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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Serving public, M State students gain hands-on experience

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Haircuts for $4. Massages for $25. Pedicures for $12. Mud wraps for $30.

As M State Wadena cosmetology and massage therapy students learn through practical experience, the general public can get these - and many more - services at bargain rates. Wadena is the only place in the four-campus M State system where these programs are offered

During the fall and spring, cosmetology students are available for haircuts, coloring, skin care, waxing, sugaring and nail care from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Summer hours are Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. They accept both appointments (631-7805) and walk-ins.

The massage therapy clinic - where students perform several types of massages and aromatherapy along with mud and seaweed wraps - is open Wednesday nights and Friday mornings from January through April 30. For appointments, call 631-7839.

Both the salon and clinic are located at the northeast entrance of campus. They both look and feel like their professional counterparts.

“It’s set up like a working clinic,” said massage therapy instructor Scarlett Dittmann, “so they’re well prepared for the workforce when they get there.”

Wednesday night, soothing music filled the dimly lit clinic as students offered massages to patients. Launched in 2005, the nine-month massage therapy program includes instruction in identifying diseases, kinesiology, nutrition anatomy and physiology. But as with the cosmetology program, the most valuable education happens when the training is put into practice.

“You’re thrown into it right away,” said Mercedes Klimek, one of 25 students in the massage program. From fall to January, the students work on each other. Then they serve the public.

Earlier Wednesday, the students visited to Legacy Home Health and Hospice Services, giving employees massages.

“I like helping people,” student Levi Zahnow said. “I like hands-on work.”

M State Wadena has offered cosmetology classes since the campus opened in 1961.

Wadena resident Lillian Swenson has been getting her haircut at the school for 30 years. Her mother was a loyal patron well into her 90s.

“They have good supervision,” Swenson said last week. “I would highly recommend it.”

As a student dyed her hair, Marie Rickbeil of Browerville said cosmetology is an underappreciated profession. “People don’t realize how much they have to learn and how hard they have to work.”

Pam Finstrom of Ottertail said she goes to M State for services because with a fixed income, she can’t afford to go to professional salon, which could cost up to $100.

“It makes a big difference, she said.”

Like the massage therapy program, the fees collected go back into the program.

“We’re not here to make money,” said Rory Wgeishofski, one of three cosmetology instructors. “We’re here to educate and to train.”

Inexpensive rates lead to more customers, which means more hands-on experience.

“It makes (the students) more marketable to the industry,” Wgeishofski said.

In addition to the cosmetology skills essential to perform the job, he said, the program teaches students to emphasize customer service. “Your clientele is your main priority. That’s the one thing we try to instill with students - you need to accommodate clients to the best of your ability. Make people happy. Make people smile.”

Toni Burton, a cosmetology student who is putting in hours at M State in order to get her license renewed, said she finds satisfaction in the industry. “It’s just nice to make people feel good.”

Some of the 30 students in the program - which last for 18-months and include 1,550 hours with clients - are high school students studying through the post secondary education option. By the time these students graduate from high school, they’ll be ready to enter the workforce.

And there are jobs available.

Wgeishofski said 80 to 90 percent of graduates are placed.

“It takes a while to get your feet planted in the industry,” he said. “But once you do, it’s fantastic.”

The bulletin board at the massage therapy clinic is filled with job opportunities, many of them at resort spas. Last year, Dittmann said, there were only enough graduates to fill a quarter of the available openings. “The field is very open.”