Free cosmetology program now offered locally to high school students

High school students interested in cosmetology school could potentially save thousands of dollars as a result of a new partnership between Buchanan Community Schools and Kintsukuri Institute of Cosmetology in Niles.

Josh Paquette, director of career technical education (CTE) at Buchanan and Niles schools, said the cosmetology program would be available to all upperclassmen in Berrien County school districts beginning this fall.

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT Kintsukuri Education Director Jessica McGowen practices cutting hair on a mannequin head at the Niles cosmetology institute Tuesday.

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT
Kintsukuri Education Director Jessica McGowen practices cutting hair on a mannequin head at the Niles cosmetology institute Tuesday.

Students who successfully complete the program and pass the required state board tests would leave school as a licensed cosmetologist, able to get a job cutting hair, doing nails or providing skin care services.

It would cost the student nothing, since the class would be paid for through school CTE funding — similar to early college academy programs.

“That’s where the beauty is,” Paquette said. “These programs generally cost between $10,000 and $20,000. Now they can get that for free.”


A local option

Berrien County schools currently offer a cosmetology CTE program that takes place at Twin City Beauty College in St. Joseph.

Paquette said students at schools in the south portion of the county (Niles, Buchanan, Brandywine) are not taking advantage of the program because of the distance they would have to travel.

He expects to see between 15 and 20 students enroll in the program this year and even more after that.

“That is around the range, but we have capacity for up to 40,” he said.

Classes will take place at Kintsukuri Institute of Cosmetology at 404 E. Main St. in downtown Niles.

“We’ve been looking for a cosmetology program in the south portion of the county because our current program it is a tough trek for Buchanan, Niles and Brandywine students,” he said. “It has been a great partnership so far.”

He said many students and their parents have expressed interest in the cosmetology program, but did not want to travel to the north portion of the county.


Advanced education

The class will be taught by Kintsukuri Education Director Jessica McGowen, who has five years of industry experience, a bachelor’s degree in career and technical education and several relevant cosmetology licenses.

Kintsukuri owner Susan Sakara said her cosmetology program would offer several things other schools don’t offer, including business studies and training for sugar-based hair removal.

“You won’t get that anywhere else,” she said.

The course is 1,500 hours of theory and practice — a state requirement before someone can take the cosmetology licensing tests.

It will take place in four-hour blocks during the week and on two Saturdays per month. Students will also receive iPads loaded with course materials so they can access them from anywhere.

Once a student obtains a license, he or she would be able to immediately enter workforce.

Sakara said there is a demand for highly skilled licensed cosmetologists in the area.

“I have made connections with salon owners that are ready as soon as we have people graduating,” she said. “It’s even an avenue for them to use to work through college. They at least have a skill that allows them to work through college.”

Anyone interested in enrolling in the program should talk to their guidance counselor or visit Kintsikuri for a tour.

Kintsikuri also offers its programs to private individuals.

For more information, visit the website


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