A Kansas City, Kansas, teacher is not only adding her own children to her teaching mix, she’s also teaching students in China as a way to make extra money during the pandemic. A fitness facility owner adapts and finds a way to actually thrive during the pandemic, while a barber college owner finds a little good in the midst of a lot of bad.

These are just three people who shared their journey with The Community Voice as they navigate through the pandemic. We’re publishing excerpts from their conversation.

If you have a COVID-19 story you’d like to share, e-mail us at press@tcvpub.


Nicole Hughes-Summers

Owner, 21st St. Barber College • Wichita, KS

I’m an entrepreneur, I own my own business.

We closed down the day the governor gave the order. That was the 16th of March, or something like that. So I haven’t had any income from my field since then. I had to try to find a part-time job so that I can take care of the electric, gas and water bills. You know, just try to do what I could do.

I’ve even tried the unemployment route; I received a denial letter. Because I’m self-employed, there’s another form out there called the self-employment statement. I don’t know if you have seen it; it’s a joke. It’s a bunch of questions, like 10 to 20. I don’t know if they’re trying to catch you up to deny you again.

It’s just like, what are your job duties and, like, are you going to go back to work or are you going to go into another training? Well, most people that are self-employed are trying to get back to work. No! I’m not going to do anything different. I want to go back to my business.

We didn’t qualify for any loans because all that first batch of money was gone before you could even click apply. I don’t’ want to be tied up with a government loan. If you don’t pay on those loans, they’re going to take your business.

I opened my business with money that came out of my pocket. I worked three jobs to get where I’m at. I wouldn’t take a loan then, and I’m not going to do it now.

The students, they’re doing fine. We got approved to move our classes to online. I didn’t want them to get to the point where they were discouraged or where they wouldn’t stick with it. They have to do a certain amount of book work. That’s usually the hard part to get them to do, but I didn’t have to do that this time. They’re getting it done.

They have to do 20 hours of cut work, and that’s what they’re not getting done. We get the money off the cuts. Some of that is what pays our salaries and that’s how at the end of the year I can balance. It determines if we give scholarship, if we have enough revenue on the floor. I doubt I’ll be able to give out any scholarships this year.


Brittany Banks

5th Grade Teacher, KCK Public Schools • Kansas City, KS • 31

I’ve been teaching for seven years. Now I’m in KCK public schools and I also teach English to students over in China through online courses. At the start of the pandemic, I understood some of the impact of COVID-19 since the Chinese schools had been closed, and I had picked up more hours teaching my online classes in response.

Still, it was a surprise to me during our Spring Break that the governor closed our schools for the rest of the year. My first thoughts were for my students. I teach 5th grade reading and writing for 40 students. A lot of my students were already behind on their studies, so my heart went out to them. I work in a low-income district, so many of my students deal with diverse issues. They come to school to eat, to socialize and to have a stable environment.

KCK Public Schools allowed all our students to use their Chromebooks at home to maintain online studying. I upload assignments and reach out to my classroom students as often as I can, but I would say that I’ve consistently had about 10 of my 40 students participating. I haven’t been able to get in touch with most parents.

In my house, homeschooling has been good. Initially I had to lay some ground rules, because you know, we’re at home. I knew it wouldn’t be possible to keep them learning for eight hours a day, but two to three hours has been an appropriate amount of time to keep their studies up.

I’m actually getting paid more these days with the increased need for online tutoring, so I’ve been able to save the extra income that has come in, it’s been a blessing really.

Personally, I’ve taken some online classes regarding starting my own business, my best friend and I have started a blog called the B.F.F. Lifestyle (https://www.bfflifestyleblog.com/), it means Boldly, Freely and Faithfully Living Through Christ. Also, my YouTube channel – Brittany LaShea – has gained some great content. “It Starts at Home” is about my journey as a single parent raising children the right way.

Before all of this, my family was on the go constantly. Now we have slowed down, and we’ve taken stock of all that we have been blessed with. We’re having a good time.


Renaire Palmer

Personal trainer/owner • Fundamental Fitness, Wichita, KS • 40

I opened Fundamental Fitness in March 2010. The gym has a wide-ranging clientele, from athletes to older adults looking for fitness that requires total body movement. I offer boot camps in the morning and private sessions.

The doors to Fundamental Fitness closed March 25. Of course, I didn’t want to, but for the sake of everyone, I knew it was necessary to close in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. That was hard for trainers everywhere, especially if all you’re used to is training inside of a gym.

Fortunately, when I initially began training it was outside; so thinking outside the box was easy for me. I went back to that form of training and adapted to other forms as well.

This experience has shown me ways to expand my business.

Through Zoom, I’m still conducting boot camp and other normal sessions. I wanted my clients to be able to continue strength training so I donated dumbbells and some other equipment to make sure they could keep pace with the course. Also when it’s nice outside, we can have a small group of 10 come together to utilize the parks, etc., while social distancing to train in stations.

Since big gyms like the YMCA and Genesis have had to shut their doors, there’s been a rise in the number of calls from people interested in maintaining and improving their physical fitness. I have had to leave some business on the table, simply since I am a small gym owner and the only trainer on staff right now.

Usually, I am able to take on physical training interns from WSU. By June, I’m hoping to have at least one with me to manage the big influx of business.

I know many businesses have had trouble getting small business loans during this time. There’s been so many hiccups in that plan, so I’m grateful to not have to go that route.

This has obviously been an eye-opener in a lot of ways. From the fitness industry, I think it’s mostly about sanitation, and learning to be more flexible and creative with workouts. I think the private gym owner will see a lot more business after this. People will appreciate the intimacy of what a private gym can offer, because in times like this – the corporate entity won’t cater to the individual.