The first day of school was a few days away, and yet she just wasn’t ready.
Arianna had all her supplies and memorized her class schedule but she still didn’t feel… prepared. And the feeling hit her every time she passed the mirror.
While it may have seemed frivolous to some, Arianna was struggling to feel ready for school because she wasn’t happy with her hair. It hadn’t been styled, conditioned, and cared for in a while, and secretly– despite her tough exterior– she still wanted to feel… beautiful…on her first day back.
“Her counselor, Shareet, asked me if I knew anyone who would be willing to do her hair, but I knew it was a busy time to book a stylist,” says Jacquie Matthews Williams, Outreach and Mentoring Coordinator for Lutheran Services Florida’s SW Non-Residential Services.
“So I called my friend Monique who owns a nearby salon, and she made it happen.”
Monique Smith is the owner of Beauty, Braids, and Beyond, a hair salon that helps women to embrace their natural hair. She also runs a mentor program to help girls and teens build their self-esteem.
“When Arianna first came into the shop, it was clear she wanted to test me, to see if I’d be scared of her,” Monique recalls. “But when I shared that I have a rough background, too, she was surprised to see that I could relate to her.”
While braiding her hair, Monique opened up about her time in the judicial system and struggles with mental health. Soon, Arianna felt comfortable enough to admit that she was currently facing the very same things.
“I saw her change before my eyes. She opened up to me and I was suddenly so moved, that I told Lutheran Services I wanted to remain a part of this young woman’s life.”
Monique made a deal with Arianna and told her that if she could stay out of trouble for a month, she’d continue to do her hair regularly.
While LSF staff works hard to help foster teens develop confidence and self-acceptance, the team understands that how one feels about his or her appearance can make a difference on their overall esteem.
Partnerships with people like Monique Smith are critical to providing well-rounded emotional, mental, and physical care for our community’s most vulnerable children, and it speaks to the power of coming together for a common cause.
“God changed my life. If I can turn around and help to change others’ lives, that would be great.”