Cassandra Clancy

Cassandra Clancy

Students get a head start

District 63 secondary students are a cut above the rest



Mannequins in various states of hairdo sit on shelves at each station.

Tools of the trade are laid out, blow drier, flat iron, combs and scissors.

Professional and polite, a young man looks up from a head of wetted hair he’s working on. He smiles and says hello.

Adele belting out Rolling in the Deep comes piping through the air, and lunch break is officially over.

Welcome to Studio 63.

Gone are the primary colours of an elementary classroom. Students flood back into the space now transformed into a teaching salon at what was Saanichton school. These students are getting a head start on their careers through a partnership between the Saanich School District and Vancouver Island University.

The 16 workers are set to be stylists by high school graduation.

“It’s an apprenticeship program,” explained career program teacher Colleen McNamee. “The goal is at the end of the year, the student write the Industry Training Authority exam and they become certified.”

The students come from across the school district, including Stelly’s, Parkland and Claremont secondary schools, to participate in the year-long program.

“This is part of their curriculum, it’s part of their graduation package,” McNamee explained.

They’ve endured an application process that includes an interview, and attend classes Monday through Thursday with theory in the morning and practical work in the afternoon.

“We have expectations, we treat them as professionals,” explained instructor Anastasia Antoniadis.

Fridays and Saturdays are slated for work-based training days; expect to see them in an established salon.

Lessons come from multiple textbooks and Antoniadis teaching everything from roller sets to the business of running a salon.

“We teach pivot point, a system from the US,” Antoniadis said, explaining it’s an international method. “They can take what they learn and travel in 73 countries.”

Many hope to work in a salon, own a salon, or work toward the future with stylist being the first career stop.

“I really want to get into hairdressing and that field,” said Kelsey Green, a Stelly’s student. “If I want to pursue a career in something else, I always have this. This is what I want to do right now.”

Cassandra Clancy’s mom found the program through the school district while the Parkland student was away on a trip. One phone call explaining the process and she was hooked.

“I really enjoy it,” she said with a smile.

“Not only is it hands-on but you also get to learn theory and textbook. You also get to watch videos and how other people do it. And you get to go to shows … and see how professionals do it,” Clancy said.

While a salon may be in her future, Clancy too is utilizing the early start on a career as a step toward future goals.

“I really want to go into doing special effects for movies, so I plan on doing the makeup course after school,” she said.

Tyler Toppazzini — the professional young man from earlier — always had a passion for fashion, but his interest in hair goes back to his grandmother.

“I knew I wanted to go into fashion and she inspired me to go into hair,” he explained.

“It’s (a) good (program) because it gives people that opportunity to graduate high school with their education already so they can start in the career force earlier,” Toppazzini said. “They teach us how to act professionally and how to act in the salon with your clients, as well as how to cut hair, perm and colour.”