Over the years, students have come to question; why is cosmetology not offered at LHS anymore? This program provided a way for students to become certified right out of high school with a low cost under $500.00 for their starter kit. Mitzi Riddle owns and runs Freestyle Academy with her husband Scott Riddle.
“Lebanon High School dropped the J. Everett Light program about nine years ago due to transportation and gas prices. They never brought the program back when the gas prices became better. However, they kept Freestyle Academy going after they dropped J. Everett Light because it was local and they did not have to bus people. Later, Lebanon High Schools student enrollment dropped drastically. It fell so much during this period of time that they lost funding and could not send the girls to the Freestyle Academy. After this happened we knew it was going to be hard to get Lebanon back involved with cosmetology,” said Mitzi Riddle.
Principal Mr. O’Rourke agreed about it mainly being a budget issue.
“The main thing that I want you to know is that cosmetology is a really good program. Mitzi Riddle and the Freestyle Academy are both excellent. A few years ago, financially as a corporation, our central office had to make decisions on what we can afford to offer. It had nothing to do with the program; it was just a finical decision. J. Everett Light as a whole has many great programs and cosmology falls under one of them,” said Mr. O’Rourke.
LHS does offer different types of career paths that are not associated with J. Everett Light.
“Some that come to my mind are firefighting, law enforcement, E.M.T. and a lot of other programs our students are interested in. It gets really expensive and we have to pay the tuition for the kids to go,” said Mr. O’Rourke.
Not only did the program teach all there is to know about hair; it taught students how a real-world business works. The program has helped with higher self-esteem, public speaking, and teamwork with coworkers and clients.
“Lebanon High School cannot do everything but we wanted to allow our students to do as much as possible. One of the things as a school our size that I am proud of is all the opportunities that we do have; we personally try to meet the needs of every student, but it just is not possible. This year we added the CNA Program and roughly thirty of the forty students became certified. We have the precision machining program where we have kids involved with computer numerical control machining; we have many more programs like building trades, business, culinary, health careers, and wielding. There are so many things offered and we just cannot do it all; I am sure there are some students that would love to have the cosmetology program and I understand that; we just cannot offer it right now,” said Mr. O’Rourke.
LHS facility and administration work hard to do the most they can with their current budget.
“We need to figure out the biggest needs and where we can provide the biggest opportunities as possible. One lens we have looked through is how many students use the program after high school. We spend quite the money to send a student to a program for them to use after high school. If we are going to invest the money into their future, we hope that they will continue growing in that field,” said Mr. O’Rourke.
During Riddle’s final year running the program with LHS, eighteen girls from LHS had enrolled.
“This is a highly wanted program. There are a lot of girls interested in the program and it saves so much money for the girls in the future. I think that it is a great loss losing all of the programs, not just mine involved with J Everett Light,” said Riddle.
Girls from many different schools surrounding LHS go to learn at Freestyle Academy.
“Cosmetology was one of those fields that a lot of students did but were not going into the profession. Students enjoyed learning about cosmetology and it seems like a lot of fun but they were not using it as a career. For so many of our students to get their license; they just were not using it. We try to balance it all; who knows it is a great program and we might add it back in the future,” said Mr. O’Rourke.
Current students attending that Freestyle Academy believed that it has offered them a gateway to more independence. It has also taught them how to adult and gain responsibility.
“I feel like it was mostly a money situation. They started talking about the new superintendent and have mentioned bringing the program back. Since LHS would have a new person maybe they could find a way to budget the cosmetology program back in; who knows they might be able to budget the program in for the year of 2022,” said Riddle.
This leads to a new question; will the new superintendent bring cosmetology back?