Upper Manhattan hair salon owner Elia Josephine DeLeon is using her small business to give money to struggling New York City public schools. With recent cuts to education, DeLeon said that she not only wants to give back to the school system that made her who she is, but also to urge other small business owners to join her.
DeLeon is the owner of Elia Hair Salon on the Upper West Side. Her salon was named one of the best Dominican hair salons in America by Latina magazine. She is using her business’ popularity to help schools in the area that are mixed with low- and moderate-income residents.
Recently, DeLeon started a program in which she donates 10 percent of her proceeds from customers who are affiliated with public schools, including teachers, administrators, parents and students, to Fund for Schools. She also asks for small donations from all customers. The program will continue through the school year.
“I had a great education in public schools,” she said. “I had to give something back to teachers and parents. The schools are in an emergency situation.”
In the hair styling business for eight years, DeLeon said she was inspired to start fundraising after seeing news reports about struggling schools and hearing conversations in her shop from customers on the issue. Her shop is situated in the Department of Education’s District 3, which includes Edward R. Reynolds West Side High School and Community Action School M.S. 258. The area has a large number of Black and Latino children attending public schools.
The mother of one grown child said that she has a young niece and nephew in public school. She has also spoken in public schools to students about fashion and hair styling. DeLeon said she wants to set an example for other business owners in the neighborhood and hopes she can inspire them to join her in her efforts.
“My business is here because the community has supported us,” she said. “It’s important for business owners to be aware of their surroundings, and that if they give back to the community, they will get it five times back.”