantage of their studies: it allows their children to see them as role models.
“I was a teen mom,” Kemeisha Lynch, another hair design student, said. “It is empowering because my daughter sees me going back to school and it shows her it is never too late.”
Kathy Mercer, 31, another student at the beauty school, also said her two children were thrilled to hear that she too would be returning to the classroom.
“My daughter was like, ‘We can do homework together!’” Mercer said. “I want them to be inspired, like, if mom can do it, I know I can do it.”
Hair design student Griselda Useche, who is just a few months away from graduation, uses her grades to tease her son into trying harder in school.
“I got a 100 in every test and I go home and I show my son and say, ‘Look, you have to study.’ They (her son and husband) are happy and they give me a hug. You feel you do something for your life and their life,” Useche said.
And on this first day of school for her two children, Ford is convinced they get the message.
“With seeing mommy going back to school, it was a big thing. Now they see that mommy is doing everything – mommy is cooking, mommy is cleaning, mommy is doing laundry and she is going to school. It is a good feeling,” Ford said. “It definitely helps create a tight and stronger bond between you and your children.”