When Veterans Memorial High School students, Victoria Saenz, Nicole Flores, and Alessandra Razo decided to work on a community service project for competition through SkillsUSA Cosmetology, they chose to do something that was somewhat personal to them. At the time, the trio admits they had no idea what an impact a school project would also have on them.

The students reached out to Mujeres Unidos/Women Together, an area organization that provides shelter and services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. After learning more about the organization, the girls then proceeded with getting permission from Mujeres Unidas officials and their school principal. They then developed an action plan that included surveying fellow students about the subject of domestic abuse, organizing a donation drive for items needed by women and families served through Mujeres Unidas, incorporating awareness messages into their requests for donations within the campus and from outside companies. Also, they worked with their fellow cosmetology students to provide salon services to the women and families at the shelter. In addition, they developed special coupons for the shelter. The shelter could give those coupons to women who might need help with a haircut, or other salon services to better prepare the women and help them feel more confident going into job interviews, etc.

Saenz, Flores, and Razo said the response from their fellow VMHS students was so strong that they were able to donate quite a few large boxes of clothes, toiletries, diapers, backpacks, etc. to Mujeres Unidas. They said it felt good to see how many of their fellow students cared about the cause. They have also been able to let other students know that there are places for help if they ever find themselves in a situation that they need to break a cycle of abuse.

The young ladies and the organizations concerned all agreed that what started out as just a school project for SkillsUSA competition has turned into something more for them. They have learned more about the subject of domestic abuse, touched the lives of families served through Mujeres Unidas, and have learned the power one person can have to help change a life for the better.

Their project is not over. The three students will be graduating in May but have taken some steps to keep support in place for Mujeres Unidas next year. However, they are working with underclassmen in their cosmetology program to provide services for shelter clients next school year.

Their entry into the SkillsUSA Cosmetology contest in the area of community service projects has scored well in competition. Their efforts have qualified them for state competition that will be held in early April in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Pictured are VMHS cosmetology students as they worked on decorating donation boxes used as a part of the project, delivered donations to Mujeres Unidas, and provided salon services