Johnareus Young program, director of North Greenwood Rec Center, (left) and Linda Coley, founder of Operation Young Boss Academy standing with a graduate of the program.
BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer
CLEARWATER — When Leslie Coley founded the Operation Young Boss Academy, she hoped to change the lives of young girls to dream big and think outside the box. While the organization has been successful at doing just that, Coley said she had no idea just how much of an impact the academy would make.
The academy’s mission is to provide girls ages 10-16 with the tools to inspire self-sufficiency that can combat poverty, giving them a hand up and the inspiration to think big. Coley uses the beauty industry to show the girls how they can make a lasting career, and if they desire, become their own boss.
“I created this program to become the role model to these children that I wanted to have when I was their age,” Coley said. “My desire was to give them a joyful experience while lending a hand with training and entrepreneurial skills.”
Partnering with North Greenwood Recreation Center, the program began two years ago with just five students, but the number quickly grew.
“By day two, we had at least 20 students,” said the mother of three. “We gave out 40 certificates of participation in our first year of the program at the recreational center.”
While Coley’s background includes the beauty industry, the program also brings in guest speakers from a variety of business backgrounds. A recent guest speaker, Transcending Horizons CEO Dr. Tylisha Johnson, has gifted one student with a mentorship package that will see a mentor follow her throughout her high school career. The company provides business, sales and marketing strategies to companies and nonprofit organizations.
Coley, a licensed, full-service cosmetologist, said working with all of the students has been rewarding, and she is excited about the potential of one student in particular.
While the 16-year-old is currently in foster care, she is motivated to be defined by more than just her circumstances. She has already completed coursework for her braiding license and will officially begin working at Coley’s shop when her official paperwork comes from the state.
Stories such as these are what Coley lives for. Along with the academy, her company, Dyvine Appointments LLC, provides a host of services including a training institute and has licensed more than 500 stylists since becoming a state-certified braiding license provider for Florida.
“We have licensed well know local stylists such as Stichedbybrit, Bell’s Beauty Box, LacebyLex and Brittany Farewell,” Coley stated.
The business also provides a hair loss clinic and produces Beauty on the Bay magazine, a publication that celebrates life, hair and style in the Tampa Bay area.
“We have also birthed our own hair care line called The Heiress Collection,” Coley revealed.
With so many irons in the fire, this grandmother and published author said she is constantly on the move, but she loves making a difference in the community and bringing the kind of support and understanding she would have liked to experience as a young person.
“I wanted someone to tell me that I mattered and that I could become anyone I set my mind to be,” Coley said. “I wanted to be their confidant and bring them a joyful experience while learning hands-on training.”
For more information on Dyvine Appointments LLC and the programs offered, call 813-530-6773.
To reach Karin Davis-Thompson, email firstname.lastname@example.org