By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — They are a cut above.
Students in Pinkerton Academy's new cosmetology program are learning all about hair care and cosmetics, thanks to a new Career and Technical Education offering now in place at the high school.
The cosmetology program is in full swing, giving students in the high school's CTE program an opportunity to learn skills to help them seek jobs after graduation.
The program is housed in the new CTE South building on the lower campus.
These students are the first — the inaugural cutting crew ready to learn all that it takes to handle hair, nails, feet and skin.
Right now, there are three blocks of Level I students with about 60 students making up the class.
The cosmetology program is part of Pinkerton's new $7.8 million CTE project, made possible by state funding to upgrade high school programs around the state.
Teacher Keryl Rabideau heads up the program, coming to Pinkerton after teaching in the private, secondary level sector and also after decades as a hairstylist.
Pinkerton's new space looks like the real thing.
"It's designed like a real salon," Rabideau said.
Coming into her new job with a new program, Rabideau said she was able to give input and put her own mark on the program and planning its curriculum.
Since Pinkerton serves as a regional CTE provider, students from several communities make up the program, including those from Pinkerton, Salem and Pelham.
Students enrolled can finish the two-year program and then go into a post-high school program if they choose.
They will already have a big jump on their training and knowledge by then and will have earned valuable hours toward a state certification license, Rabideau said.
The first-year program deals with the basics like nail and skin care. The second year gets more intense, with haircut training and coloring.
"That is the more intense stuff," Rabideau said.
During one morning class, students were practicing their skills on mannequin heads with human hair. The salon setup in the room includes designed spaces that are exactly like a professional salon.
CTE department chairman Jack Grube said an advisory committee was put in place to help design the new program and drove what the space would eventually look like.
"I'm excited," Grube said. "Look at the opportunities, look at the facility, and there is no impact on taxpayer dollars."
Sara Duval, 17, of Derry said she was happy to be learning in the cosmetology program.
"I want to be a hairdresser someday and open my own salon," she said. "It's a good start."
Amelia Gauthier, 16, took time practicing her scalp rotation procedures with her female head prototype. A career in cosmetology might be in the junior's future after Pinkerton.
"I've always been interested," she said.
In addition to the 6,500-square-foot CTE South building, there is also a new, two-story CTE Annex building on the site of the school's former portable classrooms housing other CTE programs.
Pinkerton's Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Chris Harper said right now there are 316 CTE courses offered at Pinkerton, courses that may someday help forge lasting career choices for students.
"They are still learning academic skills but also getting skills (around things) they are interested in," he said. "We are looking at careers, offerings include health services, construction, engineering, to help start kids off in a field they are interested in possibly continuing after high school."
Rabideau said in the months ahead, students will fine tune their skills and may open the department's doors to the public for services like manicures and pedicures. All money raised through services would go back to support the program.