braiding summer camp

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- About a dozen teens and pre-teens crowd into a small hair salon, their fingers moving quickly making tight, precise braids. By perfecting each style, the teens are expressing who they are.

"It's how I define my beauty," 12-year-old Kahmilya Barnes said. 

This is the Junior Braid Camp at Emma'Lees Transformation Studios.

"Braiding is a good way to express how you feel," said Shawanda Parker, who runs the program with Chyna Bradley. 

"It started off as a free class for five girls and then we started getting a lot of inquiries, so it was like, 'What if we did a camp?'" Bradley said. 

One week of camp turned into a month of camps as a way to empower hair braiders. For some, the skills they learn here one day can turn out to be their career.

"It's very positive here, and we've learned how to push ourselves and push each other and work with people," said 18-year-old Renee Wilson, who just graduated from high school and will soon head off to college. But braiding hair is what she wants to do professionally.

Here, she's learning the basics and building a portfolio -- things she'll need to launch her own career.

"They try to teach us how to build our clientele and how to spend money wisely," Wilson said.

Junior braiders walk away with their own business cards, marketing strategies and Instagram accounts to post their designs and show how much they've learned.

"When they get to see it on their last day, they're like, 'I did this. This is my work,'" Parker said. "It also shows the parents, 'My baby is really here learning.'" 

And while the girls are having a good time, Bradley and Parker are strict when it comes to the rules.

"We don't play about time," Parker said. 

"They have to get dressed and they have to be in uniform," Bradley added. "It's just like going to a job. You have to be on time; you have to be there in uniform."

By taking it seriously, Parker and Bradley are building self-confidence through hands-on training.

"Because the young girls are needing some positivity, especially in the neighborhood where we are," Parker said.

Even more girls in the neighborhood have expressed interested in learning, so Bradley is now exploring starting a back-to-school program.

"We want to keep it going," Bradley said. "We don't want to stop because the summer is over." 

Emma'Lees Transformation Studios, located at 3050 W. Broadway, will host a Back to School Bash from 3 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 11. Junior braiders will offer back-to-school hairdos. There will also be food, a dance contest and giveaways.

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