TAMPA, Fla. - Sometimes a good hair day can give you all the confidence you need, and a Tampa substitute teacher is helping students find their confidence and going viral in the process.
Tampa native Erica Young, 27, grew up watching her grandfather run his hair shop, developing a talent that runs in her family.
"My mom does hair. My aunt, my cousins, we all do hair. We’re blessed with the talent, so why not use it?" said Young.
Young, a kindergarten substitute teacher, loves working with children and uses her talents to help her students who need a little extra care. She said sometimes she has a student whose hair is undone, so she will pull them to the side and fix their hair. She said she knows how important being put together can help, and she said she notices a change in their behavior.
"So when I look at my kids, I want to make sure that one your hair is good, your clothes are good, your shoes are tied," she said.
Young recently posted a TikTok video of her braiding a student’s hair into a style. She said she never expected the video of her doing hair would get over a million views.
"When I posted the video, me and my son literally went to sleep and I woke up to a lot of views. I was just like, ‘Whoa, did I just go viral?’" said Young. "If you go back to all my content from other social media and websites, I’ve always done this stuff. It’s just now people are starting to see my work."
Young said that a student in the video came to school with a bonnet covering her hair for weeks. When it was the school’s picture day, Young said she didn’t want the child to take her photo with the bonnet and no hairstyle.
"She would not let her mom do her hair. She would not let cousins or anyone do her hair. But for some reason, she trusted me to do her hair, and I did it during my lunch period," said Young. "She went home and her mom was like, ‘Oh this is amazing.’ She was very supportive."
Young works at B.C. Graham Elementary where she said students are low-income and have fewer privileges. She said she notices how a hairstyle changes their self-image.
"I really big on self-confidence and always want to find ways to make kids be confident about themselves," she said.
Last year, Young bought a bus to convert it into a mobile hair salon. She’s spent months cleaning, fixing and converting the bus into three salon stations, with plans to bring the bus to her students.
"I’ve been talking to the school that I’m at now, and we’re trying to come up with a way to have a fund for kids. So that in the summertime, we set the bus up and the kids can come and get their hair done," she said.
Young enjoys giving back to her community however she can. When she’s not substitute teaching, she runs her business called Forever Young, which includes hair braiding and a nonprofit focused on helping homeless youth and their families. Young said she also wants to give older students the chance to feel pride in themselves too.
"I want to hire people to come in and then I want to make a way through my nonprofit for them to be able to give back to the kids as well. Makeup artists, nail tech artists, so they can do prom, homecoming, and different kinds of stuff. It gets bigger than what you see," said Young.
Young said she hopes to have her mobile salon up and running for the kids this summer.