Thanks to hard work and dedication, plus some progressive legislation and the availability of night classes, two Dodge City High School seniors will be completing their technical training even before they finish high school.
Sierra McCain and Savannah Shiflet will complete the Dodge City Community College night cosmetology program in October, a full semester before most of their classmates graduate high school.
The girls took advantage of the increasingly popular initiative growing out of the 2011 Kansas Senate Bill 155 Career and Technical Act, which allows Kansas high school students to enroll in college-level technical courses while still in high school.
The SB 155 initiative also increases access to technical programs by providing funds to help pay for those courses. The goal is to provide an avenue for students to leave high school with marketable skills. A sense of real accomplishment early in life is an added bonus.
"Knowing that you can accomplish something real so early in life makes you feel really good about yourself," Shiflet said.
Both girls started the DCCC night cosmetology program as juniors and will walk two stages in May with official graduation ceremonies for DCCC and DCHS in the spring of 2019.
Tina Briseno, professor of cosmetology, finds that McCain and Shiflet and students like them – with full slates all day and class loads at night – are "a little more serious and ambitious."
"I really give Sierra and Savannah credit, they go all day to the high school and come to me at night," Briseno said. "I’m amazed at the work ethic of those two gals. They put in such long days and they never complain."
The DCCC cosmetology department’s night program allowed McCain and Shiflet to take full advantage of concurrent enrollment – finishing their high school coursework during the day while earning their cosmetology certification at night.
"My counselor knew I was interested in cosmetology and told me about the new night program at DCCC," Shiflet said. "Everyone at the college has been very helpful with everything."
In just its second year, the department’s night program is growing but slots are still available. Night classes tend to be somewhat smaller, so there is a lot of opportunity for one-to-one instruction. Both girls said the process to enroll was simple and accommodating.
"The high school and the college both worked with our schedules," Shiflet said. "The counselors and instructors made the process easy. Even the students here are willing to help out if they see you are struggling."
"There are so many benefits to night classes," Briseno said. "All of my night students work or are occupied with other studies during the day. They are able to accomplish so much while still living their lives."
The night classes start in August and are offered from 3 to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Briseno said that there can be some degree of flexibility in those hours to accommodate student schedules.
"That’s the biggest part of it," McCain said of the flexibility allowed by the night program. "They work with you well so you can have your job or whatever you’re doing and still come to school. They just help you do so much."
"Having some flexibility is what night classes should be about," Briseno said. "I’m all about making the program accessible."
Briseno encourages students to earn an associate’s degree along with their cosmetology certifications. Beyond the cosmetology courses, the associate’s degree offers a broader, more liberal education that further enhances cosmetology training.
"I feel like they really need that component," Briseno said. "There are more possibilities and open doors with a degree. It helps with business skills and communication if they want to run their own salon, and just gives them a more comprehensive education."
Students do not need to be 17 or have earned a high school diploma or GED to attend the DCCC cosmetology program, but a GED or diploma is required upon graduation and students must be at least 17 to take board certification exams.
More information about DCCC cosmetology can be found at dc3.edu/degree-pathway/cosmetology, or by calling the school at 620-225-0288.