I'm looking forward to the graduation in October of a great student - one I never had the privilege of teaching.

Juliet Zinke is a senior at Tucson College of Beauty. I was the guinea pig for the first haircut she ever gave on curly hair.

To understand how that came about, I take you back to February, when I was having a bite at a neighborhood cafe. The server, Juliet, age 41, sported a spiky, snappy cut, perfect for her petite build. I just had to ask her where she got it done.

"I did it myself," was the reply. "Waitressing is a part-time job. I'm actually a full-time student at TCOB."

I was impressed that this talented woman had gone back to school to begin a new career. I also thought that if she could do such a professional job on her own hair, imagine what she could do on mine. I called the school and set up an appointment.

As she washed, conditioned and towel-dried my hair, Juliet gave me a glimpse into her background.

She inherited the ability to work in this field from her grandmother Irene, who was a cosmetologist for many years. Today, at age 91, Grandma Irene still does cuts and styling for the family.

Before deciding that she wanted to follow in Grandma's footsteps, Juliet held a variety of jobs, including nail tech, barista and even saleswoman at a car dealership. None of those jobs ever felt like more than a means to an end.

"I decided to go to beauty school because I wanted to do something I loved, not just something to help me get by," Juliet said. She also decided that it's never too late to learn and grow. At age 40, she enrolled in beauty school.

Since most of the other students are younger than her children, Juliet is often seen as a mother figure.

"Many of the girls in my class ask my opinion about everything from peer pressure to questions about day-to-day living," she said.

Juliet has learned a lot at TCOB. Cuts, color, perms, makeup, nails and even skin care are all part of the curriculum. She praised her instructors, who not only have knowledge and experience but really care about the students, preparing them to take their state boards.

Soon it was time for Juliet to cut my overgrown mop of wild, curly hair. Opening her box of hair essentials, Juliet confided that this was to be her first haircut ever on curly hair.


I will admit that a slight shiver went through me as possible catastrophic outcomes raced through my mind: everything from a lopsided cut to a Mohawk!

Then the teacher in me took over. Haven't I always said that students have to be given an opportunity to showcase their abilities?

Someone has to let his or her child be in the class of a first-year teacher. Someone has to give a chance to a graduating senior in the dental or medical field. And someone has to be the first person to allow a beauty school student to perform a cut on curly hair.

I decided that this person would be me. If Juliet could coax my unruly mane into submission, she was ready for the world.

She picked up the scissors and began. Conversation was put on hold, as every bit of energy and concentration went into clipping, trimming and texturizing her way through my hair.

When she was done, I cautiously gave myself a 360-degree turn in the mirror. Bravo! I had just gotten a high-end salon haircut for a fraction of the price. Much more important was the look of satisfaction on Juliet's face. Fait accompli … a job well done.

I will have my last haircut with Juliet at TCOB in mid-October. After that she will finish reading the final few chapters in her textbook and study for some tests. Within a few weeks of graduation it will be time for state boards and, finally, the most challenging thing of all - finding her niche in the world of beauty.

It's a good feeling to know I played even a small part in her future. As soon as Juliet lands that perfect job, one thing is for sure: There will be lots more great hair days in Tucson!

Freelance writer Barbara Russek welcomes comments at Babette2@comcast.net