EVERETT — Eight-year-old Jazlynn Chong ran her fingers through her chin-length black hair Wednesday. A flash of gold, pink and blue tinsel glimmered in the vanity lights.
“It looks beautiful,” Jazlynn said with a grin so large her blue braces showed.
Her mother Tracy brought Jazlynn and her younger brother to the Evergreen Beauty College Everett campus for free back-to-school haircuts. The beauty school hosts the event at each of its five campuses every year to give its students extra practice — and give back to the community.
“Evergreen is really community-based,” said Kyle Kennebrew , guest services lead for the Everett location. “They are a family-owned company, and they really strive to give back to the community. They want to instill that in the students they produce here.”
School officials said 166 people received free haircuts, manicures or facials during the three-hour event. That included 109 children’s haircuts, 87 manicures and 96 facials. A line snaked around the building well into the afternoon. Since the pandemic it’s the first “normal” version of a long-held tradition at the college.
Kennebrew said the event was put on hold in 2020 and was modified to be appointment-only in 2021. This year brought families back inside the school en masse.
“It’s starting to feel normal again,” Kennebrew said.
As they waited, families could get their faces painted, fill the parking lot with chalk drawings and play in bubble machines.
“I like that they know you’ll be waiting, so they plan ahead,” said Keeley Imlah, a mother from Arlington. She brought her 8-year-old daughter in for the full beauty treatment. Her daughter requested purple nail polish and a 6-inch trim.
“It’s a great experience for her. She loves it,” Imlah said. “She’s been looking forward to it all week.”
Imlah said she came because she knows a few of the beauticians. She wanted to support their studies with hands-on practice. Other families came to save a buck.
Beauty student Laura Santiago said she expected the day to be a lot like her job at Great Clips.
“We’ll get them in and we’ll get them out,” she said.
By 2 p.m. — two hours into the event — Santiago had given haircuts to three children, including one with an advanced-level request for his fade.
Fellow student Emma Tombs said she expected “a lot of new people at once.” Tombs works at a salon, where she typically has about an hour with each client. On free haircut day, students aim to turn clients every 20 to 40 minutes.
“We do don’t style and we don’t shampoo,” said Jenevieve Wilson, campus director. “We just do haircuts.”
That helps the school reach as many families as possible, Wilson added. The event is first come, first served, with “last call” at 3 p.m.
On the floor, the instructors hop in as needed to support students in a new, fast-paced setting. There is an added challenge working with children who wiggle in their seats or don’t know exactly what cut they want.
Ahead of the event Wednesday, Everett resident Tiffany Rutledge waited outside the building with her two children. She said they came three years ago but ended up at the back of the line. This year, they were first in line around 10:30 a.m.
“I’m too broke, so this is about the only opportunity to get the kids’ haircut,” Rutledge said.
The trio came specifically for Lindsey, 10, to tame the curly brown locks that cascaded down her back.
“She’s trying to be Rapunzel,” quipped her 13-year-old sibling, Chris.
But the kids were excited to find out that they could get manicures, too. Chris, who uses they/them pronouns, said they were excited to freshen up their nails.
“I think I need to,” Chris said, holding up a hand with chipped teal polish.
By the time the Rutledges left the school, Chris and Lindsey sported new haircuts and polish. They also received their first facials.
“We are trying to inspire the youth either to get into the industry or to take care of themselves,” said Michael Lorenzo, an instructor at the school. “Getting them interested when they are young is important. … This is self care.”
Mallory Gruben is a Report for America corps member who writes about education for The Daily Herald.