The Star-Herald

Students enjoy being creative at tech center’s cosmetology classes

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — From facials, to manicures and pedicures, to cutting, coloring, and styling hair, the cosmetology program at Presque Isle Tech Center covers a wealth of information pertaining to hair, nails and skin care. 

Former salon owner Heather Fullen has been the instructor since the program began in 2017. 

Students in the cosmetology program learn a variety of skills. 

“In the classroom, we cover the principles behind what we apply in our practical work out in the lab,” Fullen said. “We learn how to give a haircut, perform hair color services, and take hair from straight to curly and back again in our perming module, as well as how to style hair.” 

Other units include skin care and nails. Students learn how to give a facial, apply makeup and remove unwanted hair.  The nails unit covers basic manicures, pedicures, basic hand and foot massages and nail art, but the acrylic nails portion of the unit always gets an enthusiastic response and is a huge draw for many prospective applicants, Fullen said.

Students who complete the cosmetology program earn hours towards their state of Maine cosmetology license, saving them a significant amount of time and money.  

“They must transfer to a post-secondary beauty school, all of which are downstate right now.  However, the beauty of our situation is that students who meet the state-mandated requirements may have 100 percent of their accrued clock hours from PITC be applied towards the needed 1,500 hours to sit for the state licensing exams. In simple terms, it’s money in their pockets,” said Fullen.  

After becoming licensed, available career opportunities include becoming a salon stylist, owner or manager, an aesthetician, nail technician, sales representative, makeup artist, instructor or brow/lash stylist, among others. 

“The sky is absolutely the limit,” said Fullen. “I’ve known many who’ve owned salons, some who have been sales reps, and cosmetologists who travel the country teaching for product manufacturers.  If you can dream it, you can do it.”

When Presque Isle native Alexa Perkins was a young girl, she had an interest in braiding hair. A Presque Isle High School cheerleader, Perkins is the designated “braider” on the team.  

“I would braid anyone’s hair. I loved hair and everything to do with it,” Perkins said. 

A second-year student in the program, Perkins has gained a lot of knowledge and skills including concepts related to human anatomy. She has also learned life skills and the importance of ergonomics. 

“Bones are fascinating. When doing a facial or scalp massage, you need to know where certain bones are to make it a worthwhile experience for the client,” said Perkins. “I’ve learned how to keep my hair and body healthy. I’ve learned how to hold shears properly, sit and stand comfortably, and how to make things easier on the body.” 

 When Perkins graduates from Presque Isle High School in June, she will continue her education at Spa Tech Institute in Westbrook. There, she plans to earn her cosmetology license. As she transitions into her salon career, Perkins plans to focus on hair services, as well as skin care and makeup.

Presque Isle High School senior Alexa Perkins puts finishing touches on her “client’s” fresh increase-layered haircut, with guidance from instructor Heather Fullen at the Presque Isle Tech Center. (Courtesy of Presque Isle Tech Center)

“Starting the day with cosmetology makes me feel happy the rest of the day. Doing something I love makes me feel relaxed and at peace. I love the class,” said Perkins. “Mrs. Fullen is an amazing teacher. She knows how to teach in a way that makes you feel connected to what you’re learning.” 

Perkins also enjoys practicing the skills she is learning on her classmates, including performing manicures and hand and arm massages.

Fullen said the program is valuable to students not only regarding their career paths, but their time in high school. Students say they feel welcome and relaxed at the center and enjoy learning something they like that is relevant to daily life.

“Social pressures, academic requirements for core classes, thinking about their adult futures — it’s all hard,” Fullen said. “Each year, I hear students say how much the pressure of their day goes away when they come over to PITC.  We have students ask if they can come back for the two weeks after they graduate so they can keep going.”

Fullen said she went into cosmetology because she wanted a career where she could be creative, and because she greatly enjoys people. 

“I like interacting with students, learning about their lives, and making those connections.  I take the trust they put in me very seriously and work my hardest to be a teacher they can respect.”

During her time as a cosmetology student, Fullen’s goal was to become an instructor someday. She said her instructor inspired her by making everything come alive. She enjoys teaching because she likes sharing her students’ highs and lows, as well as showing others new ways of experiencing things. 

The Presque Isle Tech Center (PITC) serves high school students in the Central Aroostook area including Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Easton, Washburn, Ashland, and Mars Hill. For more information about the Cosmetology program or any of the programs at the PITC, please contact 207-764-1356 or visit pirctc.sad1.org.

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