LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Middle schoolers at four Jefferson County Public Schools are learning how to braid hair thanks to Shawanda Parker. She’s the owner of the Braid Bar, a hair braiding salon in Louisville. 

What You Need To Know

  • Shawanda Parker is the owner of the Braid Bar in Louisville

  • Parker teaches after-school braid clubs around Jefferson County

  • The eight-week program teaches students braiding, customer service skills and marketing 

  • Parker has a teen braid shop in her salon 

Parker is usually behind the salon chair styling hair, but for eight weeks after the school day, she’s transforming JCPS classrooms into hair salons.

“I love braiding hair. I first started braiding when I was in high school,” said Parker. “I was adopted by my aunt. She had 5 sons, and she adopted me and my sisters. It was 4 of us. She didn’t know how to do hair at all, so sometimes I would braid my sisters hairs, some of my guy cousins and a few friends of the family kids.”

Now she’s sharing her skill with JCPS middle school students after school. 

“I’m teaching them the basics of braiding—the main braid styles like knotless braids, box braids and feed-in braids,” Parker explained.

Her 8-week course also covers customer service, money and time management, and advertising and marketing using social media. 

Stuart Academy 8th grader Michelle Brown loves wearing braids to protect her natural hair. Now she has the skills to braid her hair and others. 

“I was a hard person to teach,” Brown said. “I did not know what I was doing at all, but she took her time on me and to continue to be patient with me.”

Parker hopes to create beauty rooms where licensed teen braiders can help make sure no student has a bad hair day. 

“A lot of kids get teased a lot about their hair. We’re always saying that we’re going to help out with bullying or help out with them changing to give them their own personality, but we’re not giving them the actual space,” says Parker. 

After club meetings, Parker heads over to her salon. The staff includes Parker and a team of teen braiders. 

“This is my everything right here. These are my girls. They come here every day after school and they braid hair,” Parker said. “We mentor with each other. They help me out, they help me out. They teach me patience. I teach them how to work with adults.”

The salon is Male High School senior Tenae Wilkerson’s first job. 

“I love it. I have learned how to work with difficult clients, and how to work with different hair textures,” says Wilkerson. “I definitely get to showcase my creativity like we all just have so many different talents.” 

Wilkerson also enjoys earning more than minimum wage and setting her own schedule.  

For Parker, a single mother of four, it’s all about pushing her girls to be their best selves. 

“I had a lot of times I just wanted to give up, but I had to keep pushing because of my kids and I had a family to support so when you have a good motivation, if you have a good support system, I feel like when I give them support it’s motivating them to continue on to what they what they want to do,” says Parker.

Even if doing hair is just a side hustle to help them reach goals outside of a salon. 

Parker hopes to expand the braid club to more schools next school year.  

In June, Parker will host a Dad Can Braid, Too event to teach single fathers how to braid and style their children’s hair.