Article By: Benjamin Rickert
Photo By: Rich Keen
Blue Ridge Community College Marketing and Communications Dept.
Cosmetology lead instructor Darlene Cope encourages her students at Blue Ridge Community College to be both artists and analytical thinkers. In the salon, she stresses the importance of understanding the client’s needs, creative solutions, soft skills, and even math principles. As they prepare for future careers, students receive hands-on in-class training while offering discounted services to the public.
“Cosmetology is an art. It is a creative art,” Cope explained. “But you have to have the analytical piece of it, too, to understand the foundation of the entire creative process. We use math and anatomy every day. For example, to be able to give a quality haircut, you are using geometry continually. I teach the students to use these foundational structures, and find creativity in them.”
With more than three decades industry experience, Cope serves as the College’s coordinator of career services. Under her long-standing leadership, students in the Blue Ridge Community College cosmetology, esthetics (skin care), and nail technologies programs have soared. In class, they gain the experience and knowledge needed to earn an associate degree, diploma, or certificate, and qualify to take the North Carolina State Board of Cosmetic Arts’ licensure exam. The pass rate for Blue Ridge students taking this exam is currently 100%.
“I want you to be salon-ready by the time you walk out,” Cope tells her students.
In order to provide students the direct experience needed to earn their licenses and succeed in the industry, the College’s full-service salon is open to the public offering discounted services. For example, a haircut costs only $5 and a basic facial is only $18.
During the salon’s business hours, esthetics students perform various kinds of facials, hair removal, makeup, and body treatments. Nail technologies students perform services like manicures, pedicures, and wax treatments. Cosmetology students perform all of these services, as well as haircuts, stylings, coloring, perms, relaxers, smoothing, and more. Students also learn the soft skills of the industry as they answer phones, schedule appointments, and run every aspect of the salon.
Blue Ridge faculty oversee each service to ensure the best result. A full list of services available to the public, current pricing, and appointment information can be found on the salon website. All proceeds are used to buy supplies for instruction.
“We are excited to offer our community high quality services at reasonable prices,” added Cope. “But it’s important to remind our patrons that this is an educational setting. They should be prepared to save money, but also invest in the learning of our students – the future of the cosmetology workforce. This extra time and patience really can be a fun and memorable experience for everyone.”
Cope loves her work at Blue Ridge and seeing her students graduate ready for their careers.
“When I can show them my passion for this field, I’m able to pass that passion along and help them develop it,” she said. “That helps each student become their best self as they learn to be creative, run their business, and be successful behind the chair.”