Students develop skills for the salon and beyond

Cosmetology students working in the classroom at Holton Center. (Staff photo by Elisabeth Beauchamp)

The Holton Career & Resource Center’s cosmetology program is not just a place for students to practice doing hair and using tools; it’s a place to refine skills that will shape their futures. 

The classes not only teach conceptual material about the art of cosmetology, but they also give pupils hands-on experience with mannequins and clients. The Holton Career & Resource Center offers two course levels.

The center’s website advertises Cosmetology I and Cosmetology II. Cosmetology I “introduces basic principles and foundations of the cosmetology profession.” Cosmetology II teaches “developmental skills, employment opportunities and career information” necessary for success in the field, according to the center’s website.  The course instructors reinforce concepts of math, science, biology and leadership to enhance their students’ experiences.

Jennifer Gonzalez, a 16-year-old high school student from Durham, is enrolled in the advanced cosmetology class. She said passion and the desire to continue her grandfather’s legacy as a hairstylist led her to pursue cosmetology.

“I feel like it was the passion that got me into it. My grandpa was a hairstylist. He died and I wanted to continue his career,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez appreciates the small size of her class because it allows the instructors to offer more personalized, individual help to each student.  She said the chapters throughout the course teach students skills such as using disinfectants, cleaning tools, creating hairstyles and taking care of the skin. Her favorite memory from the course is when she started learning to do hair. In the long run, however, she said she wants to learn more about skin and makeup. 

“I like to do hair, but I’m mostly into skin, nails and makeup,” Gonzalez said. “I want people to feel good about themselves and know that they have beauty.”

Gonzalez plans to continue her study of cosmetology after completing the state board exam. She would like to go to Durham Technical Community College, get her license in aesthetics and eventually own her own salon.

Sadariah Edwards, a 17-year-old Hillside High School student from Durham, said her interest in cosmetology stems from her mother’s career.

“I just always really loved sitting there and watching her do hair,” Edwards said. “I never really understood it, so I decided I might as well go to school to understand it.”

As a beginner, Edwards said the most important thing she has learned so far is the importance of cosmetologists carrying themselves with confidence and professionalism.

A student in the advanced cosmetology class does a client’s hair in the classroom’s salon. (Staff photo by Elisabeth Beauchamp)

“If you don’t carry yourself a certain way, you’re going to be looked at as mediocre, or you’re not going to be looked at as a good hair stylist,” Edwards said.

For Edwards, cosmetology is not the end goal for her career. She is studying cosmetology now so that she can have an option to pursue if her original career goals do not work out, or she decides to do something on the side. She enjoys studying at the Holton Career & Resource Center because it offers more hands-on learning opportunities than a traditional school.

Instructor Gena Kelly, of Sanford, started cosmetology when she was 36 years old.  She began teaching cosmetology in 2003 with Durham Public Schools.  Before coming to Durham, she was a lab technician for about 30 years. Kelly taught the cosmetology program at Hillside High School and moved her class to the Holton Career & Resource Center once it was renovated.

Instructor Gena Kelly checks over a student’s work and demonstrates proper hairstyling technique. (Staff photo by Elisabeth Beauchamp)

“The most rewarding part of my job is to see the smile on their faces when I take them to state boards before they receive their high school diploma,” Kelly said.

Students in Durham Public Schools can enroll in Cosmetology I at the Holton Career & Resource Center by talking to their school counselors. For more information about the courses offered at the Holton Career & Resource Center, visit its website.

She teaches the Cosmetology I class for beginners. In this class, students learn basic cosmetology skills like permanent waves, chemical texture and reforming straight hair to curly or wavy hair.

“My class’s mission is for every student’s dreams to be fulfilled in this industry,” Kelly said.

The class is designed for rising 11th-graders to finish the coursework in two years before graduation. Kelly said that it is best for prospective students to have all of their core classes completed before enrolling in cosmetology at the Holton Career & Resource Center. North Carolina does not have an age requirement for enrollment in cosmetology school, so students can complete the course and become licensed cosmetologists by the time they complete high school.


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