Cheetara Smith had been trying to enroll in the Phlebotomy Express Training Centers on Detroit’s west side for over a year. But the mother of three just did not have the funds to do so. Her father died November 21, forcing her to use the money she had saved for school to pay for his funeral. Before he passed, she promised him she would finish school.
One day, Smith was scrolling on Facebook and saw a post on the school’s page about native Detroit music artist Kash Doll giving away four scholarships as part of her Kash Doll Christmas Giveaway initiative. All the participants had to do was submit an essay expressing why they should be the lucky winner.
Smith, 33, submitted her resume before Christmas Day and was selected as one of the four recipients. They were told either over night or the morning of that they had won the scholarships but had no idea Kash Doll would be present at the school on Wyoming across from Mumford High School to speak with them and honor her word of paying their tuition.
“I basically wrote Kash Doll to tell her what my barriers were to getting into school,” said Smith, who will enroll in the phlebotomy program January 7. “I have been trying to be in the medical field since 2004 and I’ve always wanted to do more in my career. But with me having children, it became difficult. This is my second chance at a better life for me and my kids.”
Three of the four winners, Smith, Tykeisha Campbell, and Deneshia Reese and Phlebotomy Express’ CEO Kimberly Harrington waited nervously for Kash Doll to arrive. Some of them were even in tears, trying to come to terms with the gift they had just received.
To those around the country, Kash Doll may just be famous for her hit songs “Run Me My Money”, “For Everybody”, and “Ice Me Out”, among others. But to young women all over Detroit, her story and path to success is inspirational.
Born Arkeisha Knight, she was raised in one of the more notorious neighborhoods in the city, as the eldest of six children. Her mother had five kids by the age of 21 and her father was not present in her life. Kash Doll stripped for a year to make ends meet and was in a contract dispute a few years ago that halted her music career. What makes her heart so big is the ability to relate personally to those she gives to. She, too, lost her father and now she wants to help provide an easier path for other women in Detroit so that do not have to endure what she did or resort to harmful ways of making money.
“I have a different connection with the girls here,” said Kash Doll, who grew up in Detroit near Dexter and Joy Road. “I was a girl once in Detroit trying to figure it out and I’m in this position now to be able to help others. My heart is always about giving.”
The classes at Phlebotomy Express are four weeks long and tuition is $5,100. The four winners do not have to pay a dime, thanks to Kash Doll. Along with their tuition paid for, they will receive uniforms, transportation, workshops, and any other assistance they may need while in school. The phlebotomy classes are one day a week for four weeks and three days a week for six weeks for medical assistance. Once complete, they will not only be able to get a job in the medical field, but have a career.
“A lot of people in Detroit are going through some things and we wanted to remove some of the barriers that were preventing them from advancing in life,” said Harrington, who opened her school three years ago across from her alma mater. “This was a great idea to give them the vocational training that they need to provide for their families. I want to do this every year if we can.”
Campbell was at work on the nightshift as a medical assistant at Beaumont-Dearborn Hospital when she got the call. Kash Doll said she considers her a sister, having known each other before, and was honored to assist her in furthering her medial career.
“I was excited that I was able to further my career and get some more certifications under my belt,” said Campbell, who also owns a small business. “You can be anything that you want to be in the medical field and I want to thank Phlebotomy Express and Kash Doll because there is nothing in this world that I wanted more.”
Kash Doll said she wishes she had enough money to provide everyone with a scholarship opportunity but does plan to keep the idea going annually. While she does not reside full-time in Detroit anymore, she still makes it her duty to take care of home. She has a non-profit called BAD Girls (Black American Doll), sponsors proms for girls in need in Detroit, and played Mrs. Claus during the Christmas holiday, hosting a skating party at Detroit Roller Wheels and granted the wish list of a family in need.
“I’ve been doing so many things on the low and have not made it public because I feel when you’re giving, that’s not something you stunt with,” said Kash Doll. “That’s something that should be from the heart and now that I’m able to make it public, I’m ready to do more.”
During the Michigan Chronicle’s Best In Black Detroit Awards December 1, Kash Doll took home the Best Rapper honor. She was not able to attend the event at the Music Hall due to a prior engagement, but that did not stop her from being excited weeks later on being honored and respected by those in her hometown.
“It felt so good,” said Kash Doll, who beat out rappers Payroll and Peezy for the award. “I was so mad I couldn’t be here, but I’m so excited to win this. It means more to me than winning the international awards because this is home; there is a different feeling here. I really appreciate the recognition. It wasn’t easy for me coming out of Detroit and people gave me a hard time. I appreciate the tough love.”