Since February, a small group of women have been hard at work learning the in-depth world of the beauty industry in Watsonville’s new cosmetology program — and the only one in Santa Cruz County.

The new program started with just six students, though Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Director of Adult Education Nancy Bilicich expects that number to grow as it gains popularity and a Spanish component is added.

In preparation for the start of classes, the adult school has converted the hall of the Watsonville City Center Language and Culture Institute, where classes are held, into a teaching lounge that will accommodate walk-in customers one day.

This included setting up the necessary electrical and plumbing for the hair wash stations and getting approval from the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.

“We are very excited,” she said. “Once we start, people will come.”

During the two-semester one-year program, students learn topics such as hair and skin care. They will also cover the anatomy, physiology and disorders of the scalp, in addition to strengthening the communication skills they will need to interact with clients.

“It’s a lot more eclectic than you might think,” said instructor Zack Herrington.

Herrington has been teaching in the industry across the United States for 15 years.

The schedule isn’t easy, he said, with classes Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Days include intensive classroom study of a thick textbook and two separate workbooks, in addition to hands-on, hands-on experience.

But at just $4,500 — a fraction of the $30,000 these programs normally cost — it’s an ideal, cost-effective way to launch a career in the beauty industry, Herrington said.

“It’s like a training camp, it’s a lot of work,” he said. “But I think I can help them through this period, give them confidence, give them a good set of skills and hopefully prepare them to do what they want to do.”

The next evolution of the program, according to Herrington, will be to open the doors of the Rodriguez Street lobby to customers, who will be able to pay “unconditional discounted prices” for services provided by upper-level students under the supervision of an instructor. .

Student Hailey Barnholt, 21, from Aptos, was working as a paramedic and studying to become a medical assistant when she realized the high-pressure world of the medical industry was not for her.

When she found out about the school’s new curriculum for adults, she said the price, coupled with the convenient location, not to mention her love for the beauty industry, convinced her to enroll. .

“I want to love what I do,” she said. “I can do so many things and it will never be boring. And making people beautiful is fun… Everything you learn is really interesting. It’s everything I thought it would be and more.

Araceli Gonzalez, 40, says she and her classmates have formed a close-knit group of friends who study together and, best of all, teach others their various skills learned through various professions – we know hair weaves and eyelashes, for example, while another is good at coloring hair.

“I’m very excited to be here,” she said. “We work better together.

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