Dragon Cuts

Alyssa Blattner was preparing last week to apply a facial for a customer at Nacogdoches High School’s Dragon Cuts. Already an hour after classes let out for the day, Alyssa and 15 other seniors are in the NHS cosmetology department, tending to paying customers who routinely visit for haircuts and other salon services.

The students are part of a program that will provide them with an opportunity to get their state licensing to work in any salon in Texas. And for many of the girls, that’s just the start.

“I want to enter into retail and sell makeup, then come up with my own brand,” said Alyssa, who’s been interested this kind of work since sixth-grade.

Dragon Cuts is a full-service salon, said NHS cosmetology teacher Jan Holland. She had her own salon in Douglass for 25 years before being contacted about taking over the NHS program. Holland jumped at the chance and has held the post since January 2012.

The school’s cosmetology history goes back even farther; it has been in place in one form or another since around 1977, Holland said.

The current format has students enter the program as sophomores and complete the 1,500-hour course (500 of those hours come from academic classes). That allows students to compile enough hours to qualify for the state’s rigorous licensing exam by the end of their senior year.

The test is not easy, Holland said. Statewide, only 52 percent pass on their first attempt. Last year, 11 Nacogdoches High School students taking the exam had their license as they walked across the stage.

The extra hours on Tuesday afternoons allow students to get enough time in to qualify for the exam, usually sometime during the spring semester of their senior year.

Salon services are provided 1-3 p.m. on weekdays, but that extends to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Katherine Whitbeck, NHS Student Council advisor, was in the salon Tuesday afternoon and has been coming to Dragon Cuts for years… “a faithful customer,” Holland called her. But it’s not just teachers and other school employees coming by… members of the community take advantage for the services, too.

Prices charged are low, Holland said – for example, a haircut is $5 – but the students cannot be paid for their work. They can receive tips, so the fees set by NHS cover materials and products used in the salon but are low enough to encourage a gratuity for the student.

Students taking the course hope to put their experience to work. “I’d like to get my own salon,” Cinthya Galvan said Wednesday.

The experience saves students money when seeking their state licensing. “It’s a fraction of the cost,” Holland said, “not over $1,000 for the whole program.” Elsewhere, tuition at private cosmetology schools can top $20,000 or more, she said.

Juniors and seniors in the program participate in cosmetology contests, such as Skills USA. For seven straight years, students from Nacogdoches High School advanced to state competition in Texas.

On Saturday, the group was at Raguet Elementary School’s color fun run in Pecan Park to help with face-painting. “We’re really big about ‘paying it forward,’” Holland said.

Holland’s students also provide some services free of charge, recently providing makeovers to some graduates of the Christian Women’s Job Corps class, Holland said. And social workers often call about students that just need a little help with their appearance.




Cinthya Galvan applies a facial to a customer at Nacogdoches High School’s Dragon Cuts salon. Galvan is a senior in the program, which provides a full-service salon that’s used by school employees and the general public.


Ana Rameriz works on nails at Nacogdoches High School’s Dragon Cuts salon. Rameriz is one of 16 seniors that work in the salon.

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