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Realizing Dreams in the Delta

Posted on: May 31, 2018

Sometimes, a single mom with a fulltime job and an energetic young son needs a pep talk to help her realize her dreams.

“It can all become so overwhelming and you just want to give up, but they wouldn’t let me,” recalled Tracee Townsend. “They talked to me and encouraged me and helped me to succeed.”

That encouragement came through a program called GREAT or Getting Ready to Excel, Achieve and Triumph. Because of the program, Tracee is now a licensed hair stylist preparing to open her own shop and follow in the footsteps of her relatives.

“I always wanted to be a hair stylist. Growing up, I’d watch my aunts work, and I knew that’s what I wanted to be,” she said. “And now I am.”

Sponsored by Delta Health Alliance in partnership with the S&S College of Hair, the GREAT program enabled Tracee to complete a 1,500-hour program of classroom study and practical experience to become a hair stylist, at no cost to her. She passed her state licensing exam in March.

While it began in Indianola, the GREAT program is expanding to Leland, Arcola, and Hollandale, said Lolita Gladney, who manages the program for Delta Health Alliance. “Something like this can completely transform a person’s life,” said Gladney “It gives people an opportunity for a free education and help with starting a business or getting a job.”

GREAT also offers study for those interested in becoming welders, pharmacy technicians, medical office assistants and more. GREAT is open to individuals who are:

  • between 18-24 years old
  • recipients of a high school diploma or GED
  • interested in a career in the programs offered through GREAT

Since GREAT was established in Indianola in 2015, more than 20 young men and women have completed the program. This group includes two barbers, five carpenters, four pharmacy technicians, one certified nursing assistant, two welders and five medical office assistants.

For Tracee, the program has meant she can now live her dream of becoming a stylist and better support her five-year-old son, Jordan. “They were so flexible with my time and helped me in every way,” she said. “I want to give back to my community and part of that is being able to serve the homeless by giving haircuts to those who can’t afford it. I want to employ people and provide jobs. This is a program I would recommend to everyone looking for a better life.”