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OJC Press Release ID: 2683

Monday, July 17, 2017

2012 OJC Cosmetology Alum shares her success story

Not every teenager has a well-laid plan in place for their future, but Abra Gonzales was not just any teenager. When she graduated from Dalhart High School, she knew exactly what she wanted – to work as a cosmetologist. 

Gonzales visited several schools in Texas, but left uninspired.  Her grandmother, who lives in Swink, told her that she needed to look into Otero Junior College. After a visit to the OJC Cosmetology program, Gonzales was sold.

“I came for the visit knowing exactly what I wanted,” said Gonzales. “Miss Tammy and Miss Monica showed a genuine interest in me and my goals. I knew this was where I was going to study.”

Gonzales completed the full Cosmetology certificate program in the summer of 2012. She passed her examinations for Colorado licensure, then moved back to Texas. 

“It was easy to transfer my license to Texas,” said Gonzales. “Colorado requires more practical hours than Texas, so basically I just had to pay the fee.”

Currently Gonzales works as a master designer at Ulta in College Station, Texas. “I love it! The company pays for Redken classes, so I can continue to learn and I get a discount on supplies at the store. Ulta has also offered leadership training, so I can increase my income and develop new skills.”

As a master designer, Gonzales commands up to $47 for a cut and style and $200 for a specialty color treatment. 

The perks are great, but Gonzales cautions against taking the work lightly. “If it is not your passion, don’t do it.  It is not quick money. It can take years to build up a clientele.  You have to want to work!”

As most people are aware, a salon can be an emotional place to work. “You are going to mess up,” said Gonzales. “There are some people that you just can’t make happy. Also, people tell you their stories. It is so emotional.”

Though hearing of others’ hardships can be difficult, it can also be a motivating factor.  One of Gonzales’ favorite events is the annual Cut-a-Thon, with $10 haircuts for breast cancer awareness. The day involves breast cancer survivors telling their stories, which is inspiring but emotionally draining.

Gonzales emphasizes the need for self-care. This must include an occasional vacation. Ten- to twelve-hour days can take a toll.

The key goes back to that passion for the work Gonzales mentioned.  “After a twelve-hour day, I get home. My back hurts. My feet hurt. And I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!”

“I have followed Abra from the moment she left my program. I would text her weekly in the beginning to see how her transition to the world of work was going and offer any advice that I could,” said Tammy Dorenkamp, Cosmetology program director and Department Chair Business Technologies & Service Occupations. 

“Honestly, I mostly just listened to her talk about how much she loved the work.  She would send me pictures of her paychecks and have a smile on her face the size of Texas,” added Dorenkamp. “We continue our long distance relationship now as friends and tell stories to one another about our lives and our passion for the industry we both love.”

Gonzales lives in College Station with her three dogs, Cubbie, Diesel and Jackson and her boyfriend who is a personal trainer.

If you would like to pursue your passion for Cosmetology, contact the Otero Junior College Cosmetology department at (719) 384-6991 and speak to the program director Tammy Dorenkamp or contact Student Services at (719) 384-6831.  Fall classes start August 21.

Press Release Photo
Abra Gonzales (center), 2012 graduate of the OJC Cosmetology program, poses with Cosmetology faculty Monica Valdez and Tammy Dorenkamp during a visit to campus in June.