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GCCC cosmetology offers cost-effective training to tap growing salon markets

Rigo Sanjuan and Dawn Peach-Oberheim
Rigo Sanjuan and Dawn Peach-Oberheim

If you ask the educators at Garden City Community College, cosmetology, a career in haircutting, coloring, and styling, skin and nail care, and salon sales can translate quickly into steady employment.

“We’re here to set you up with a strong foundation,” Guillermina “Gia” Hinde, the program’s director, said. “Some people think (cosmetology) is an easy out since we’re a short program, but there is so much more to it.”

Since 1970, GCCC cosmetology has been producing skilled and professional graduates. Today, the two-semester program continues to offer up-to-date training in haircutting, styling, and coloring; skin, nail, and facial services; and more uncommon salon services like eyelash application and growth. Students begin with theory and classroom instruction and transition into serving clients at the school’s salon, according to Hinde.

In addition to hands-on training, the training guides students into a stable job market. While many industries have been shedding jobs in a lagging economy, the salon and spa industry has been an engine of job growth in recent years.

For Rigo Sanjuan, a cosmetology student, that means fewer worries about finding work and more focus on learning.

The oldest of four brothers, the 23 year old grew up cutting his siblings’ hair. Initially, Sanjuan wanted to work in a barbershop. However, serving both men and women will make him a better professional, he said. And it’s a trade he finds truly rewarding, too.

“When you finish a haircut, you can make a person feel good about them(selves),” he said. “If they feel good about themselves, it makes you feel good, too,” he said.

Sanjuan may currently be the only male on an all-female roster, but he’s definitely not alone on the national scene. Shaped by men’s changing attitudes about appearance, the demand for men’s hair and skin products, a $3 billion industry, is rising too.

“I think more men care about their image these days,” Sanjuan said. “It’s to a point where they just want to look good and (want) a product that’s masculine.”

Health-related hair and skin care is another growing sector, one that has personally touched Dawn Peach-Oberheim’s life.

The 42 year old cosmetology student has a terminally ill father and an aunt and grandmother who are breast cancer survivors. Illnesses can cause profound damage to skin, hair, and nails, effects Peach-Oberheim’s seen firsthand with family members.

“Part of mental health is feeling beautiful about who you are,” she said. “For me personally, (cosmetology) is an opportunity to bless someone. … It’s about compassion and empathy as much as a salary.”

Like all states, Kansas requires cosmetologists to be licensed; students must pass written and practical exams (known as State Boards) after training.

According to Mia Horn, another GCCC program instructor, tuition and fees can be financed with scholarships and financial aid. Fees include a student’s kit of combs, clips, shears, dryers, irons, and other tools that a student can take with them into their first job.

“Curly-haired people want straight hair, dark-haired people want light, (and) long want short – that’s what we call job security,” Horn said.

Enrollment for Fall 2014 cosmetology classes begins April 24. For more information, phone 620.276.0410.