Jan. 16, 2004 – As I enter Room 119, rows of hair dryers greet me, taking me from a school zone into a beauty zone. This is the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Cosmetology Center, a training ground for some of the territory's young beauticians.
The only telltale signs that you are in a classroom are the few desks and chairs in the center of the room and a green chalkboard. Everything else reminds me of the countless salons sprinkled all over St. Thomas.
"Hi! My name is Zesta. I'll be your stylist today," a young lady greets me with a pleasant smile on her face, her white smock gleaming. I am taken aback by her professionalism and courtesy. I soon find out that my stylist, Zesta Desir, is a 17-year-old 10th grader with a passion for her chosen profession.
"I love to do hair," she says. "I love everything dealing with hair."
The beginning student points me to a seat where she proceeds to give me a chemical relaxer treatment. One by one, other students filed in and speak with their instructor, Nora Williams, who directs them to various tasks.
"Did Zesta inform you that this is her exam?" Williams asks, reminding me yet again that this is a classroom setting. "No," I answer, a bit nervous now as I realize that my stylist is still in the learning process.
As if sensing my fear, Zesta tells me: "When we're done with it, you'll be looking hot."
I am calm beneath her able hands as my hair yields to her every whim, waiting patiently for the final product.
And yes, when it's all over, I'm satisfied with the relaxer job.
Long-established program still lacks supplies
The Eudora Kean Cosmetology Center is as old as the school itself, having undergone various changes and instructors over the years. Cosmetology is part of the vocational training offered to EKHS students. Williams, the owner of Nora's Beauty Palace and Academy on First Street in Sugar Estate, has been the instructor for five years. She spends her mornings training her nine students and her afternoons at her business.
Without adequate equipment, supplies and products, teaching is a challenge, Williams says, but she still finds the motivation to continue. "I felt the program needed upgrading, and this is something I like to do," she says.
Sometimes she ends up donating products from her own business in order to keep the program going. "I had to get started," she says. "I couldn't come in here and not teach. When I started, it was hard getting stuff from the [Education] Department."
There's been some improvement, but Williams is still awaiting last year's requisition for new furniture. She says she ordered some chairs, but they had to be sent back because the funding never came.
She does not let herself become discouraged, however. There are students to train. She commends various individuals in the community for providing furnishings which have helped to give the class room the salon ambience.
Williams herself is worthy of commendation, say her students and Kean Assistant Principal T. Jubilani Rees.
"Ms. Williams has brought a positive recognition to the cosmetology program," Rees says. "Our students can compete with anyone who's been in a cosmetology program."
Zesta Desir adds her opinion: "My teacher is great. She teaches you a lot."
Teacher sees college, cosmetology as a good mix
For Zesta, becoming a beautician is a dream well on the way to coming true. The St. Lucia native is grateful to get free training in this high school setting, an opportunity that she says would not have been possible in her homeland.
"I'm hoping to get to Advanced," she says, referring to the Advanced Cosmetology course, the second half of the vocational training program. "I'm hoping to get my license for hair care — with the help of my teacher, of course."
The Eudora Kean Cosmetology Center offers two semesters of training, on an ongoing basis. Students who complete the program can receive their license upon graduation if they pass the V.I. board exam. "It is a professional school," Williams says.
Zesta hopes to own and operate her own beauty salon someday. Williams is her role, motivating her to stay focused on her dream.
Williams is encouraging her to go on to college to further her education before going into business. "If someone had given me that advice 31 years ago, my business would have been better," the salon owner says.
Services offered to the public
Currently courses are taught weekdays from 7:50 to 9:20 a.m. and from 11:45 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. Members of the community as well as students are welcome to come in for the hair and nail care services the center provides from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Services are by appointment only (call 779-1500) and payment must be in cash. Following is a list of the services and prices.
Wave Nouveau – $55 (students $50)
Care Free Curl – $45 (students $40)
Chemical Relaxer – $25 (students $20)
Shampoo and Set – $12 (students $8)
Shampoo and Braid – $12 (students $8)
Trim – $8 (students $6)
Hair Treatment – $8 (students $6)
Manicure – $10 (students $8)
Pedicure – $20 (students $15)
Hair Cut – $10 (students $8)
Color Rinse – $7 (students $5)
Henna Highlight – $12 (students $8)
White Rinse – $1 (same for students)
Sculptured Nails – Full Set $30, Fill $15 (same for students)
Facial – $20 (students $15)
All services are rendered by the cosmetology students under the supervision of their instructor.
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