The cosmetology program is one of the specialties offered through the new Technical Institute at North Meck. Part of the school's Career and Technical Education (CTE) emphasis, Institute classes will also offer detailed, career training in the culinary arts, horticulture and automotive technician fields as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools "magnet" facility for selected applicants from North Meck, Hough, Hopewell and Mallard Creek high schools.
The horticulture/agriculture program, now under the direction of Stephanie Anderson, survived at North Meck while the cosmetology, culinary and automotive programs — also long-time traditions at the school — were phased out. Now all the programs are being revived and enhanced as part of the Technical Institute through CMS' new regional training center approach.
Equipping and refurbishing of the culinary and automotive departments is still under way in preparation for August openings, but the cosmetology students got an earlier start.
Prickett relocated from Mallard Creek High School to North Meck at the start of the 2012-13 school year to oversee the new program and supervise renovations and retooling. In January, instruction began in the two classrooms and two working areas dedicated to train students in the proper care and treatment of hair, skin and nails. And if the program and its students continue to progress on schedule, Prickett expects The Finishing Touch, the cosmetology department's student staffed, fully-equipped, state-of-the-art salon, to quickly become a fashionable destination for students, faculty members and residents of the community.
The Finishing Touch, across the hall from cosmetology classrooms, is a glistening showcase of stainless steel and mirrors with new styling chairs, anchoring individual work stations that line the walls and center section of the large room. At the entrance, there's a bright pink and yellow sign, created by cosmetology student Jelieha Beatty, that promotes the business. Next door, rows of chairs with attached hair dryers await customers.
"It's a full service salon," Prickett says, pointing out the storage and dispensary room, reception desk, waiting area and the versatile work stations designed to allow students to provide whatever hair, nail, skin or combination treatment the client requests. "It's set up just like a private business and every student will learn every aspect of all the jobs, from styling hair to staffing the reservation desk, related to the salon."
In addition to instruction and application sessions at the school, Prickett has also coordinated class field trips to full-service spas and salons in and around Charlotte to show the students not only the set-ups, but the overall atmosphere clients expect when they come in to just spruce up, or perhaps completely revamp, their look.
"For a lot of the girls it was the first time seeing a full-service salon," Prickett says. "They got an idea of what we'd like to offer."
The 12 students who wrapped up a portion of course work last week will be the first to work at The Finishing Touch when it begins exclusive, Thursday-only hours some time during the 2013-14 school year. Completion of an assortment of basic instruction is among the prerequisites before advancing to salon duties.
"The classroom sessions began in January with these 12 students working toward completing 300 hours of theory and lab work," Prickett said. "Once they get the 300 hours, they can advance to working in the salon."
To obtain the hours required to complete cosmetology training, students will take multiple classes year-round. The goal is for graduates of the program to receive 1,200 hours of career training while attending North Meck.
"With 1,200 hours, they would be qualified to take the state exam," Prickett explains. "Completing the exam would make them eligible to work as an apprentice under a licensed person for six months and then apply for their own certification."
Eventually, Prickett adds, the goal for the North Meck program is to provide 1,500 hours of instruction that would allow graduates to skip the apprentice stage and be eligible to apply for their own license. Now and in the future, the program will focus on providing students with the type of career-oriented training they would receive through a technical college curriculum.
Prickett, who was fully licensed as a cosmetologist at 18, worked in the field for seven years and also earned a marketing education degree from the University of Georgia, said the program can be a step toward a lifelong occupation, or just the chance to add some life skills. Rising senior Diamond Hope isn't planning on a cosmetology career, but she recognizes the value of learning the trade.
"These are skills I want to have," says Hope. "I'm not looking at it right now as necessarily a career, but when I go off to college it could be a good way to make some extra money. And it could always be something I could fall back on if I needed to."
With the cosmetology students now, finally, on summer break, Prickett is preparing advanced classes for their return while also finalizing the class schedule for newcomers who will begin training in the fall. Students can enter the Institute's cosmetology program as juniors, but Prickett says it's important for younger students interested in the program to complete preliminary courses to ease the transition into specific, career-focused education.
"We'll start identifying and communicating with candidate students as early as the eighth grade," she says. "Like every type of technical and career program, there are some prerequisite classes that should be completed to get them ready."