Lanier Charter Career Academy runs Reflections Spa and Salon
By Kristen Oliver
The full-service salon, which serves the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday, is located inside Lanier Charter Career Academy in Gainesville, and it’s been the birthplace of a number of careers in cosmetology
“I would say a little more than 50 percent of our students (go into cosmetology),” said Janice Laster, cosmetology instructor at Lanier Charter. “A lot of them want to do it for their career, and a lot of them want to have their license as a backup plan. And then some students know they want to pursue another degree, but they do cosmetology while in school to pay for their education.”
Laster said she encourages her students to go to college and get an advanced degree, and she also encourages them to get their cosmetology license.
Laster was recently awarded the Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education’s Carl Perkins Outstanding Service Award for her work as a trade educator in the state.
Her class not only teaches cosmetology skills, including full-service hair, nails and facials, but she teaches skills all future workers will need.
“We’re working on the Georgia Best Certificate,” she said. “That’s recognized across the state from the Department of Labor, and it’s an initiative to help train students in employability skills.”
The salon is fully student-run. Appointments can be booked by calling the school, and customers are greeted upon arrival by students and rung up when leaving by students. Hair, skin and nail services are performed by the upper-level cosmetology students with 250 hours of training.
Johnson High School student Mallory James said the class focuses heavily on customer service.
“We do a lot of training on it,” she said. “Our biggest thing is probably customer service, and it’s really unique because a lot of teenagers don’t follow through with that or get that experience.”
Fellow Johnson student Lauren Hicks, 16, said the class is great experience for her, as she plans to go into cosmetology.
James said she plans to follow her mother’s career path, but the cosmetology classes are good experience for her to do so.
“I probably won’t get my license, but this follows my career path,” James said. “My mom is a national sales director for Mary Kay, and I see myself eventually as a national sales director too.”
Chestatee High School student Katie Jones, 17, is a paid intern at Reflections through a Goodwill program. The program gives her an opportunity to get real-work experience in the industry.
“I’m graduating this year, and next fall I’m hoping to apply to either Lanier Tech or Aveda Salon,” she said. “This is what I want to do.”
Jeff Jenkins, assistant principal at Lanier Charter Career Academy, said the career education courses at the school are a good opportunity for any student.
“We’re the only school in the county that offers cosmetology, and this program is teaming up with the horticulture program, which is a kind of unique thing,” he said. “I think a lot of people don’t think of those two programs being related to each other necessarily, but the teachers and students have shown it’s really been beneficial to our campus.”
Laster said the cosmetology students use plants and herbs grown by horticulture students to make essential oils, soaps and potpourri.
Jenkins said such programs give students a chance to “get their hands dirty,” whether taking cosmetology, horticulture or culinary courses.
“Really, in the last few years, we’ve put a premium on preparing all students for a career,” he said. “In past years, I think the emphasis may have been more on a high school diploma, and while that’s certainly very important for all of our students, we also realize that students are going to have to work for a living one of these days.”
“We want to prepare them not only academically, but for a vocation later on,” he added.
Laster said her program is about giving students an “experience of entrepreneurship.
“I see myself with my own salon,” said Gloria Castillo, 17, who is dual-enrolled in a Lanier Technical College cosmetology course and involved in the Goodwill program through Lanier Charter. “I love working with hair, nails, makeup, all of it, but I really want to be my own boss and help others find jobs. I’m an independent person, and I believe we should have more independent people making their own money. That’s what I want.”