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Full Speed Ahead for Tokara Henry '22

Full Speed Ahead for Tokara Henry '22

After earning her associate’s degree, Tokara Henry ’22 launched her own business, Bijou Nails and Co. in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville district, and spent the next decade growing it into the largest Black-owned nail salon in the city. “I opened a business because money was a little more important than education at the time,” says Henry, a mother of two.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the manicure business temporarily dried up like a bottle of polish with the cap left off. Already a licensed nail technician instructor, Henry decided to open Advanced Nail Tech Academy — and go back to school herself at the same time. She started asking around for college recommendations and discovered a common thread among the most accomplished women in her network, from the mom of four young kids to the principal of a large school. “The busy women went to Alverno, and they succeeded,” she says. “That was important to me because I’m very busy.”

Henry was even more sold when she heard about Alverno Accelerate. About 14 months later, she completed her bachelor’s degree in leadership.

“I think the best thing Alverno did for me was really see me,” she says, tearing up at the memory. “They saw me as a student who is an adult, running two different businesses, who was now back in school after 11 years. They were really concerned about who I was and what I was doing in my life before Alverno, and how did I want to contribute to the world after Alverno.”

Any qualms she might have had about juggling the program alongside work and family quickly disappeared. “The online system was so easy to navigate, and the instructors truly want to see you succeed,” she says. “The curriculum of the Alverno Accelerate program really centered around my life’s work. Every assignment tied directly to my current life and what I said I wanted to do in the future.”

One of her experiential learning modules focused on developing a nonprofit idea. It inspired Henry to relaunch Sickle Cell Warriors of Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization she’d started years earlier in memory of a close family member. Thanks to Alverno Accelerate, Henry felt better positioned to develop a sustainable plan for the organization’s future.

Now, when other busy women start talking to Henry about their dreams, she urges them to consider Alverno, even pulling up her Accelerate coursework to show them how the online program works.

“If you’re wondering, ‘Should I go back to college,’ wondering if you can be successful, if there’s a program that would fit your life as opposed to you fitting into the traditional college life, then this is definitely the program for you,” she says. “Anybody that’s thinking about the program should just stop wishing and start doing.”

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