Roughly three years ago, cosmetology program instructors at Chattanooga State approached the administrators at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to develop a project called Haircuts for the Homeless. This project involved volunteering six to eight cosmetology students to provide haircuts, facials, and massages to at least 30 people on a weekly basis.
Every week, a different group of students and an instructor head downtown to First Baptist Church to help less fortunate clients with a goal of instilling the confidence they need in their appearance to enter the workforce. Approval of the project has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of their clients, said officials.
“Seeing the faces of people in need brighten, just from a haircut, makes all my hard work in school worth it," said student Rebekah Farrow. "It also encourages me to keep bettering myself and be the best cosmetologist I can."
Besides gaining first-hand experience while helping others, cosmetology students learn other skills as well. Becoming a professional involves practicing communication skills, building one’s own confidence and speed levels, and maintaining those skills in preparation for their own entry into the workforce, said officials. “I love that my school encourages us to serve others in our community and connect with people while improving our personal and workplace skills,” said student Rachel Wells.
One of the project goals is to gauge community impact. Individuals involved in the Haircuts for the Homeless project have discovered that not only are the confidence levels of their clients rising, but this service helps people look and feel their best, which in turn causes them to do their best. “Being able to use my job skills to serve others, especially those in need, makes me feel as though I can make a difference in the world,” said student Alli Johnson.
Cosmetology instructor Elonia James and members of First Baptist Church believe that together they can help lower community homeless rates and improve employment rates, one haircut at a time.
"The cosmetology program teaches its students how to create beauty from what is already there," said Ms. James. "Haircuts for the Homeless is not only a way to complete grades in the classroom, but also gives the students the practice that they need, confidence to achieve individual goals, and the skills needed to succeed in this economy’s workforce.”
Students Michaela Rogers and MaKenna Meeks say that being involved in the Haircuts for the Homeless project has helped to reaffirm their career decision and improve their own confidence level in addition to the confidence level of their clients.
“I am excited to see how much their skills have improved,” said instructor Tammy Irvin. “There is such a variety of hair textures and personalities which help students with their client consultations, practical skills and communication skills."
Cosmetology is a one-year program offered through Chattanooga State’s Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Tennessee residents 24 years of age and older are granted free tuition through TN Reconnect, while recent high school graduates attending TCAT programs are eligible for TN Promise funds. For more information, call 697-4433 or visit https://www.chattanoogastate.edu/cosmetology.