.Adult Ed’s New Cosmetology Program Fills Countywide Need

Santa Cruz County's only cosmetology program is drawing a lot of local interest.

Since February, a small group of women has been hard at work, learning the detailed world of the beauty industry in Watsonville’s new—and Santa Cruz County’s only—cosmetology program.

The new program began with just six students, although Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Adult Education Director Nancy Bilicich expects that number to grow as it gains in popularity and a Spanish component is added.

In getting ready for classes to begin, the adult school converted the lobby of the Institute of Language and Culture in downtown Watsonville—where classes are held—into a teaching salon that will one day host walk-in customers.

That included setting up the required electricity and plumbing for the hair-washing stations and getting approval from the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. 

“We’re pretty excited,” she said. “Once we get going, people will come in.”

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During the yearlong, two-semester program, the students learn such topics as hair and skin care. They will also touch on anatomy, physiology and scalp disorders, in addition to boosting the communication skills they will need to interact with clients.

“It’s a lot more eclectic than you might think,” said instructor Zack Herrington. 

Herrington has been teaching in the industry throughout the U.S. for 15 years.

The program is not an easy one, he said, with classes running from Tuesday through Thursday from 9am until 3pm. 

The days include intensive classroom study of a thick textbook and two separate workbooks, in addition to practical, hands-on experience.

But at just $4,500—a fraction of the $30,000 such programs normally cost—it is an ideal and cost-effective way to launch a career in the beauty industry, Herrington said. 

“This is like boot camp, it’s a lot of work,” he said. “But I think I can help get them through this time, get them confidence, give them a good skill set and hopefully set them out to do what they want to do.”

The next evolution for the program, Herrington says, will be opening the lobby doors on Rodriguez Street to customers, who can pay “hard-core discounted prices” for services provided by the senior-level students under instructor supervision.

Student Hailey Barnholt, 21, from Aptos, was working as an EMT and studying to be a medical assistant when she realized that the high-pressure world of the medical industry wasn’t a good fit for her.

When she discovered the adult school’s new program, she said the price, coupled with the convenient location—not to mention her love for the beauty industry—convinced her to sign up.

“I want to love what I’m doing,” she said. “I can do so much, and it’s never going to be boring. And making people beautiful is fun … Everything that we’re learning is really interesting. It’s everything I thought it would be and more.”

Araceli Gonzalez, 40, says that she and her fellow students have formed a tight-knit group of friends who study together and, better still, teach other their various skills gleaned through various occupations—one knows hair weaves and eyelashes, for example, while another is skilled at hair coloring.

“I’m very excited to be here,” she said. “We work better together.”

For information, visit wascae.edu.

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