COTO cosmetology program receives national recognition

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published May 10, 2015 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Kerri Richards, left, gets some assistance from cosmetology coordinator Wendy Sullivan at the College of the Ouachitas in Malvern. The COTO cosmetology program was recently recognized as the 2015 CHI — Cationic Hydration Interlink Technology — Partner School of the Year, an award doled out by Farouk Systems for schools that utilize the ammonia-free line of CHI products with students enrolled in their cosmetology programs.

Cosmetology students at College of the Ouachitas are on the cutting edge of their industry.

Farouk Systems Inc. of Houston, Texas, recently recognized the program as a 2015 CHI Partner School of the Year. CHI — Cationic Hydration Interlink Technology — is a brand of products developed by the company.

Wendy Sullivan, cosmetology instructor and program coordinator at COTO, said the college partnered with Farouk Systems about four years ago when the cosmetology program expanded its building size and redesigned its lab.

“We needed a revamp,” she said. “We became a CHI Partner School. CHI is a good line of products that are ammonia-free. That makes it healthier for the stylist and for the environment.

“Mr. Farouk [Shami] developed the

company because he had an allergy to ammonia. He first developed it in his garage.”

Sullivan, who is a native of Malvern, said the instructors “really didn’t know what it was all about” during the first year of the partnership.

“We have worked our way up and have now won this honor in the CHI Partner of the Year competition,” she said. “All three instructors are now certified CHI educators and are keeping up those certifications every year. This year for the competition, our students and instructors prepared a video and submitted it, showing that we know the products and are continuing our jobs as educators.”

In addition to the national recognition, two instructors will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Cancun, Mexico, in September to attend The Art of Hairdressing: Farouk Systems Conference 2015.

Sullivan said that although only two trips are paid for by Farouk Systems, the third instructor at COTO will also attend the global hair show. In addition to Sullivan, the two other instructors are Lois Ware, a native of Arkadelphia, and Ashley Toney, a native of Malvern.

“Mr. Farouk will be celebrating 50 years as a cosmetologist,” Sullivan said. “He has an Arkansas connection — he attended the University of Arkansas.”

Information on the website shows that Farouk Systems was founded in 1986 by Farouk Shami with the mission “to provide the professional beauty industry with the most advanced American technology based upon ‘Education, Environment and Ethics.’” Shami was born in Palestine and immigrated to the United States in 1965.

“It’s going to be exciting to be awarded [as a CHI Partner School of the Year] onstage in front of thousands of people,” Sullivan said.

“This year’s conference is a big deal,” she said. “There will be educators and artists from all over the world teaching classes, and we will be bringing those skills back to our students.”

Sullivan said participants at the conference will try to set a record for Guinness World Records.

“They are going to try to get 3,000 hair stylists cutting hair at the same time,” she said with a laugh.

As a result of COTO being named a CHI Partner School of the Year, COTO students are also entered into another competition.

Farouk Systems is sending a representative to the college campus May 25-27 to audition students for an upcoming hair show. Sullivan said the two students who win will receive a trip to Orlando, Florida, to compete in the hair show.

“I am so proud to be a part of such an amazing program that allows education to be fun and exciting for everyone,” Sullivan said. “We always try to stay on top with our education and share the best of our knowledge with our students. This [win] shows that it is worth it and that people are recognizing College of the Ouachitas’ cosmetology program.

“I truly hope this helps put Malvern on the map.”

Sullivan said the COTO cosmetology program consists of 1,500 “clock” hours, which is roughly three semesters or “just shy of a one-year program.”

Students attend classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, spending part of their time in the classroom and part in the lab. Students see clients Tuesday through Thursday.

“The public comes in and gets services for a small fee, which helps pay for supplies,” Sullivan said. “Once a month, we have senior week, where we give free haircuts and half off other services to senior citizens. We also give free haircuts to members of the military, firemen and policemen.”

Sullivan said there is a maximum of 25 students at a time in the program, which is designed to prepare students for the Arkansas Board of Cosmetology licensing examination.

“We have students who are 18 and just out of high school up to the age of 50,” Sullivan said. “We do state board drills every Monday, and we have workshops on different topics on Friday.

“I’ve been here almost 10 years, and I am proud to say we have a 100 percent pass rate on all practical exams and a 95 percent overall pass rate on the state licensing exam.”

For more information on the College of the Ouachitas Cosmetology Program, visit or call (501) 332-0259.

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