Pretty for Prom

April 2, 2016


JCCC cosmetology students volunteer time, talents to special prom guests

Rita’s chestnut-brown hair towered high on her head, the tumbling curls sequestered in place by clips of glittering butterflies. It was prom night, and Rita was getting the full treatment – hair, makeup and manicure.

But she was having a hard time sitting still. She kept turning back to look at her friend, also getting her nails done. Her face appeared just like a spring day in Kansas – one minute bright and sunny, the next clouded and serious. When she looked at her friend, she was aglow with happiness. When she looked to her hands, she stilled, lost in concentration as the fuchsia enamel coated her fingernails.

Rita was one of the customers served by the cosmetology students of Johnson County Community College. The students donate their time each year the day of the Down Syndrome Guild’s annual prom night.

This year, more than 700 dressed-up dancers flocked to the Overland Park Convention Center for a circus-themed celebration. About 40 of them made a stop at 9780 W. 87th Street, Overland Park (where the JCCC cosmetology program is located), to get beautiful beforehand.

JCCC cosmetology students have been doing this “for years and years,” said Meghan Hinojosa, associate professor of cosmetology. As a graduate of the program herself, Hinojosa said she’s proud of the way the students give back to the community. In addition to work with the DSG, JCCC cosmetology students help with special-needs students in the Olathe School District, select Alzheimer’s patients and children awaiting foster-care placement.

“We teach a soft-skills program called Salon Success,” Hinojosa said. “We need to prepare our students to the diversity that’s out there so they’re prepared to succeed in all situations.”

LaTashia Williams, a JCCC cosmetology student, drew on her training and her own experiences with Hannah McConville.

Hannah, 16, doesn’t like to have her hair touched. “It’s probably been only the last two years since we can brush it without her screaming,” said her mother, Brenda McConville. “When she was younger and I had to wash her hair, she would scream and scream. In the spring, summer, with the windows open, I was afraid someone would report me for child abuse, the way she screamed.”

So curling Hannah’s hair for prom was not going to be a “typical” experience. But you wouldn’t have known that by the results. Cascading blond ringlets framed Hannah’s smiling face as she left Williams’ chair.

“My son has sensory issues, too,” Williams said. “I know what it’s like…When she started getting agitated, I just walked away and said, ‘OK, we’re going to take a break.’”

A few minutes later, Williams returned with some glittery butterfly clips – the same kind that floated in Rita’s up-do.

“They have glitter on one side, rough to the touch, so she just sat there rubbing the rough side while I finished up,” Williams said. “My son, he’s got a Velcro strip under his desk. It’s something about the rough surface that calms them down.”

Little moments like that are what Hinojosa loves about cosmetology. “It’s such a rewarding career,” she said. “We have the ability to make people feel good. How great is that?”

For more information about the cosmetology program at JCCC, contact Lana Hodes, cosmetology coordinator, at 913-469-8500 ext. 4726.