The classroom, a former carpentry shop at the high school that had been unused as classroom space for at least three years, was transformed last summer to a classroom and lab with 10 hair styling stations, three barber chairs, a pedicure station, shampoo room and laundry area. The $46,000 renovation came courtesy of the city through a one-time allocation in fiscal year 2012, said Superintendent Joan Frazier.
The three students — Shakiah Mitchell, Kartez Dill and Ineisia Riggins — are a few of some 20 students who are enrolled in the school’s new 2-year cosmetology program, said Assistant Principal Edward Sturkie, who heads career technical education at the school.
Sturkie is excited about the addition of the tenth state-approved career and technical education program at the school.
Students who go through the entire program will receive a technical endorsement on their diploma and be eligible to take the certification exam through the Alabama Board of Cosmetology after they graduate, he said.
“They will be work-ready,” Sturkie said.
Once certified, they will be making a living wage, he said. The average salary of a cosmetologist is about $26,000 a year, he said.
Alabama Association of Career and Technical Education Executive Director Ann Gilmore said by email that more than 95 percent of high school students take at least one career tech course and nearly 93 percent take two or more in a program of study.
During the 2010-11 school year, the most popular program for Alabama high school students enrolled in career tech programs was business management and administration, followed by human services, which includes specializations such as cosmetology, fashion, early childhood development and interior design.
“I believe that student participation has increased and with that we will see school systems offering more opportunities,” Gilmore wrote. “That is what I hope to see happen.”
It’s important, she said, because the programs prepare the state’s next generation of skilled workers, technology innovators, entrepreneurs and community leaders.
“CTE improves the return on our investment in education at the local, state and national levels,” Gilmore said.
In Anniston, school administrators decided on cosmetology as a career option after hearing from the school’s advisory council made up of business leaders in the community and then taking a survey of students. The advisory council had also suggested heating and air conditioning and auto mechanics, but cosmetology won out in the survey.
The career outlook for cosmetologists is good for the next decade, Sturkie said.
“The labor market analysis stated that the cosmetology industry will increase some 16 percent over the next decade,” Sturkie said. “And of course money always plays a part and this was the cheapest route we could go.”
But Sturkie is glad this program made the cut for another reason.
“I don’t know a little girl…who doesn’t like to do hair,” Sturkie said. “They love it.”
But men also find the profession fulfilling, he said, pointing out Dill, the male student in the class. Sturkie expects the program to grow as more students find out its available. The lab can accommodate 50 to 60 students.
Dill, 16, said he found out about the class from a friend, actually from Mitchell, who has been busy spreading the news about the program, she said.
“Doing hair, to me, is very interesting,” Mitchell said.
Dill’s favorite lesson so far was learning how to braid, he said.
“He was excited that day,” said his teacher Geneva Thomas. “It took him a while but he got it.”
Thomas, a cosmetologist since 1983, taught cosmetology about 20 years ago. She stopped teaching to concentrate on her own salon which she has owned for the last 25 years.
But she said she’s glad to be able to offer the education to the high school students — some schools can charge $15,000 for the education she is providing the students, she said.
Representatives of Gadsden State University’s cosmetology program at the Ayers campus couldn’t be reached for comment, but according to the website, it offers a three-semester cosmetology program that would cost students $6,272 in tuition and fees.
The students, Thomas said, are often surprised at how much they have to learn in the program.
“A lot of them just think it’s about just styling hair and cutting hair and shampooing,” Thomas said. “There’s so much more you’ve got to know before we start the styling.”
At the beginning of class, she was teaching the students about the properties of hair and scalp which includes some chemistry.
“You’ve got to know math,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to know a little science. You’ve got to know how to read.”
She teaches students how to behave professionally towards their clients, Thomas said. Riggins, whose aunt is a stylist, said she wasn’t surprised.
“I’m glad that they got this class for us this year,” said Riggins, 17. “'Cause when I get out of school, I want to get my own shop.”
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.