Yolanda Simmons graduated from Medgar Evers College (MEC) on Saturday, June 2, with a bachelor of arts degree in childhood special education with a concentration in science. Prior to studying at MEC, Simmons taught for 10 years in an elementary school on the island of St. Lucia, where she was born.

Since she began her journey at MEC, Simmons has accomplished many great things.

In 2009, she won an award for outstanding academic achievement in the CUNY proficiency exam and an award for outstanding academic achievement. A few months later, she was acknowledged by MEC Women’s Center as one of Medgar’s “Women of Distinction.”

Her exceptionality was also celebrated on numerous occasions when she made the dean’s list for every semester she spent at MEC, making and maintaining the Provost and President’s List Award for the last three semesters.

Simmons’ most recent accomplishment is the completion of the CUNY Pipeline Honors Program, which prepares undergraduates for graduate programs, where she was afforded the opportunity to engage in research. Her research topic, “African Children’s Perception of Hair: Its Influence on Social Identity,” examines the relationship between the way in which teachers wear their hair and the perceptions very young African children form about their own hair.

She plans to continue her research while attending Teachers College at Columbia University in the fall, where she will be pursuing a master of arts as a literacy specialist.

Simmons’ research is enriched by her own experiences as an entrepreneur and as a natural hair stylist. Her salon is set up in her home. Grooming and maintaining the beauty of natural African hair has helped Simmons’ passion to glorify the natural textures of Black hair. Part of her quest as an educator is to help African people embrace and appreciate their natural beauty.

In addition to her academic and entrepreneurial accomplishments, Simmons is also a single mother of two beautiful boys, ages 6 and 16. Guiding and educating them has been, and continues to be, her most precious accomplishment. “They are the inspiration to all that I do,” she said.

When Simmons graduated summa cum laude, her children and other family members were in the audience celebrating her success.