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CWC's Brains & Beauty

Austin BeckDoss, Staff Writer | Riverton Ranger | November 22, 2023


Amya Whelan and fellow cosmetology student Jenna DeClue. Photo by Sarah Elmquist Squires

Amya Whelan convinced her fellow cosmetology student Jenna DeClue to give her a haircut last week. The pair both said they’ve felt the calling for the field for years. “I always wanted to do this my whole life,” DeClue said of cosmetology. “I wanted to make others feel the way Idid whenever I got something done,” added Whelan. Photo by Sarah Elmquist Squires

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the clinic floor of Central Wyoming College’s Cosmetology program is abuzz with aspiring hair technicians and estheticians engaging with real-world clients. Instructors Pamela Capron and Tracy Wright are on hand to facilitate growth, but the students truly learn on the job.

The students working in the salon are in the advanced stages of the program. After a semester of classroom courses including “Science of Hair Removal,” “Small Business Management,” and “Infection Control,” they begin hands-on practice with mannequins and peers. Soon, the focus shifts to experiential training. “We’re right there alongside the students through every treatment and haircut,” said Wright. “They’ll leave here fully prepared to go off on their own.”

Upon graduation from the 15-month program, students receive an Associate of Applied Science degree, which encompasses training in barbering, esthetics, and nails. Shorter two- and three-semester certificate tracks are available to those who choose to specialize in one of the three disciplines.

“A new class of about 25 students enrolls every fall,” said Capron, who is also the program’s director. “Groups tend to become quite close by the time they reach the clinic floor.”

While helping one student apply color treatment to a client’s hair, Capron fielded a variety of questions from other working students. One inquired about the difference between two similar shades of nail polish, while another asked about eyelash curling technique. Capron answered and reassured each, still carefully folding foil around locks of hair.

After building a solid foundation of essential abilities, Caprin and Wright guide students according to their unique interests.

“It’s been exciting to see how all of our peers have grown,” said Jenna DeClue, an advanced student in her final semester of the program. “Some love doing color while others are focusing on waxing. We’ve all developed specialties.”

After graduation in December, Amya Whelan plans to open up her own salon business on the Wind River Reservation. “There aren’t any salon services out there currently, and I want to make others feel the way I did whenever I got something done,” she said. 

Like Whelan and DeClue, most students in the program grew up in Fremont County. Family members and friends are often enlisted as stand-in models. For developing students, these close connections serve as the perfect bridge between mannequins and paying walk-in customers. 

Marilyn Bash, a student from Lander, frequently brings her sister Abby into the salon to fine-tune her skills and practice tricky treatments. Growing up, Bash would sometimes spend mornings doing her siblings’ hair after their mother left early for work or for special occasions. “It was like bonding,” she recalled. “I’ve always liked makeup and hair and being pretty, but my mom was the one who got me to actually go for it,” she said of enrolling in the program.

The cosmetology salon is housed in CWC’s Professional-Technical Center, and shares a building with the welding and automotive programs. Compared to most private salons, the cost of services at CWC is significantly discounted; manicures are $10, and a full set of acrylic nails is $25.

“I’ve wanted to be in this industry since I was a little girl,” said DeClue. “Now that I’ve had all this practice, I’m not scared to do it.”

The CWC salon and its services are open to the general public, but the hours vary and appointments must be scheduled ahead of time. The salon will be off on break from December 8 to January 16, but when they reopen, get a new look by calling 307-855-2326 to schedule. Visit to learn more about the program.