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Colouring communities: How Frontier Collegiate Institute builds confidence

By Danelle Cloutier

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The hairstyling program at Frontier Collegiate Institute in the northern community of Cranberry Portage not only transforms the way students look, but also the way they feel.

“When they come here, they’re so shy — they have hoodies over their face and they don’t want to be seen. By the time they walk out of here they’re walking straight and their hair is done all different colours,” says Glennis Valladares, hairstyling instructor.

“A lot of these students have never been exposed to hairdressers before because they come from such remote communities,” she says. “It’s really, really important to expose them to how to do hair, how to make money, that your hygiene is very important, how to keep your hair looking good, and just bringing their inner beauty out.”

Even though Valladares has been working at the high school full-time for the past three years, she’s always so touched that her students become confident by the end of the program. She particularly notices their assurance at the glamorous hair show she puts on at the end of the year, where her students style the hair, makeup, and clothes of their models. They also walk together down the runway as the audience cheers and snaps photos.

“They’re on stage standing there and they’re smiling from ear to ear and they’re dressed up. It makes me cry every year because these students are so shy,” she says. “When they go out there and they see all this flashy stuff, they actually dance and move and you would never see that anywhere else. To me, that’s what this is all about.”

For two years, Kyla Rajczakowski, 18, was in the hair show. “The last hair show I had two models and I glammed them right up and it’s a good time,” she says with a smile. “Glennis knows how to bring people out of their shells.”

Rajczakowski is a Grade 12 student in the hairstyling program who’s gaining hours toward her apprenticeship.

Hairstyling instructor Glennis Valladares and students at Skills Manitoba.
Hairstyling instructor Glennis Valladares and students at Skills Manitoba.

The hairstyling program at Frontier Collegiate Institute has just been accredited. The 30 students in the program from 25 northern communities in Manitoba can work in the industry once they complete their 1,400 hours.

Now that the program is accredited, Valladares says it will give her students an even bigger boost.

“It’s good for the students’ self-esteem to say, well ‘hey, if I can’t go to university, I have a career. I have my career already’ because a lot of these students will not go out of their communities. They’re too shy.”

Before the new hairstyling studio and classroom was built, Valladares could only teach braiding and updos.  The school now hosts 14 haircutting stations, three sinks, and hooded dryers.  As a result, Valladares can teach her students how to wash, cut and dry hair.

“We didn’t have the water facilities so it was one big empty room with nothing but tables in there,” says Valladares, who for three years taught the program part-time in that empty room. Now, students are learning hairstyling to industry standard — a sign that the program is only improving.

For more information about the hairstyling program at Frontier Collegiate Institute, contact principal Dodie Johnston at dodie.johnston@frontiersd.mb.ca, or 204-472-3431.

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