Tilting the mannequin's head back, Hugo Martinez wields his gold razor blade around the hairline with the skill of an artist and the focus of a surgeon.
Although only a week into barber classes, he seems less a student, more a professional. Even the razor he's using to practice has his nickname, "Juice Martinez," engraved in script lettering on the wooden handle.
The San Jacinto College cosmetology alumnus is returning to the North Campus this fall to pursue the new barber conversion program. Martinez hopes not only to expand his knowledge and offer more services to clients but also to become his own boss. After earning this extra license, he may open his own salon or barbershop.
"I am constantly evaluating my situation and acting on it," he said. "This is a great fit for me because it allows me to manage my work and lifestyle."
The program teaches shaving, clipper cutting, and men's grooming and facials and prepares students to sit for the state exam to earn a Class A barber conversion license. Students entering the program must already have a valid cosmetology license.
According to North Campus instructors Kristin Harris and Tina Sanchez, the barber program grew from industry need. Cosmetology alumni can return to San Jac to complete the 15 college credits/300 hours to qualify for the state exam. More techniques, accredited courses, and an extra license add up to higher earning potential.
"At San Jac, we lead the industry in continued educational options for those wishing to advance their career," Harris said.
The North and South Campuses boast new cosmetology facilities with state-of-the-art labs and realistic salon settings for instruction and client services. Barber courses are offered from late afternoon to evening, accommodating students' work schedules and any other classes.
Students will learn how to use a straight razor on beards, heads, and necks and do low and high fades and tapering.
"It makes it possible to be more diverse in the different cuts, styles, and options they can do for a customer or for their employer," Sanchez said.
Like Martinez, barber student Skylar Airhart has an entrepreneurial spirit. In middle school, she saw herself one day standing behind a salon chair, cutting hair and chatting with clients.
Although Airhart has stuck to that path, now she's dreaming bigger. After completing the barber program and her second AAS degree, she'll be ready to open a full-service salon.
"I am a proud San Jac student, and I always will be," she said. "I'm so grateful for the opportunity to grow and be the best person I can be."
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