The afternoon of Monday, January 26, was a typically busy day for the students of the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 cosmetology program at Ms. Roberts’ Beauty Academy in Hillside.
In one end of the workroom, several girls styled hair on the heads of mannequins. In another end of the room, the girls practiced applying a facial (a treatment that involves applying lotions and creams designed to cleanse the skin on the face) on each other.
For 21 students from Proviso East High School and Proviso West High School, this was a normal afternoon of instruction and practice with the goal of one day obtaining a state license as a beautician.
"They learn hair, skin, and nails," said Ms. Pam Reed, an instructor at Ms. Roberts’. "In order to be able to give a service, you have to receive the service. It also gives them an experience that they may not have had before."
The cosmetology program is one of several new programs being offered to District 209 students for the 2014-15 school year. Along with the pre-International Baccalaureate Program at Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy and the Project Lead the Way pre-engineering class at Proviso West that began at the start of the current school year and the new Proviso Evening School and the barber program, the cosmetology class is part of a renewed move toward increasing educational opportunities for students in vocational fields.
"The students are learning all sorts of new things, and they are very excited about the program," said Mrs. Echols, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for District 209. "We want to increase the number of students who are prepared for college and for career. We want students to walk away not only with a high school diploma, but also a skill."
In the program, students must qualify by being at least a junior who is maintaining at least a 2.5 grade point average, have seven or fewer absences, and have no discipline issues. Those that are accepted to the program then take five classes at their respective school - before spending five hours in the afternoon and early evening at Ms. Roberts’. With successful completion, the students will be eligible to take the certification exam in cosmetology that then could lead to a successful career.
Ms. Reed said that the students spend about 1,500 hours in class, learning the skills that they will need to pass the certification and state board examinations to receive their license. They learn first through lectures and demonstrations before progressing to practicing on mannequins and each other. Later in February, Ms. Reed said that the plan is to have students working with clients at Ms. Roberts’.
"They’re all enthusiastic about it," Ms. Reed said, adding that some students come to the school on Saturdays to practice what they have learned. "Some of them may have had experience working with friends and family. Some may have never held a comb (in working with another person). "
The students in the program have different aspirations for what they hope to use their newly learned skills and eventual license.
Sapphira Love-Coleman, a junior at Proviso East," said that she plans to use her cosmetology skills to help pay for college, after which she would use her business degree to open her own business.
"This was a good opportunity to get my license early so I can major in business in college," Sapphira said. "It gives you a more open view of the outside world by being interactive with others and it helps prepare you for whatever field you’re in."
Ajana Crowder, a junior at Proviso West, said that she had considered applying at Ms. Roberts’ before District 209 began its program. She said that she has learned much during the semester while being encouraged by her fellow students and teachers.
"It’s like a family here," she said. "People here really encourage me."