Meridian Cosmetology Students and Perry Public Schools Partnership Benefits Students at Both Schools


Stillwater Cosmetology student Grace Riggs performs a haircut on a Perry student during a recent community service event. Cosmetology instructor Sue Ann Paine reviews Rigg's work.

Story provided by Meridian Technology Center

From trims to total makeovers, Cosmetology students from Meridian Technology Center helped more than 20 Perry students get a new look.  

As a part of Perry Public Schools’ ongoing community benefit projects, the district recently partnered with Meridian to provide free haircuts to students.  

Lauren Smith, the Climate Coordinator for Perry Public Schools, works closely with students, families and community partners to develop programs that help students and families succeed.  

“As a district, we’re always up for ideas on how to meet needs,” she said. “It’s always a question of what can we do as a district to benefit our students? What resources do we need, and what difference can we make?” 

In this situation, Smith saw a need, and she knew exactly what her next steps needed to be.  

As an alumnus of Meridian’s Practical Nursing program, Smith was already familiar with the scope of services the school had available.  

“It really came together easier than I imagined,” Smith recalled. “We discussed the details, decided on the date and started promoting it.” 

While this is the first time Perry Public Schools has coordinated an event like this, Smith anticipates it won’t be the last. 

“I’d love to be able to do this more than once a year. I think once people learn more about it, we will have even more kids come out,” she said.  

Giving and Gaining 

Meridian students were able to give and get with this community service project.  

Following extensive coursework that focuses on theory and application as well as skills training on manikins, students in the Cosmetology program typically gain hands-on experience working with clients through the school’s full-service salon. Due to COVID-19 precautions over the last year, students had limited opportunities to work with clients.  

When Smith reached out to Cosmetology instructors Sue Ann Paine and Malena Curtsinger the two instantly knew it would be something their students would want to do.  

“It was a quick yes,” Paine said. “Not only for us but for our students.” 

Alivia Spitz volunteered to help to gain more experience working with younger clients.  

“We really don’t have a lot of little kids come into the salon,” the Stillwater High School student explained. “I knew this might be one of the few times I’d get to work with kids. I wasn’t sure how it would go. I was a little nervous about it because sometimes little kids will squirm during haircuts. Today, though, everyone was great.” 

Stillwater student Justice Courtney was eager to volunteer and noted the personal satisfaction that came with working with the young clients.   

“I really enjoyed seeing the smiles on the little kids’ faces when they saw their new cut,” she said. “That’s been the most rewarding part of today; just seeing how happy everyone is.” 

While students performed the actual haircuts, Paine and Curtsinger supervised each cut and provided guidance and assistance to students, similar to the process that takes place in the salon.  

“When walking around and checking the students’ work, I could see them become more comfortable,” Curtsinger commented. “By the end of the day, several of them even commented how confident they felt. As an instructor, that’s what you hope for.” 

In addition to gaining valuable experience working with customers, students are able to use this opportunity to count toward the program’s graduation requirements. High school students must complete 1,000 hours of training before they can take the Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology licensing exam. Adult students must complete 1,500 training hours.  

Students who volunteered for this project include daytime Cosmetology students Grace Riggs, Orlando; Lilyan Blakey, Pawnee; George Chantnacran, Perry; and Stillwater students Justice Courtney, Kirsten Rouser, Alivia Spitz, Gracelynn Bowen, Megan Comstock and Vanesa Bedolla. Evening Cosmetology student Christian Savory, Ripley, also assisted.  

To learn more about partnering with Perry Public Schools on community service projects, contact Lauren Smith at (580) 336-2577 or l.smith@perry.k12.ok.us. For information on any of Meridian’s career training programs please visit meridiantech.edu/programs.  

Meridian Technology Center has been a driver of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time career training programs, short courses, workforce and economic development assistance and entrepreneurial support to residents from the Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater school districts. Meridian is one of 29 schools within Oklahoma’s CareerTech system.