The Elaine Beauty College closed without notice in May 2020, leaving students unable to complete courses and secure beauty or barber licenses.
The Ultimate Cosmetology and Barber Academy is now open in Elaine’s former location at 10420 W Florissant Ave., and future cosmetologists, barbers, and business owners are back on track.
Wydonna Sumpter, Ultimate Cosmetology and Barber Academy director, said, “When Elaine Stevens College closed, it was for beauty and nails. We have four schools in one building.”
The school offers cosmetology, barbering, manicure training, and esthetician training. A retired [what branch] drill sergeant who hails from the St. Louis area, Sumpter travelled the world before returning home compelled to do something for her community.
“When Elaine Stevens closed the doors, all of those students lost their Pell grants and financial aid,” Sumpter said.
“During the pandemic, Eclipse, on the barber's side, closed as well, which left students without money and a plan.
“One thing we wanted to do when we opened was give those students a big discount so they could come in and do what they need to do.”
Dominique Putnam, an esthetician training instructor, came to the Academy from another beauty college to help in her hometown. The school reached out to her and she was excited for the opportunity.
“I grew up off West Florissant and Goodfellow, so it was full circle for me to come back to the old neighborhood and teach,” Putnam said.
Putnam sees potential in her students, and encourages them to become entrepreneurs.
“We need more,” Putnam said. “I’m an entrepreneur myself and I partner with other women to help them build their business; hopefully I can work with my students to help them build their businesses.”
On Saturday, August 21, the Academy held the Ultimate Back-To-School event where cosmetologists, braiders, and barbers-in-training offered free hairstyles, manicures, and facials.
School-aged children also received backpacks and school supplies at the event.
“This was a community event where people could learn about home ownership, building credit, and receive public health information. In addition, kids received free haircuts, braided styles, and school supplies for the first day of school,” said Freida Williams, Academy co-director and community outreach director.
Other vendors included the Healthy Blue-Anthem group, which offered people Medicaid advice, and local small business owners.
The Academy is making a positive impact on the community. One student has already graduated and aspires to be a business owner.
Academy graduate Kaegan “Sway-Go” Johnson attended the Elaine Beauty College, but was left a few credit hours away from finishing her cosmetology license when it suddenly closed.
When the Academy opened, Putnam enrolled to finish what she started.
“Since I was a child, I had the gift of being artistic [and] expressing it through beauty and hair,” Johnson said. “When the former school closed, it was unfortunate because I was in three different car accidents, which was life-changing for me.”
Johnson went on leave for injuries sustained, and while she was recovering, Elaine closed.
When Johnson learned online that the Academy was going to open, it was her chance to finish her license hours and pursue her dreams.
“God is so good,” Johnson said. “When I went to the school, I thought I would have to do it all over again. I thought I lost all of my hours, but they told me I had over 1900 credit hours, and I was eligible to graduate.”
Johnson is preparing for her state-board examination to become a licensed cosmetologist.
Additionally, the Academy partners with Sleeves Up STL to inform their future beauty salon and barbershop owners about the COVID-19 vaccine and other health information.
The Academy opened on June 22, and has more than 75 students in day and night classes.