Prisons aren’t the most glamorous of places, but one American hairstylist and educator Heather Packer is hoping to change that.

She has taken her cosmetology talents to Rikers Island prison in New York City to try and foster community and empower female inmates through education and beauty.

“The women are just women, like all of us. They’re really happy to connect in that way through hair,” Packer said in an interview Thursday on CTV’s Your Morning.

While the outcome has been inspiring, Packer said she went to the prison with preconceived notions of what it might be like. But the team with Fearless Beauty – Packer’s non-profit with a mission to empower women impacted by institutional and social injustice through mentorship in the beauty industry – made sure to go in with open minds.

“It was intimidating at first,” she said. “You go through several security checks, you walk through bars, you’re with corrections officers.”

Once the Fearless Beauty team started teaching and the women became comfortable with them, Packer realized it was just like any classroom she’d taught in around the world.

Watch the full interview on CTV’s Your Morning above.