Cosmetology program utilizes former student’s experience to prepare next generation

Abby Mendez

The cosmetology department has deep roots that have helped ground the program and make it flourish. Teacher Sharonda Williams first started with the cosmetology program in 1989 while attending Bryan High. The program helped her find her purpose and place in life and she continues to strive to help others students do the same.

“I was one of the students whose parents said I needed to take cosmetology,” Williams said. “At the time I worked in a salon as a receptionist, and the lady who owned the salon said I had a knack for it; sometimes they see potential in you that you don’t really see in yourself.”

While in high school, many see college as the only option after graduation, but the cosmetology program opens options for a more cost-effective path and engages its participants.

“I didn’t really have a good option for after high school,” senior Benita Garcia said. “I didn’t have plans. Cosmetology was something that I was really interested in and I hope to better myself and make really good money.”

Not only is the high school cosmetology route more cost-effective for many, but students who complete the program receive their cosmetology license and most go directly into the field of work.

“There are several students who have come back and visited with us, and they are managers and owners of salons,” Williams said. “Some of the teachers that are here get their lashes done by some of the past Bryan High cosmetology students, so they come out of the classroom right into the industry. They are being very successful, sometimes making more than what teachers make, maybe in about two years”

The environment and culture of the program has prompted some, like cosmetology teacher Marisol Marquez, to come back and teach the next generation. 

“I benefited from the program and I learned a lot because I got to do hands on work,” Marquez said. “That helped me actually reach my goal of going into a salon.”

Furthermore, post-secondary cosmetology programs often lack a personal approach. One of the most important factors in the Bryan cosmetology program is the mentorship Williams provides.

“I feel like having Mrs. Williams as my teacher taught me to go through the right path, and helped me know what I wanted to do in life,” Marquez said. “I feel like when you have someone who motivates you to do better, you want to do better.”

Williams’ students attribute their confidence and willingness to learn to her teachings.

“I was scared to do clients,” senior Abigail Salazar said. “But Mrs. Williams has taught me not to be scared because there is no way to learn if you’re scared. I like being with the other girls in the class and Mrs. Williams, I like learning different skills from hair to makeup to nails.”

Since Williams participated in the program in 1989, the program has grown significantly, with classes now being around 20-25 girls and with 100% passing rate.

“The program has grown tremendously,” Williams said. “When I took the class, there weren’t that many girls – we started with a big class but it always ended with a smaller class by senior year. Now the numbers are actually staying the same.”

Although the program is often misconstrued as being a program that just teaches makeup and hair, the program teaches students valuable lessons about customer service, and students learn how to operate in a professional environment.

“A lot of times what people think is they’re in cosmetology, and they can do themselves and make themselves pretty, so to speak, but that’s not true,” Williams said. “The truth is that they are  professionals, and so they’re working to make someone feel complete through a haircut – men or women, it doesn’t matter.”