Education, Springfield

‘Shear’ will and determination

Springfield’s new cosmetology program giving students a leg up

SPRINGFIELD – Springfield Public Schools (SPS) celebrated career and technical education (CTE) month last week by introducing its CTE cosmetology program at Gateway High School, Brattain campus to the community.

This program began in September and allows students to complete high school with more than a diploma. By graduation, they will have met the requirements to sit for the Oregon State board exam, which is required for them to enter the cosmetology industry. And since the CTE cosmetology program is acting in lieu of beauty school, which can cost a student thousands of dollars to attend, these students can enter the workforce debt-free.

From left, Alexis DeLuna, Amelia Guzman, and Christian Arellano are all students in the CTE cosmetology program. DeLuna is studying hairstyling; Guzman is on the nail technician track; and Arellano is working toward being a barber.

“Having the chance to dive into something like this for free, while you’re still in high school, is pretty special and pretty unheard of,” said Julio Mendoza, Gateway High School alumnus and owner of Endless Barber Co. in Eugene.

The students spend half of the school day studying cosmetology and the other half in the core classes they need to pass to graduate.

“I can’t imagine where I would be in my life without this opportunity because, if I’m being honest, traditional school made me feel a little cooped up,” said 16-year-old junior Alexis DeLuna. 

Inspiration for this cosmetology program struck SPS high school director Mindy Leroux a few years ago when she was principal of a high school in another school district, and she had noticed some students were struggling with engagement and attendance.

“Over and over, they told me about how they … wanted to be a barber, a nail technician, hair stylist, esthetician,” Leroux said. “I also heard how expensive beauty school was, and it seemed to me that if we didn’t do something to create a program for high school students, it was going to remain a dream.”

The program was funded through federal dollars secured by former representative Peter DeFazio and senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. The $385,000 ensures a fully-equipped facility, with eight hair stylist stations, a nail station, a barbering station, and an esthetician room.

Exposure to local industry partners has been embedded into the curriculum, which has helped students learn tips and tricks as well as visualize their futures within the cosmetology field. Students have listened to over 20 guest speakers from all corners of cosmetology so far, and the class took a field trip to Hair Studio 408 in Eugene.

The program is a two-year commitment and only accepts juniors – unless you happen to be a “very lucky” senior like 18-year-old Christian Arellano. He will be finishing out his credits later this fall instead of fully graduating high school this summer. 

Congresswoman Val Hoyle said the CTE cosmetology program “shows what we can do when we think outside the traditional model.”

“One of the worst things we did when we started cutting funding to education was to remove shop classes because somehow we stigmatize anyone that doesn’t go to college – which is ridiculous,” Hoyle said. “We’ve got college kids graduating with mountains of debt and fighting for $15 an hour when there were really, really good jobs available. You just need a little more training and education, but less than a full degree – and those certifications are no less valuable or difficult than a college degree.”

Amelia Guzman said she “always knew (she) wanted to work in the beauty industry,” and this program is a monumental stepping stone in her career.

“This pathway is so much more to me than cosmetology,” Guzman said. “It’s not just doing your hair and your makeup. It’s learning ethics; it’s business; it’s attire and so much more to help me in my future.”



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