Nail tech pathway has more to offer than many students realize

Ms. Robin Bridgeforth, nail tech instructor (Photo: Destiny Diggs, Patterson Press)

By Destiny Diggs,

Patterson High School has many career pathways, including nursing , E.M.T., business and financing, pharmacy, law, and nail technology. Nail technology has been run by Robin Bridgeforth for the last thirteen years.

Ms. Bridgeforth has also served as the coordinator of Skills U.S.A  for the last twelve years. Ms. Bridgeforth, a senior cosmetologist,  has been in the cosmetology field since the eighties and has taught at Dudley College, which is named after the Dudley brothers who started a line of African American hair products. After graduating from Western High School and attending Morgan State University, Ms. Bridgeforth went into the cosmetology field and has been doing it for over twenty years. She started off doing hair in a  nursing home and from then on it has come natural to her. She even has her own hair shop.

 In 2000, Ms. Bridgeforth decided to spread her knowledge to Patterson High School students and since then she has help hundreds of students earn nail technology licenses and get employed in nail shops and full service salons. Unfortunately, many students incorrectly believe that when they join the nail tech program, they will only be doing hands on-work.  Many people do not know that nail technology is also about knowing about the nail and what is around it, such as the skin.  Nail techs have to have an understanding  about the human body, including the skin, nails, bones, diseases and disorders. It is not all just hands on.  It is a three-year course but some students complete it in only two years.  Students who apply themselves can have their hours signed off in their junior year instead of their senior year . Like all of the career pathways at Patterson, students start the pathway as tenth graders and continue on till they become seniors.

Every year Ms. Bridgeforth throws her new tenth graders a spa opening event formally known  as “Spa La La grand opening “.  The salon’s grand opening normally opens around October or November. The salon’s menu includes everything from basic manicures to chocolate pedicures. The students will learn basic manicures as well as sculptured nails.  They will practice each new lesson on artificial hands and feet on a regular basis. Once they have gotten the method down they are able to practice on a live person and after they finish they are able to take a picture and save it for their portfolio. They will have to complete the portfolio in their junior and senior year.

The Patterson Press asked Ms. Bridgeforth a few questions about her program.

Patterson Press: What made you want to teach at Patterson?

Ms. Bridgeforth: I wanted to teach in a public school system because I taught in a private school system for so long. I love teaching and I wanted to try teaching in a different environment.

Patterson Press: What made you want to go into the cosmetology field?

Ms. Bridgeforth: I had not planned on being a cosmetologist because I wanted to be a doctor. When I discovered that I didn’t like the sight of blood. I knew I had to consider some other things. I began braiding hair in college and designing hair on the side and I found out that I really enjoyed it and started my own business.

Patterson Press: Do you consider this your passion and life’s work?

Ms. Bridgeforth: Yes I do. I love it.

Patterson Press: Do you plan on going back to an actual cosmetology school?

Ms. Bridgeforth: No.

Patterson Press: What do you think your students will gain out of your program, other then being licensed nail techs?

Ms. Bridgeforth: What I hope they will gain is to increase their confidence and self esteem and the ability to communicate effectively in a professional environment. I hope that they have the opportunity to advance themselves in the cosmetology field and are able to become financially independent as a result of working in the cosmetology field.

Patterson Press:  How do you feel when students are placed in your program and do not want to be there?

Ms. Bridgeforth: I feel it is very unfair to the students to be placed in any program that they do not want to be in, because they’re not going to show any interest and they do not have a passion for doing it. They become a disruption for the other students and occasionally they are very disrespectful because of their frustration of not wanting to be here.

Patterson Press: What type of salon environment do you think is best for your students to be working in?

Ms. Bridgeforth: I think the best environment is one that is professional and supportive and that provides continuing education and financial growth.

Students in the nail technology program will gain many things from being there. They will gain great people skills and learn to be professional. They will learn what they should expect from their job. Unfortunately, some students take this course and many of the other career pathways  for granted they fail to realize that they are getting a class for free that could have cost them thousands of dollars. Ms. Bridgeforth’s program not only does nails but she also has special events such as a spring nail competition. The nail tech class is overlooked and underrated and people think the only thing that the nail techs do are nails. They are sadly mistaken. They also learn about the nails and its structure. Nail techs learn to be responsible, respectable human beings. The cosmetology field is a wonderful field and filled with many talented people, including make up artists, hair stylists and aesthetics and nail techs. I am happy and honored to be a part of this career pathway.

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