It’s always inspiring to see someone with a great idea use her talents in order to improve the situation of those around her. Kesha Norman, founder of Teach 2 Reach – an educational program geared toward Flint teens who are in need of both social and occupational skills – is one such person. This growing organization is the product of Kesha’s life experiences, professional skills, and her desire to change the lives of people around her.
Norman is a Central High School graduate who studied cosmetology at Mott Community College and later moved to Grand Rapids to attend seminary school. During her studies on Michigan’s west coast, Norman was required to complete an internship that involved work with troubled teenagers, work she says appealed to her desire to make a difference. She was nearing the end of her education when her parents fell ill, requiring her to curtail her seminary work to tend them. A short time later, they both passed away. Finding herself settled back in Flint, Kesha remembered her work at seminary and wondered what she could do to help teens within her reach. Combining her cosmetology skills with her counseling internship experience, Norman started Teach 2 Reach in 2011.
Through Teach 2 Reach, Kesha began giving day- and week-long cosmetology and social skills courses in the Flint Public Schools and at the Sarvis Center. Soon, others began to partner with her, such as Kimmie Montgomery of Masters Touch Outreach Center and Flint Police Officer Tanya Meeks. Kesha says she is grateful because their respective backgrounds enabled Teach 2 Reach to incorporate spiritual encouragement and violence prevention workshops into its curriculum. Overall, Norman calls her educational approach “socially integrated learning.” A typical class involves hands-on cosmetology training such as manicure and pedicure work, and hairstyling and barber instruction.
Throughout this training, Norman challenges her students to think beyond society’s standard of beauty. She also teaches them to focus on a person’s complete image, while touching on professionalism and conflict resolution. Kesha loves to see the impact on her students when they grow in knowledge of social interactive and employment skills, and when the students leave these classes with hope, that gives her hope as well. She says, “There’s this excitement when I see their faces light up and they enjoy what they’re doing. They appreciate and value someone taking the time to help them with things that they can carry with them into the future.”
Today, Teach 2 Reach classes are held at its current location in Flint at Cheyenne and Hemphill Roads. Norman has instructed several hundred students in the past year alone, and is in the process of acquiring accreditation that will allow her students to log the time spent in her classroom as part of their training to become licensed cosmetologists.
Norman’s latest venture included a summer program this year called Creative Fun Learning, in which she offered extended cosmetology and barber training for area youth ages 12-17. Janae Hawkins of Flint was one of the summer students. The 14-year-old learned of Teach 2 Reach through a flyer sent out by the Flint Public Library, and said she was eager to attend. “I wanted to learn different techniques and all the hands-on training helps because I learn better that way,” Hawkins said of the camp. Norman has also used her talents to work with adults. Through her Beautiful Butterfly program at St. Luke New Life Center in Flint, she offers cosmetology and social skills classes to women who are emerging from jail or abusive homes.
Everything Norman offers to the community is done with little outside funding. Nominal fees cover the operational expenses, but Teach 2 Reach does not yet have the luxury of a multitude of sponsors like many other Flint organizations. With any luck, that will change in the future; but for now, when you ask Norman why she gives as much as she does, she replies simply: “I just want to use my skill to help young people. So many people talk about helping, but I don’t want to be another person who only says, ‘I want to help.’ I really want to do it.” My City Magazine applauds Kesha Norman. Her desire to help those around her is admirable and stands as a model to follow: Do whatever you can with whatever you have.