After giving birth to a daughter in the summer of 2017, April found herself faced with a decision all too familiar for single mothers—whether to get a low-paying job to make immediate ends meet or further her education with the hopes of providing long-term stability. She heard about The Grooming Project from a teacher who had been working with her niece and daughter, and it sounded appealing right away. Growing up in Kansas City she had always loved animals, even wild ones, because they provided a sense of peace and calm amid problems at home—abuse, drugs, and alcohol—that led to her being adopted by a caring aunt and uncle as a toddler.  Having just become a mom, though, she felt pressured to make money immediately.

“Everyone around me was more focused on me making money right away than going to school. I thought I could do both at first—go to school during the day and work at night—but where would that leave me with my daughter?”

She chose to delay her entry into The Grooming Project and pursue a job at nearby store but regretted it quickly. Promised promotions never came, and her hours were cut repeatedly, leaving her with little more than gas money. After a few months she realized the job would not lead anywhere, nor would it allow her to reach an important goal.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I’m nothing like my birth mom. I wanted to show my daughter that I’m going to do something for us. That her mom’s going to do something for herself.”

Three months into grooming training she is happily soaking up all the knowledge and skills she can. “At my other job I’d wake up and sit in bed trying to decide if I should call in or how to get out of going. But now I wake up two hours early anxious to get here. I feel like working with animals is where I need to be. I tell the teachers to not teach me anything new on a Friday. I start having anxiety over the weekend because I want to come back and practice it.”

Aside from the wraparound services the program provides, like budgeting, parenting, and life skills classes, it has been the human-animal connection that has proven to be most helpful for April. “Learning that dogs get the same things we get—cancer, diabetes—and that they feel things like we do has been the biggest thing—learning how to comfort them and make them less scared. Coming to school is relaxing for me and makes me forget about everything else.”

After graduating this fall April quickly secured a full-time grooming position at Petco, and she’s loving it. “I can’t wait for my daughter to grow up and realize what her mama is doing. She’s going to love it. I keep telling her every day, ‘You don’t have to worry about nothing. I just want to be that good role model for her.”