Cosmetology school benefits students, employees and customers

WARRENSBURG, Mo.-- Tucked behind the Ridgeview school on Ridgeview Drive is the Warrensburg Area Career Center. And tucked into that building is the cosmetology school.

"People often get lost trying to find this place," Pat Higgins said with a laugh. Higgins is the supervisor of the cosmetology adult program in Warrensburg, and has been working here for 24 years. She sits down in her back office and talks about the annual contest the school recently had, the kind of customers they get, and highlights of the trade.

"We are going to be open on prom, which is April 16 this year. So, we did a little contest so the students could practice doing updos, and all the students and faculty in the building voted on their favorites. It was good practice for them," Higgins said. Sedalia is having its prom the same day as Warrensburg, Higgins said, so they have some people from Sedalia coming in as well. The school usually isn’t open on Saturdays, but prom is the exception.

"We are open on prom every year; it helps to make up snow days, plus it helps the students practice doing the updos," Higgins said.

The cosmetology students are from all ages from all around the Warrensburg area. "We usually take around 16 students each year," Higgins said. "I can actually have 25, according to the state, and I did that for years, but I didn’t want to when we moved over here at the career center, because I don’t have space for that many. For next year, I already have my 16 chosen, with a waiting list of 6."

The school is a nine-month program and equivalents to 1,220 hours. After students’ hours are completed, they become certified by taking a state board exam, a written test and a practical test with mannequins. The cosmetology school in Warrensburg is a public one; it has been a part of the Warrensburg school district for 34 years. "There are actually only seven public cosmetology programs in the state," Higgins said.

Before the school opens to the public, the other classes in the building, such as the practical nursing program, let the cosmetology students practice on them first.

As far as students learning hair the hard way, Higgins said that they haven’t had really any big mishaps happen with customers.

"Most everything I’ve been able to fix," she says with a laugh. "We haven’t had anything major, no lawsuits. We do get those customers who are hard to please, and I think, ‘Why aren’t you at a real salon then?’ If you want professional results, then you need to go to a professional. But," Higgins said, "the majority of our clientele are real understanding and real patient, are used to coming here, like the prices and know the students are a little slow at first."

Higgins said they have a lot of college students come in to get highlights because of the reasonable prices (it’s $15 and up for short hair and $25 and up for long hair). She said they also have a lot of military come in for haircuts (a cut, including shampoo is $6). "We have a wide variety of customers actually," Higgins said.

"In April we are going to St. Louis for a hair show, where we get to see all the latest products and style techniques," Higgins said, "which is really neat."

As far as getting the word out about the cosmetology school, Higgins said, "Word of mouth is our best advertisement." But, she said they do put out an ad in the beginning of the year, whenever they open to the public. "We start in August, but we don’t open til around mid-October, because before then, the students don’t have enough hours in yet," she said.

Megan Webb, 18, who graduated high school last year in Sedalia, said she chose the cosmetology field because she didn’t want to go to college. "I really like it, and I’m glad I chose it. I love doing hair," she said with a smile. "There’s two cosmetology schools in Sedalia, but I chose this one because they take the A+ program, and I like the hours better."

After Webb acquires her certificate, she plans on going back to Sedalia. "But I want to end up going to Kansas City and maybe eventually open up my own salon," she said.

Casey Gilbert, a stay-at-home mom with two 3-and-4 year olds, said she didn’t have a specific reason for why she went into cosmetology.

"But the main reason I wanted to do it is because you can make someone feel really good about themselves. I wanted to be able to do that, but I hadn’t been able to find a niche to do that. I’m not originally from here," Gilbert explains. "My husband is military, so it was kind of difficult finding someone to watch my children when I first got here because I don’t know anyone around here. But I found a really nice girl, so I was lucky with that," she said. "And now, I’ve found a way to make people feel good about themselves, I’ve found my niche."