KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo Valley Community College will open a new cosmetology and barber school, the university announced in a news release.

KVCC Provost Paige Eagan said the new school is a response to feedback from the local community.

“With the increased student inquiries and community partners interested in filling a local need, we considered this new educational endeavor,” Eagan stated. “Over the past decade, the college has focused on the connection of food-health-wellness, and this is a reasonable next step in providing programs that could help our community positively move the needle on various social determinants of health.”

Courses will start being offered in the Fall 2024 semester. The school is not expected to operate on a typical credit-credential program but use protocols for state licensing. That includes 400-hour training programs for estheticians and nail technicians, a 1,500-hour cosmetology training program and an 1,800-hour barbering training program. KVCC also hopes to use that training to help students toward an Associate’s or Applied Science degree in salon management.

The new school is welcoming news to Jerome Lenzy, a KVCC graduate and barber at Rob’s Barbershop on Vine Street in Kalamazoo.

“When I got done with school, it was a little complicated … You’ve got to jump through a couple of hoops. Ultimately, if you know what you’re doing and you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, you can get it done,” he explained. “I think (the new school) is a good thing.”

Same for Lalonie Willhite, who was a recipient of the Kalamazoo Promise and now owns The Dream of Kalamazoo on Burdick Street. She added that schools like KVCC’s are an educational opportunity when it comes to culturally diverse families and household dynamics.

“African American culture, of course, we grew up in a home where we were able to learn how to do hair … my mom, my grandmother, they all knew how to do hair. So there really wasn’t any cultural barriers for us really learning how to do hair because we grew up in it. That’s what we do,” said Willhite.

But for families with other cultural dynamics, such as with foster care or adoption, Willhite said cosmetology schools such as KVCC’s or the Dream of Kalamazoo Foundation, which provides free hair care services to youth in the foster and adoption system, can help.

“It’s not necessarily a cultural barrier between African Americans, but it’s a cultural barrier between other cultures who don’t know anything about hair, right? So, I think that having this opportunity here in Kalamazoo is going to be really great for family dynamics just like that,” Willhite said. “It gives people a space to come in there and learn from hair professionals that are hair schoolteachers who know their craft.”

Classes are expected to be taught on the college’s Texas Township Campus on West O Avenue. The facility includes nearly 10,000 square feet of lab space to be renovated to meet the program’s needs.

Aaron Hilliard, KVCC’s vice president for human resources, says the next step is to get staff in place, including a program director, full-time trainers and several part-time positions.

Anyone interested in getting involved in the new program is encouraged to attend an information session on Nov. 6. That will run from 6 to 7 p.m. in Room 4240 on KVCC’s Texas Township Campus. For more information, visit KVCC’s website.