Northwest alumna thankful for second chance

Northwest Mississippi Community College alumna Melissa Tutor is working her dream job at a popular Oxford salon, thanks to the “second chance” she says the College gave her.

Tutor has wanted to work in the beauty industry for as long as she can remember. As a child, she loved playing with makeup and hair and testing out different looks. As a young adult, she admits she was not college-minded, and struggled to stay focused when she enrolled at Northwest after high school. Eventually, she ended up on academic probation.

She started a career with Mary Kay Cosmetics 15 years ago, and though she loved what she was doing and continues to be a consultant for the brand today, she wanted to further her career in the industry. When she applied to Northwest’s Cosmetology program in 2019, she was still on academic probation from her first go-round as a young student. However, she went through the appeals process and was granted entry to the program.

The Oxford native, who now lives in Abbeville, enrolled at the Lafayette-Yalobusha Technical Center in her hometown.

“Once I started the program, I absolutely fell in love with every part of it,” Tutor said. “It was such an enjoyable experience for me to learn my passion – hair, skin, nails, makeup, the whole industry. It was a great learning experience, and a hands-on skill and trade that I could learn and make a career out of.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the program became a little more challenging. Tutor and her fellow students did what work they could online, submitting images and videos of themselves executing specific skills at home. Despite the hiccup, Tutor was impressed with the way the school handled the transition, and praises Oxford campus Dean, Dr. Don Jones for being instrumental in working with students to make sure they were able to graduate on time. 

At the end of Tutor’s last semester, Oxford’s RK Beauty Bar, partly-owned by Northwest alumna Rachel DeLashmit, reached out to Northwest’s Cosmetology program in search of another stylist for the growing business. At her interview, Tutor was offered the job on the spot.

Things continued falling into place. In September, while preparing to leave for a family beach vacation, Tutor received her invitation from the Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology to take her theory exam. After a quick online search, she found a testing center on the way to the beach. She took her exam in Mobile, Ala., passed the test and spent the week at the beach celebrating with her family. When she got home, she started her new job and felt well-prepared.

“Northwest’s program was very instrumental in teaching me the basic foundational skills to have a successful career,” Tutor said.

Finally settling into the profession she always wanted, Tutor frequently reflects on how blessed she feels to be doing what she loves. Her favorite part? Helping women feel beautiful.

“I love helping women find the perfect shade of color that they love,” she said. “I really enjoy helping women feel they are the best they can be. It’s just such a creative industry. Every person is a fresh canvas. It’s a way to express and create, and I just love that.”

Oxford residents recently bestowed the honor of “Best Hair Salon” on RK Beauty Bar in the Best of Oxford contest, with DeLashmit also earning the title of “Best Hairstylist.” The salon is as busy as ever in the midst of the pandemic, though masks are now worn all day and stations are thoroughly disinfected after each client. 

At the end of the day, Tutor feels deeply appreciative of the place that helped get her where she always wanted to be.

“I just want to express my gratitude,” Tutor said. “The College gave an adult a second chance at an education. It was even more special to me to be able to go through this program knowing that after getting some life experience, I finally got clarity on the career that I wanted to have for the rest of my life.”

For more information about Northwest, visit northwestms.edu.