SOUTH FORSYTH — A cosmetology school has breathed new life into a south Forsyth retail complex.
On Monday, the Georgia Institute of Cosmetology, or GIC, officially opened its sixth north Georgia location near the Bethelview Road-Hwy. 9 crossing.
The school, which prepares students for a range of jobs in the cosmetology field, took over four storefronts in a shopping center that had sat mostly empty for several years.
“The dentist and the karate studio that are here were so excited to see us open,” said Christy Strickland, admissions director at the new school.
It seems prospective students were also pleased. On its very first day, a handful of students had already begun courses, Strickland said.
“We’ve got a few transfers from our other campuses and a few new starts out there,” she said Monday. “They’re all excited about being a part of a new school. They know they’ll be part of the first graduating class of the Cumming GIC.”
Students at the school will work to complete the program that involves 1,500 hours of class and hands-on training.
“If you’re a full-time student, you’re here about 30 hours a week Monday through Friday, so it’s almost like a job,” Strickland said. “If you’re part time, you’re here about 20 hours a week.
“So typically, it takes a year to a year and a half to complete the program.”
After students graduate, they go on to take state board written and practical exams. After securing state licensure, GIC also helps them find work, Strickland said.
“We try to take them all the way from the start right up to … getting them a job,” she said. “We have students that come back even after they’ve been finished a couple of years and still ask us, ‘Who’s hiring in the area?’”
Strickland said the school is working closely with Forsyth high schools that offer cosmetology programs to their students. Instructors who oversee the high school programs keep track of all the hours students receive.
“They’ll get a breakdown of those hours in an official transcript [after they graduate] … and they bring that in here to us and we accept up to 600 of those hours,” Strickland said.
“So a typical high school student who went 180 days to schools and was rarely absent and took [cosmetology] all four years of high school, they could walk in the door having around 600 of their 1,500 hours,” she said.
“Within 900 hours, we know we can teach them everything else they need to know or things that they might have missed in high school.”
Those students and others who have completed at least 250 hours can work with clients in the school’s clinic area, which offers reduced cost services to the public.
In May or June, Strickland anticipates the school will have enough students with 250 hours to be able to offer services on an ongoing basis, although some have reached that level.
“We’ll end up having the clinic floor open and the public will come in wanting anything and everything because it’s reduced prices,” Strickland said. “You can get a haircut for $5, an eyebrow wax for $5, a manicure for $7, facials, they do everything.”
Strickland said the public shouldn’t be wary of the level of services they’ll receive from students.
“Usually, the students are extra cautious and they really want to please you, so it’s even better than being in a salon really,” she said. “And they’re not the only one taking care of you because you have a licensed instructor there the whole time … [the instructor] comes back and forth all the time checking on them.”
Strickland, who also is a licensed instructor at the facility, said she and Bobby Splawn, a fellow instructor, worked together to open the site. It wasn’t something new to either of them. They opened GIC’s Gainesville campus in 2009 and worked there the past five years.
Splawn said he was ready for the Cumming site to open and is happy to bring his years of experience to a new set of students.
“I love seeing the students’ excitement for what they’re doing,” he said. “It reminds me of when I was just starting out in school.”
Added Strickland: “When you see the students get something and their little light bulbs go off, I don’t care if they’re 17 or 50, you [as a teacher] get so excited with them because you know that feeling and it keeps you young.”