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When 26-year-old Christine Banks was selected to the inaugural class of Pawsperity in 2016, she was a quiet, but strong, single mother seeking a better job—and a better future—for her two children. Her son was just taking his first steps at the time, and her daughter was about to lose her first tooth.

Now Christine is the manager of Pawsperity’s Lee’s Summit Salon, a full-service pet grooming salon located about 35 minutes south of Pawsperity’s main Kansas City location. Christine oversees the operations and staff, who are all graduates of the school. The Salon, Christine, and her children, now 11 and 7, are all thriving.

The product of what she calls a “rocky” upbringing, Christine earned a cosmetology license after high school. Her mother had been a hair stylist, and she thought she might make a career of it too. But she learned she couldn’t earn enough money to make ends meet working the limited hours she was scheduled.

“I was trying to go somewhere in my life, but I had a baby, and then things just happen,” Christine said. She enrolled in community college to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant license. Although she enjoyed helping people, she discovered that many people working in the home health care field did not, and she was discouraged by the overall environment and low wages. She took an extra job working part-time at Taco Bell to help stretch the government assistance she was receiving, but that job was at night and took away from the time she could spend with her children.

Interestingly, Christine’s path to Pawsperity was through her children. A contact at Operation Breakthrough, where they were enrolled, told her about the new dog grooming program and gave her an informational flyer when she went to pick them up one day.

“She said, ‘You will be great for the program. You should come.’ So, I went and listened to the meeting, and I was skeptical about it. But I filled out my application, and they actually picked me out of a whole bunch of other candidates,” Christine said.

Once she was accepted into classes, Christine knew she was on track to a better, more personally fulfilling and financially stable future. She not only excelled at dog grooming but also found a special camaraderie with the dogs and with her fellow students.

“It was really, really amazing,” Christine said. “The pets were so calm. I never thought I would be grooming animals, but it’s relaxing, it’s therapeutic.”