Neema Pickett isn't your average undergraduate student. Even though she has lived most of her life in New Mexico her college career began in China. She moved to China with her husband, an Intel employee, to explore new opportunities. It was a tricky move.
Pickett owned a hair, nail and skin treatment business near old town in Albuquerque and decided to keep it open while she was living in China. She managed, by using Vonage to talk constantly with her employees, running regular staff meetings via Skype, and traveling back to Albuquerque twice a year to train new employees.
While in China she began attending classes, working to get her core curriculum complete as quickly as possible. When she came back to New Mexico in 2008, she began to work on her major in psychology. "I've done everything backward," she said. "I had my daughter when I was very young. I started a business. Then I went to school."
She continues to run the salon, which paid tuition as she attended UNM. Working with customers at the salon also gave her a reason to study psychology. "The problem I've seen from behind the chair is that people don't have permission to be themselves. And I think, wow, am I the only person they could have told this to or is there something sacred and ceremonial about washing hair and have someone touching your head in this intimate way that opens the door to sharing your life?"
Talking to her clients she found herself frequently referring them to local psychologists. "We could fix everything about their hair and make that perfect, but they are still dealing with all this internal stuff. They look at themselves and still don't feel good. Well, it's nothing to do with the aesthetics, It's got a lot to do with what's going on inside," she says. She found herself talking with her clients for hours before she finally realized, "I just don't have enough training for this."
Her professors are anxious to see her back in graduate school. But Pickett has more she wants to do first. This summer she is working in her newly rented space in the North Valley putting together summer day camps for girls 12 through 16 at her new nonprofit, Kamaria Creations Wellness Center.
She plans to teach students how to make their own natural hair, skin and beauty products, hair conditioning treatments, and about henna art, basic sewing skills and vegetarian cooking. She is recruiting students now and will hold an open house on June 2 from 2 - 4 p.m. at 4231 San Isidro N.W. She says anyone who wants to learn more about her day camp can email her at email@example.com
Media contact: Karen Wentworth (505) 277-5627; firstname.lastname@example.org