You'll get beauty for a bargain at Mt. Hood Community College's cosmetology program, where students learn the ropes of the salon business
Tucked into one corner of Mt. Hood Community College's main square, the orange neon sign shines from the windows: 'Beauty School.' Inside, the salon bustles with activity.
A woman settles in for a permanent. A girl giggles as four workers show her how long, dark brown hair extensions could spice up her look. A student sits patiently under heat lamps as another student paints her acrylic nails into a perfect French manicure.
It looks and runs just like the numerous other salons in the East Multnomah County area, with one exception. It's a teaching salon, where the 40 or so students working toward cosmetology degrees are perfecting the art of the square-back bob, the four-layer facial and lash and brow coloring.
Clients benefit with prices far below what salons charge. A one-hour haircut and style runs $7. A two-hour permanent costs $25. A manicure costs $10. A facial runs from $18 to $30.
Because of customer demand and the popularity of the program (it's the only public college program in the Portland-metro area), hours recently have been expanded. The salon is now open days and evenings, partly to accommodate the school's non-traditional students. Those who have children get first preference on shifts that meld with their childcare setup.
Charisse Green is a married mother of three who will graduate in June. She chose Mt. Hood's program because she liked the concept of achieving her associate's degree along with her cosmetology license.
'I wanted a degree,' Green said.
The 29-year-old Portland resident said she loves the college program and has learned the most there, despite working in salons since she was a teen.
'I didn't know how to do white (people's) hair,' Green said, adding that she has reciprocated by letting many of the students practice on her African American hair so they can learn how to work with ethnic locks.
'It's not the same; color and chemical relaxants work differently on different people,' she said. 'You can do a lot to white people's hair, and they'll still have hair, but you do that to us and our hair will break or fall out. I feel now like I could work on anybody who walked through my door.'
Green also appreciates the college's three-tiered program. Each student must learn how to do hair, nails and esthetics (skin care) and will graduate with a license to do all three services.
The soon-to-graduate student is already looking ahead to opening her own salon in North Portland, where many areas are undergoing revitalization.
'I've been working for others since I was 14,' she said. 'I want to be my own boss; I want to do things my way.'
Joy Ferry is one of five part-time instructors at the school (there are also three full-time instructors and a director). She said Mt. Hood's program stands out because of the three areas of instruction, and because the school requires the most hours of any school in the state - 2,300 must be logged for the degree and license.
'We also really emphasize what students are going to do after graduation,' she said. 'We take them on a salon field trip, where they visit several salons of their choice and ask questions and figure out what they're comfortable with. With salons, there's such a huge variety of environments they can work in.'
Tiffany Dyal, 23, already has her sights set on Roberts of Portland, an upscale salon in the John's Landing area of Portland, where she's applied for a six-month apprenticeship. If she gets it, she'll be guaranteed a job afterward.
'I feel confident in my abilities because of my education and because of my determination and my drive,' the Troutdale resident said. 'I've been wanting to do this since I was 12.'
A married mother of a 4-year-old daughter, Dyal also has appreciated Mt. Hood's flexible program and hours.
Both Dyal and Green received financial aid that helped them complete the program without going into a lot of debt.
Ferry said all kinds of clients come to the salon to get haircuts, up-dos for high school dances or weddings, styling for special occasions, beard and goatee trims, color treatments and body waxing.
'We do tell people it will take a little longer than other salons,' she said. 'We are a teaching salon.'
But Ferry said they've never had a full-fledged disaster.
'There's always two instructors consulting before anything is done,' she said. 'And I always say, 'there's nothing that can't be fixed.' '
What: The Mt. Hood Community College cosmetology program and beauty school
Where: 26000 S.E. Stark St., Room 1127
Hours: From 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and from 3:15 to 8:45 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and 5:30 to 8:45 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
For an appointment: Call 503-491-7192.
For more information on the cosmetology program: Call Juanita Loveland at 503-491-7499 or visit the Web site at www.mhcc.edu.