River Bend Career and Tech Center expands cosmetology program

Cosmetology instructor Lorraine Kennedy, left, explains how to cut a client’s bangs to Oxbow senior Abigail Hathaway, 18, of Corinth, Vt., during a class at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. The school recently expanded its cosmetology program to ensure that students complete the 1,000 training hours required to obtain a license in Vermont, allowing students to graduate into the workforce without debt from additional training programs. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Cosmetology instructor Lorraine Kennedy, left, explains how to cut a client’s bangs to Oxbow senior Abigail Hathaway, 18, of Corinth, Vt., during a class at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. The school recently expanded its cosmetology program to ensure that students complete the 1,000 training hours required to obtain a license in Vermont, allowing students to graduate into the workforce without debt from additional training programs. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America – Alex Driehaus

Woodsville senior Skylar Welch, 17, of Woodsville, N.H., curls a mannequin’s hair during a cosmetology class at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. Students in the program learn to cut, style and dye hair, as well as other services like manicures and facials. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Woodsville senior Skylar Welch, 17, of Woodsville, N.H., curls a mannequin’s hair during a cosmetology class at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. Students in the program learn to cut, style and dye hair, as well as other services like manicures and facials. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thetford Academy senior Kelsey Bogie, 17, of Tunbridge, Vt., picks out a mannequin during a cosmetology class at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. The cosmetology program includes both practical and classroom components, where students learn skills like crafting resumes and interviewing for jobs. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thetford Academy senior Kelsey Bogie, 17, of Tunbridge, Vt., picks out a mannequin during a cosmetology class at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. The cosmetology program includes both practical and classroom components, where students learn skills like crafting resumes and interviewing for jobs. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

From left, seniors Leah Hathaway, 17, of West Topsham, Vt., Iris Morand, 18, of Hartland, Vt., and Skylar Welch, 17, of Woodsville, N.H., participate in a cosmetology class at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. Demand has increased for the cosmetology program, which currently includes 15 students total, and River Bend is looking into ways to fund an expansion of the classroom space, including an additional salon entrance for clients. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, seniors Leah Hathaway, 17, of West Topsham, Vt., Iris Morand, 18, of Hartland, Vt., and Skylar Welch, 17, of Woodsville, N.H., participate in a cosmetology class at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. Demand has increased for the cosmetology program, which currently includes 15 students total, and River Bend is looking into ways to fund an expansion of the classroom space, including an additional salon entrance for clients. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 12-28-2023 6:35 AM

BRADFORD, Vt. — Growing up in Hartland, Iris Morand started working with horses as a young child and developed an affinity for a particular skill: braiding hair.

As she got older, Morand’s interest in hairstyling increased and during her junior year at Thetford Academy, she started attending the cosmetology program at River Bend Career and Tech Center in Bradford, Vt.

“I really like being able to transform people’s hair into something they love,” Morand, 18, said while styling a mannequin’s hair into finger waves on a Wednesday morning earlier this month.

Morand is one of five seniors, who are joined by 10 juniors in the program. The program is in its second year as a full-day program at River Bend, which is part of the Orange East Supervisory Union.

Previously, students attended for part of the day. After they completed the program, they had to pay to attend a cosmetology school to finish their required 1,000 training hours under Vermont licensing requirements, then take the state licensing exam. Now, when seniors complete the program at River Bend, they can immediately take the state licensing test and once they pass, enter the workforce without having to pursue additional education. As a result, the program has grown. Last year, there were 21 applicants for 10 spots, said instructor Lorraine Kennedy. The four graduates in the class of 2023 all passed their licensing exams and found jobs at area salons.

“The feedback we’re getting from parents is ‘thank you,’ ” said Brian Emerson, River Bend’s director. “It’s another way of tackling college loans.”

There might be more to come: Due to the increase in popularity, Emerson has started to research grants and other funding options to renovate and expand the classroom space, including building a second salon entrance. There also is talk about starting to offer adult education programs, in part to fill the void left by the closure of the New England School of Hair Design in West Lebanon.

Other Upper Valley schools, including Hartford Area Career and Technology Center, also offer cosmetology programs. Students in Hartford’s program can also complete their 1,000 hours and test for the state licensing exam. For Morand, part of the appeal of the River Bend program is that she will be able to work in a salon after she gets her license.

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“That’s what I’m so looking forward to. I just want to work,” she said. Morand also is happy she does not have to take on debt to pursue higher education. “That’s probably the best part of it.”

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, students meet with clients and perform a variety of services, from haircuts, coloring and perms to manicures and pedicures. Costs are by donation, ranging from $3 to $25; no one is turned away for lack of ability to pay and all money raised goes toward the cosmetology program. Students are responsible for nearly every part of the process, from communicating with clients to performing services under Kennedy’s careful eye.

On Wednesday, Dec. 6, Abigail Hathaway gave a haircut to a client, who declined to be named or interviewed. Hathaway talked to the client about how she wanted her bangs cut, and Kennedy provided feedback on how to achieve the result.

“I really like being able to make my clients feel good about themselves and make that connection with them,” Hathaway, 18, of Corinth, said. She is looking forward to spring, where she will be placed at an area salon to continue to learn more about the profession, and which will hopefully lead to a job once she passes her licensing exam.

The students and Kennedy emphasized that there is much more to cosmetology than meets the eye. Students use chemistry when mixing hair colors and microbiology to learn how to keep their work stations clean.

“There’s definitely chemistry and math involved,” Hathaway said.

Kennedy also teaches students how to write resumes and interview for jobs — skills that are transferable no matter what they pursue. While some students are planning on pursuing jobs at salons, others like Kelsey Bogie, of Tunbridge, are pursuing another form higher education. Bogie, 17, is in the process of applying to four-year colleges to study education with the goal of becoming a teacher. She also is planning to test for her cosmetology license.

“I think this is one of the many jobs you can do during the summertime,” Bogie said while styling pin curls on a mannequin. It’s also a job she could work part time while attending college. She described River Bend’s program as “a great opportunity,” for students. “We’re getting this education for free while also learning real life things.”

Kennedy said that that’s one of the goals: She wants her students to have options. Even if they choose not to pursue cosmetology full time, they can keep their license current by paying to renew it every couple of years.

“It’s not necessarily everybody’s dream, but it’s a skill they can take with them,” Kennedy said.

Those interested in booking an appointment can contact Kennedy at 802-222-5212, ext. 136 or lorraine.kennedy@oesu.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.