Jessie, an elementary student, requested a letter ‘J’ be cut into his hair, so the Crockett students work through the process of learning a new technique. Senior Audiel Nieto handles the trim tool.
By Joanne Foote
With permission from his parents, fifth-grader Jessie Porter walked into the Crockett Cosmetology School with a laundry list of things he would like to try: a manicure, massage, haircut and a design shaved into his hair. He was one of more than a dozen students from Ortega Elementary who took a field trip to Crockett High School last Friday in a reciprocal program where Cosmetology students are given the opportunity to gain experience on people and not just mannequins. Elementary students learn more about different types of educational programs that are available in high school.
Crockett Senior Audiel Nieto has an extra challenge on this day. After a trim, Jessie wanted a design cut into his hair, something Audiel has little experience with. “He wants the letter ‘J’ in his hair,” said Audiel. Other students gather around to watch how he figures out the process, including what size trimming-tool to use.
“I have enjoyed the program at Crockett. Colleges will be able to see that I have been busy and working hard during high school.” Nieto is the recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke foundation scholarship, which begins helping students in high school and extends into college.
“During the year we welcome any school classes to come receive our free services to students. This is a great service to our community, to show the younger students a snapshot of programs that are available to high school students,” said Jeannie Ferrier, Cosmetology Instructor and CTE Department Chair. “This relationship allows us to give students experience on real people. The Crockett Salon is open to the public, but since we are inside the school we don’t get a lot of traffic. Our salon is open from 7:30-10:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. The difficulty is that we have very early hours, but that is when our students begin their day,” she added.
The relationship with Ortega elementary, which is located in central east Austin, began when their counselor, Autumn Messinger, worked at Odom Elementary, which is just a few miles from Crockett. “When I was at Odom, I would bring our fifth grade Junior Counselors to Crockett for haircuts and other salon treatments. Most have not had manicures, especially the boys. On the way here, they asked if that was something that boys do—I told them yes, of course! This is a new experience for a lot of them,” she said. Junior Counselors are in a leadership role beginning in fourth grade. Messinger was at Odom for eight years and has been at Ortega for the last four years.
Crockett student Jamie Nelson, also an Odom alumni, remembers visiting the Salon as a fifth grader. “I applied to the program at Crockett. It is very competitive. As a freshman, there is a lot of pressure to know what to do with your life. I got into the program and I love it. Since that time, I have learned that scholarships for college are probably going to be cut. This way I can work through college and have a solid job. Everyone needs a hair cut, even when the economy is bad,” added Nelson.
Yamily Garza, a junior in the program, is busy giving a manicure to fourth-grader Lorenya. “I have had a manicure before, but I like this one better,” she said, admiring her nails painted in pink with small jewels embedded for flair. Garza has always enjoyed helping people feel pretty. “I enjoy seeing the expression of clients when they get a new haircut. It feels good when I do that. After I get my license, I want to get a little college and take business classes. One day I would like to open my own salon. If you like something then you will put the effort to it,” added Garza.
As the saying goes, beauty is more than skin deep. By the time students finish the three-year program, they will have completed 1,500 hours of training and education: 1,000 in Cosmetology training and 500 in academic core classes. Students also take the state board licensing exam as part of graduation.
“The science behind much of what we do is often underestimated. Students have to learn about chemicals and hair coloring, physiology, muscles, nerves and bone structure in order to give a massage,” said Ferrier.
“Students have to know the hair structure and how it will respond depending on the type of color being used: temporary, semi-permanent and permanent. And every hair type responds differently, so it is important for our students to get practical experience on hair other than mannequins,” she added.
Crockett became a Chi School last year. “Farouk Shami, owner of a multi-million dollar company, which makes Chi style products, flat irons, blow dryers and many styling products, is now supporting our program, which is very important for our students. Not only do they receive their products half-off, but also it gives our students another contact in the business world and lends a big name to our program. It will look good on a resume. Students purchase kits as part of this program and this year the kits came from the company,” said Ferrier. “The cost of most any beauty school is about $17,000, and they take the very same test these students do. It’s all about name, so it’s very important to have the Chi name behind us,” she added.
“We run the classroom like a salon. Each month students rotate as managers. They are in charge of the salon; take role, help keep students focused, and call for clean up. It helps them understand the practical experience that they would encounter in the working world,” added Ferrier. The salon is inspected by TDLR, the Texas Department of License and Regulatory. “They inspect shop, my books, just as a regular salon would be reviewed. We got 100,” said Ferrier proudly.
This month, seniors Melisa Perez and classmate Dephanie Amador are co-managers. “I have always been into hands-on skills, and like to work with hair. There are times there are bumps in the road, but I like a challenge. The hardest thing has been the science aspect, learning how chemicals react and matching pigments, learning the body parts, including all the bones and nerves to do a proper massage. It is interesting though. One of my personal goals would be to pursue college and get a business degree. I have already taken some duel credit courses at ACC,” said Perez.
“I love seeing peoples’ faces after massages, they are so relaxed. I want to continue my education beyond here, but want to add more continuing education hours. Cosmetology has extended my creativeness,” said Amador.
Tierney Curry, a junior who enjoys trying out new things on her own hair, didn’t always know what she wanted to do. “When I was younger, subconciously I would play with hair on my dolls. When I saw the Cosmetology program—it just clicked. My plan is upon completion of this program, I can work and use my skills to help pay for college. I have family members that own a business and I like that idea. I want to major in entrepreneurial business and when I am done I will be able to open a salon,” said Tierney, who is ranked third in her junior class. “My favorite thing is cutting hair, but we learn how to do facials, manicures, pedicures, styling, perms, roller sets and make-up. We practice a lot on mannequins,” she added. Tierney is currently sporting a short haircut, colored silver, with hints of purple. “I really wanted it to be more lilac, but oh well. I don’t mind experimenting on myself. I have so much hair. I colored it almost every month last year and then in the summer, because it was so hot and I was biking a lot, I buzzed it all off,” she added.
Offering Career and Tech Education programs, such as Cosmetology, is a way to prepare students for work right after high school. Crockett also offers an auto mechanic program and a construction program. College and career Counselor Trish Dew at Crockett: “College is not always a good fit for every student. Some students don’t go to college, but many do and having a way to make decent money after high school can help with college expenses. I have sent some kids to college technical programs and they are making more money than I am,” said Dew, who holds a masters degree. “Kids sign-up sometimes thinking this class is all fun and easy, but once they get in, they realize that it is a lot of work. By the time they finish, students can do everything except teach when they have their license,” added Dew.
Finding a job in this field isn’t just a pipe dream for students. “Several of our students have gone to work at J. Brandon Salon in Oak Hill. It has been a great situation for our graduates,” said Ferrier.
Angelica Vargas, owner of J. Brandon Salon, has been in the Oak Hill area for 14 years. “I teach students and help them as much as I can. I really believe no matter where one goes to school, there is still a lot to learn once you are out in the real world. In about three months, these former students are really ready. Working here, they improve their social skills and learn how to work with customer personalities and all the nuances of this business. One of girls I hired stayed here for seven years and many stay at least a year or more,” said Vargas.
“Education is the key to success; I bring my employees to hair shows and continuing education classes, where they get hands-on learning for different techniques with different corporations. My sister graduated from Crockett cosmetology program and has worked with me. We decided to open this salon together. I feel really lucky in a way, because many of my employees have come from Crockett. I feel like I help them grow and they help keep me going as a business. It is a good relationship,” Vargas added.
“When Crockett opened in 1968, the Cosmetology program opened as well. I have had lots of top 10 students go through this program. Right now, there are 65 students currently in various phases of the program. I have 31 entry students trying to get into the program, but only 10 spots will open up with the seniors that graduate next spring,” said Ferrier, who is a Crockett graduate herself. After pursing her education, she returned to Crockett and has taught for 31 years. Lanier High School in north Austin is the only other high school in AISD that offers this program. Ferrier added, “Students will graduate from Crockett with a usable license and can pursue a career right away if they choose. This course is something they want to take, and I want to make it fun and help students express their creativity, while gaining valuable life experience.”
The elementary students finished their treatments, looking neatly trimmed and properly pampered. Crockett student Audiel looks pleased with his handiwork on Jessie’s hair. He has a ‘J’ and two stars shaved into his hair. Even though the elementary students have parental permission, Jessie said, “I’m not sure what my parents will think, but I think it looks cool.”
“Having students come from other schools is a win-win situation,” said Ferrier, adding, “It is important for our students to get practical experience, just as students at other Cosmetology schools would do. The younger students get a glimpse of educational programs that are available to them as they progress in their education. It is a valuable life skills lesson for everyone.”