It was up to junior Tahkaira Barnett to decide if she was truly going to make her dream happen. And she is.
Each day, Barnett dedicates her time to the Wando Cosmetology Program in hopes to one day own her own business and advance through the field.
“I was little when I first thought about cosmetology. I think I was about 10,” she said. “Once I realized what I wanted, I started practicing by watching things like random YouTube videos.”
The time she put in then — watching YouTube, practicing on doll heads — was the beginning of Barnett’s present life as she works to gain her cosmetology license through the Wando program.
“I have mannequins and tools at home now so I can practice,” she said, adding that she knew she need to apply for the Cosmetology Program, which she did at the end of her sophomore year.
“At first I wanted to back out, but I realized that this is what I want to do,” she said, “so I stayed and pushed through. And now I’m here.”
Teresa Smith has been teaching cosmetology for ten years now and is responsible for running the Wando Cosmetology Program.
“Right now I do all the ordering, I educate, I do all the planning, I run the front desk and take care of the money,” Smith said about the program. “There’s just so much to do. I’m never bored because there’s always something for me to do.”
Smith emphasized that she doesn’t teach hair styles.
¨The study of cosmetology is the study of hair, skin and nails and what I teach in this program is all hair services from shampooing products, hair cutting, perming,color, roller setting, braiding and anything else that has to do with hair. Then we also do facials and nail services,” she said.
Students taking part in the cosmetology program will study for two years, starting their junior year. “They will apply and I interview them and work on building that relationship to see if they are a good fit,” Smith said.
But she said she does not throw them into the salon without being ready to actually work with clients.
“The first year we go through the book and do a lot of reviewing and then they take their state board exam,” Smith said. “Once they finish and pass the program, the license is released when their hours are completed and they will receive the license in their hand. When they have the paper saying they’ve passed, they can go to work.¨
Most of this work in the class is done in the student salon, which “closely resembles what a real salon would look like.. and it has been very successful,” Smith said.
Clients from within the school and from without can make appointments with the salon. Smith said it is a positive that she can offer opportunities for her students to learn about the business and get opportunities outside of school.
“That’s what it’s all about when they graduate. It’s building a business. It’s building a life,” she said.
Smith said she recently hosted Sports Clips employees who came in to speak to the students and even looked into hiring some of them as receptionists, which Smith encourages her students to do.
“It’s a great way to get in the door and just immerse themselves in an atmosphere,” she said.
Her students have gone to work for a variety of studios after graduation, including Stella Nova after they graduate.
“I have many students working right now. People call me wanting assistance and they can do that now while they’re in school and walk right into a job,” she said, “and I’ve had several students do that who are very successful.”
With frequent visitors who could lead to possible job opportunities, Smith wants her students to have opportunities and to be well-rounded and prepared. Smith makes sure they have experience in each area of the salon and at the front desk as well.
“They get experience with booking appointments, selling products and upselling services,” she said.
Once the students have become familiar with each part of the salon, they are ready to accept clients and build their business.
“It’s hard work building a clientele. You have to put service before self,” Smith said. “You have to think about other people before yourself and you have to think about how you’re going to grow your business.”
But the program hasn’t always been the same.
“I’m growing along with the program, and this year I’ve had my largest class ever and it’s a challenge for me,” Smith said. “A really good challenge. Because it’s making me come to the plate everyday going, ‘oh my gosh, how am I going to keep it fresh? How am I going to entertain?’ I call it edutainment.
“I find that students are changing all the time, so I have to upgrade and keep enhancing what I’m doing to keep up with the changing students,” she added. “Because students are changing and I have to change to keep up with that. I’m trying to evolve so I can be better for them.”
Smith said the cosmetology program is not just somewhere where you can go straight to work without knowing exactly what you are supposed to do.
¨Students will say, ‘oh, I’m bored,’ but everyday in your life is not going to be interesting and fun. You have to build the foundation before you can paint the walls,” she said. “You have to build that knowledge foundation before you can do the actual hands on stuff.”
Juniors Taylor Parker and Ava Gallo — as well as Barnett — all want to take the next step into doing this as a business.
¨My favorite part is probably just being able to learn the basics of cosmetology and being able to go into a career after this,” Gallo said, “and I 100 percent recommend this program because it’s a career straight out of high school.”
Parker also likes the idea of using this program as a stepping stone, but she also enjoys ¨the diversity and overall everything we learn.¨
¨I enjoy being on the floor,¨ Barnett said. ¨I just hope to own my own business one day and if you like to do hair and makeup then you should join.¨
Smith reminds her students constantly that “they have to bring compassion to the table. They have to bring commitment and a desire to really want to learn and be in this industry. It’s a lot of hard work.
“You have to have passion.You have to want that commitment,” Smith said. “You have to have that inner desire to want to be successful because it’s not easy. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. You really have to work for anything you want.”