By Jody Steinberg
As Dunwoody high school senior Meiosha Bethea packed her rollers and freshly-styled mannequin head, she considered her cosmetology class.
“I want to learn to do things the right way,” Meiosha said. “In here, we actually do hands on.”
By year’s end, Meiosha and her classmates at Cross Keys High School will have learned to color and style hair with a variety of techniques, chemicals and tools. They will have learned to apply makeup, give facials and manicures. And they will understand essential health and safety requirements related to cosmetology while earning 450-600 credit hours towards the 1,500 required for licensing in Georgia.
That’s enough to land them an entry-level job or earn advanced placement in a cosmetology certification program such as the one offered at DeKalb Technical College. Many also will develop business management proficiencies through SkillsUSA, a co-curricular leadership program for technical students.
Once she completes high school, Meiosha plans to earn a college degree in International Business. So why spend half of every day of her senior year traveling to another school to study cosmetology? Aside from the obvious – she loves working with hair – Meiosha is pragmatic. “It never hurts to learn a skill,” she said
Meiosha’s cosmetology classes are among six programs sharing the new Career Technology wing at Cross Keys. Students begin the three-hour class on one of side of the room, where textbooks, computers and interactive whiteboards are the tools for study to reinforce their comprehension of the effects of chemistry, electricity and elements on hair and skin, said instructor Sylvia Sims.
For the second part of the class, students cross the dividing wall to practice the craft they want to master.
The large sunny salon has workstations for up to 40 students, as well as hair sinks, nail stations and a private bathroom and entrance for patrons. Nine weeks into the program, students are styling mannequin heads with rollers and finger whips, sharing tips and advice, producing unique and stylish “dos.”
Soon they will practice on live models. Sims anticipates inviting neighbors for a few open house days.
This is the 11th year of teaching cosmetology for Sims, who came to Cross Keys from the former High School Technology North.
When the DeKalb school system closed the technology school, six of the popular occupational education programs – along with their teachers and equipment – moved to Cross Keys, where all but the automotive program, which took a one-year hiatus, operated out of large trailers last year.
The new classrooms are equipped to meet the educational requirements of the professional organizations that govern each industry. For example, the automotive classroom requires certain testing equipment and auto bays with hydraulic lifts; the construction classroom displays plumbing pipes, exposed areas for electrical wiring and ample space for building scaled-down models; and the cosmetology classroom looks like a large salon.
It all leads back to the importance of hands-on experience, Sims said, as she listed the academic requirements of her curriculum, which include chemistry and electricity.
“Research and hands-on experience go hand-in-hand,” Sims said. “You can’t just do hair unless you understand how the chemical reactions work. When they have more hands-on to follow the research, students are more inclined to actually learn. It’s ‘learn as you do.’”
Most of the students in Sims’ morning class want more than a job in a salon – they want to run their own businesses.
Senior Patricia Fuentes plans to get a salon job immediately after graduation to earn her credentials as a cosmetologist. Classmate Zenaga McDaniel spent her summer working in a salon in New Jersey, but plans to earn a four-year business degree before launching her cosmetology career.
Mycala Edwards, a Dunwoody senior, calls cosmetology “my plan B.” After college, she wants to own her own dance studio.
But Edwards said she knows the skills learned in cosmetology class will be an asset.