By Mike Lewis
By Mike Lewis
Every weekday, students of the Riverside Community College Cosmetology program work to perfect their cutting, clipping and manicuring skills.
With over 240 female students perfecting their new trade, only nine students are male. One of the nine is Raul Canizales.
Despite overwhelming odds, Canizales is happy learning how to perfect what he loves to do.
“Listening to music is what got me into the hair dressing because when you’re into music you look at the hair dressing and hairstyles,” Canizales said. “I started doing my own hair in eighth grade. I bought my first set of clippers and started doing my dad, brothers and then friends. It’s showing your artistic side to people.”
Canizales came to the RCC Cosmetology program because he wanted to get his state license and learn from the best.
“We have the highest passage rate of any school in California.” Roger Warren, the Cosmetology programs department chair said.
Most RCC students have part time jobs in addition to attending classes but for the students in the Cosmology program, class is a full- time job in itself. The program, which last 11 months, starts at eight a.m. and runs through 4:30 p.m. with only a thirty minute lunch break. Students have two hours of classroom instruction, followed by six hours of practical hands on experience.
In addition to the heavy work loads, the program can quickly become costly. Canizales received most of his $1,000 tuition and supply costs from financial aid, parents and his previous job, but staying on top of the supplies and tuition is always an up hill battle.
“Each grade you have to buy more and more equipment. About $100 to $200 minimum, but it’s the cheapest school around compared to private schools,” Canizales said.
Although most cosmetology students have regular jobs, Canizales focuses only on his classes.
“School is all day and if I was to get a job that would be too stressful. I wouldn’t be able to handle that very well,” Canizales said. “I thought cosmetology would be easy, but it’s a lot of hard work.”
Canizales enjoyed cutting his own hair but never considered it as a career until after he tried general education classes at RCC.
“My dad saw I wasn’t doing so well on the main campus. You should be doing something you like, he would say,” Canizales said.
When Canizales decided to start the program his family was supportive.
“My sisters thought ‘Oh, free haircuts!’ My family supports me all the way,” Canizales said.
Working while going to college is not the only problem Canizales and the other males face.
Cosmetology is traditionally a female profession. Canizales is one of nine male students in the program which can be challenging in a class with over 240 females. “It’s like living with a bunch of your sisters, you kinda get used to it but sometimes you gotta fight back.”
Despite the inevitable drama, Canizales says everyone usually gets along. “We get close enough to tell each other to stop doing that or stop doing this,’ Canizales said. “Were together a whole year so we might as well get used to each other.” Despite all their differences, the students still manage to help each other through the program.
“Being girls they know more than us, but they are very supportive and help us out,” Canizales said.
“One of the biggest hurdles the guy’s have when starting out is not catching on as quickly as the girls do, but when they catch on there’re usually better,” Warren said. “It’s like a blank canvas with no bad habits.”
After completing the program, Canizales hopes to put his artistic skills to work in a professional setting, and make his way through the competitive industry.
“After I finish cosmetology I’m going to take barber classes in San Bernardino which is a different line from cosmetology,” Canizales said. “A barber focuses more on guys with razors and comb-overs. After that work in a barber shop or salon, whichever comes first.”
Canizales has big dreams and Warren has faith that he will achieve them.
“The neat thing about Raul is that he’s learning he’s OK,” said Warren. “He’s going to be just fine, and he’s going to make a million bucks in this industry.”