2015 Excellence in Education Spotlight: Paul Mitchell the School Esani, Beauty Changes Lives Honoree

MODERN SALON's Excellence in Education annual recognition program celebrates leading cosmetology schools, highlighting innovative programs and best practices in eight categories and two divisions (single location and multi-unit schools).The 2015 Excellence in Education honorees were announced October 24 at the American Association of Cosmetology Schools conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Among 38 schools recognized, top honorees were named in each category.

In this Excellence in Education Spotlight series, MODERN SALON connects with each of the top honorees to further explore programs and how schools are collaborating to develop the future of professional beauty. Here, a closer look at the 2015 top honoree in Beauty Changes Lives, single location.

Paul Mitchell the School Esani was founded on the principle that beauty changes lives. The school prides itself on offering students the opportunity to change their own lives through a career in beauty and to touch clients’ lives in a positive way.

Pictured below: Arlene Lyons, owner of Paul Mitchell the School Esani.

Arlene LyonsEmpowerment Through Beauty

For some, a career in the beauty industry is an unattainable dream. With finances, fear of failure, lack of support and more, there are many reasons a potential student never makes it through the doors of a cosmetology school.

But at Paul Mitchell the School Esani, potential students are given every opportunity to make their dreams come true. The school has an internal Beauty Changes Lives scholarship for new applicants, which allows the school to provide financial support to beauty school prospects who might otherwise not be able to afford a Paul Mitchell school education.

“We give up to $20,000 over the course of the year,” says Arlene Lyons, owner of Paul Mitchell the School Esani. “Some are for people wanting to get into beauty industry but are short on financing. Others are given to existing students who are struggling.”

To apply for the scholarship money, students are required to submit an application, two letters of recommendation, and write a beauty changes lives essay to say why they deserve it.

Current students at Esani only need to look around to find motivation and inspiration for their essays. Two years ago, the school implemented Beauty Changes Lives inspiration days, which have been eye-opening for students.

“It’s a great source of inspiration for students because they hear staff members give these speeches about their lives, and the students realize they, too, had to go through struggles to get where they are,” Lyons says.

“Students have personally thanked me for doing the inspiration days,” she adds. “We have a diverse team of people who have interesting stories. One woman was a refugee from Vietnam, another was from Malaysia and didn’t think she could make it in this career with the language barrier. She recently won ‘learning lead of the year.’”

Lyons has seen many students’ confidence blossom and attributes it to the way the school approaches education. “The whole impetus for me getting into the industry was the motivation to be able to change the lives of our students and guests. We believe in empowerment through science, art, nurturing and innovation,” she says.

“We also feel that all the things we do in the community, like participating in the Wounded Warriors project, foster the beauty changes lives mantra.”

Esani’s culture is all about giving back, and the school’s students go out into the world and continue to spread goodwill.

“'Beauty Changes Lives' is not just a program at Paul Mitchell The School Esani,” Lyons says. “It’s our purpose, passion and way of life. Among our students and staff, we have countless stories about how pursuing a career in beauty has changed their lives: From the student who was once addicted to drugs and is now addicted to beauty and thriving in her career; to our financial aid leader who was once a refugee in Cambodia and is now on a path to becoming a director at our school, to the Cosmetology graduate who recently opened a salon that provides beauty services to cancer patients and survivors.”

Nurturing a culture like Esani’s takes ongoing dedication and effort from the entire staff and student body. And it doesn’t happen overnight. Lyons advises starting with what motivates your team and students and build a program from the bottom up.

“One place to start would be to survey your students and find out what made them choose your school and what motivates them,” Lyons says. “Then involve the entire school in building a program that’s a source of inspiration for everyone.”

School Spotlight: Paul Mitchell the School Esani

Location: Roswell, Georgia

Owner: Arlene Lyons

Established: August 2007

Average enrollment: 185-200

Best student perk: “We include extra programs students don’t have to pay for to help prepare them for professional success,” Lyons says. “We have an advanced academy where they can do advanced programs beyond that initial level. Cosmetology students have the opportunity to do the skin specialty program and make-up specialty program at no extra cost—they’re electives. We offer advanced programs that are accredited.”

AACS member? Yes; joined in 2008.

What's one major improvement that you're planning for 2016? "The big thing we’re planning next year is to really go into the technology wave with our education. We have a wireless infrastructure and are making the big transformation next year. Everything will be on mobile devices.”

What schools or educators inspire you? "John Paul DeJoria [Paul Mitchell co-founder] attracted me to the industry. He does so much to give back—he’s a leader of principle, humble, and so successful. He’s my mentor in terms of business. On the creative side, there are so many. I work a lot with Vivienne Mackinder. I also just recently worked with Martin Parsons. He’s just so passionate and communicates his skills in a way that makes it so accessible to all students.”

What does your Excellence in Education recgonition mean to you? "Being recognized as a top honoree in any category of the Excellence in Education competition means the world to our school,” Lyons says. “But to be recognized in the Beauty Changes Lives category is priceless. It’s a powerful validation of why we do what we do each and every day and a tribute to the amazing team of caring professionals and future professionals who are a part of the Esani family. We shared the exciting news by showing our Beauty Changes Lives video that was part of our submission and then making an announcement to the entire school. Our celebration will be two-fold. First, a team of our future professionals will be providing complementary beauty services to senior citizens as part of an event hosted by the ‘Beauty Becomes You Foundation’ here in Atlanta. Then we will have a Beauty Changes Lives celebration for our entire school on the day before Thanksgiving, where we will also share with each other all that we are thankful for.”

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