Studio RLC graduates talk shop about program experiences

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Studio RLC provides students with some of their first real world experiences in beauty and haircare.


Several recent graduates from the Rend Lake College cosmetology, barber and esthetics program agree that the profession is about more than meets the scissors.

It’s not just about hair, it’s about the transformative experience.

Studio RLC helps students learn from expert instructors the ins and outs of the cosmetic industry. Located at the RLC MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon, Studio RLC provides hands-on experience with real clients as they fine-tune their skillset.

"We are fielding a lot of interest across all certificate programs offered through Studio RLC for Fall of 2021 start date.  The Nail Technology program will run again this Fall for the first time in several years and our esthetics program enrollment continues to grow each year.  Prospective students should know that all programs through Studio RLC, including Cosmetology and Barber, can be completed in 11 months or less.  This keeps our programs relevant and in demand in these times."

Students at Studio RLC perform a variety of services including hairstyling, nail care and facials while learning other important lessons that will suit them in the professional world. Registration begins on April 1 for the Fall 2021 semester. Students interested in cosmetology, barber, esthetics and nail technology are also invited to join in on a virtual open house on April 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. over Zoom.

Studio RLC graduate Natalie Shurtz is a third generation cosmetologist in Benton who works in a salon with her mother. She had earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and worked as a dance instructor when she decided to enroll at RLC to complete cosmetology license.

Shurtz said the thing she likes most about her job is getting the chance to brighten someone’s day. 

“You can make someone else smile by doing the littlest of things,” the 2020 graduate said. “It’s a lot like therapy for a lot of people. You don’t really realize until you do it but a lot of people open up to you.”

Mallorie English, a 2017 graduate from Benton, had an interest in working in an area other than hair. She was part of the inaugural group of students in Studio RLC’s Esthetics program. 

“It was kind of meant to be,” English said. “What I learned about has to do with in-depth knowledge of skin, the muscles in the face, the different skin types and conditions. We learned how to understand your skin and other people’s skin. Not everyone is the same.”

English said being able to grow her clientele is one of her favorite things about working in her industry.

“The kind of person you are is like the type of cliente who are attracted to you,” she said. “You get to know everything about them. If you are outgoing, then at the time same you are helping to get to them where they want to be in life.”

In 2018, Joe Swallers opened Barber Shop 154 in Sesser, two months after he graduated from RLC with his license. He wanted his shop to resemble the traditional experience that he enjoyed when he was younger and would visit a shop with his grandfather and father.

“I always thought that was pretty cool,” Swaller said. “You don’t see that stuff anymore so that is something I wanted to bring back.”

Swallers said the atmosphere of cutting hair in a barber shop is not much different than a salon. The only real difference is the topics that are discussed.

“The same stuff that goes on in the salons goes on in the barber shops,” he said. “I will let out the secret. It’s the same, except we are talking about guys’ stuff instead of girls' stuff.”

Paige Tufts, a 2013 RLC alumna who owns Element Salon in Mt. Vernon, thought she wanted to become a nurse but switched to cosmetology when she saw she could complete the certificate in less than a year.

Tufts said her business allows her to learn something new everyday.

“My favorite thing about it is making people’s day,” Tufts said. “I can make them happy. Color is probably my favorite thing to do when it comes to being behind the chair. I can make a difference. That is my favorite thing about it.”

Tufts encourages anyone thinking about a career in cosmetology to invest the time to continue learning long after the work in the classroom is completed.

“Stick with it,” she said. “The hardest part is building your clientele. Get with the right resources whether it is another stylist, watch Instagram or Facebook and learn as much as you can about marketing yourself. Do the best that you can to get your name out there.”

English said she recommends enrolling Studio RLC because the staff is always willing to help students succeed, even after they have graduated.

“It is an amazing facility,” English said. “They are very awesome. I recommend the program to people all the time.”

Swallers said he continues to practice many of the lessons he learned during his time at Studio RLC, including the importance of cleanliness and greeting each person as soon as they walk through the door.

“You don’t have to go to a big city,” Swaller said. “You don’t have to travel super far away or leave home to learn the basics. It is just like anything else in life. You could go to school for however long you want to go for whatever profession you choose but you are not going to learn the ins and outs of that profession until you get hands on. This program basically gives you the guidelines and the tools you need to be successful if you apply them and you pay attention to what you are taught.”

Shurtz said she would suggest anyone thinking about a new career path in cosmetology to dive right in.

“No matter how you are or how old you may be it is definitely an experience,” she said. “If it is something that you want to do, then do it. It’s 11 months out of your life. Do it. It’s worth it.”

Studio RLC clinic floor is reopening to the public on March 16. Call 618-242-8459 to set up an appointment.

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