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GJA South Campus Student Ambassador, Alyssa Long shares her inspirational story leading up to and throughout her beauty school experience.

My life started out very rocky from a young age. It was not your typical childhood where you grow up with two parents and siblings and having your parents support you. I was raised by my grandmother due to my parent’s bad decisions. Despite growing up without my parents, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Growing up I knew that if I ever wanted to have anything that I would have to work extremely hard for it and I could do anything I put my mind to and so from then on, I always knew that I was a strong person no matter what happened .

My journey towards cosmetology started many years ago when I was in junior high school. My friends always asked me to do their hair or make up for dances or just because. So we would always go to Walmart or Rite Aid and get box color and I would put it on their hair.  Sometimes it would turn out good and other times it would turn out bad since I had no idea about the rules of coloring someone’s hair.

When I started high school I was still doing their hair from time to time not really thinking that cosmetology was 100% my passion in life. At one time, I thought that I wanted to be a dental hygienist but as time went on in high school I realized that I truly loved doing hair. I loved how you can change a person by just doing a color or giving someone bangs. I also love fashion and doing make up but most of all, I like being able to make someone else feel beautiful. So in my sophomore year of high school I started researching cosmetology schools and found Gene Juarez Academy. When I started looking into Gene Juarez, learning about the school and their advanced education programs, I was hooked!  Just by their website, seeing the pictures and reading the reviews, I knew this was the school of my dreams and that I would get the best education possible.

But I knew my journey to get there wouldn’t be easy since I live in Aberdeen which is two hours away from the Federal Way campus. So I had to start thinking about how I would pay for school plus how I would be commuting to school by the time I finished high school. I was so excited thinking yes! I’m going to apply to go to Gene Juarez Academy and it’s gonna be amazing! I didn’t care about the commute or how tired I would be or how much less time I would have to hang out with my friends. I wanted to do this, this was my dream. But little did I know that in order to go to Gene Juarez Academy, I needed to have a reliable car, a better job and a credit history.

When I went on my first tour of the school in 2009, I remember pulling up to the school feeling butterflies in my stomach and being so excited that I couldn’t wait to go in. I felt like I was a little kid at Disneyland walking through the doors for the first time.  My eyes were open so big and my heart was racing as I looked around. During my tour of the school I was in awe of everything I saw and heard about all the classes and the curriculum, I could not wait to sign the dotted line and start my journey in cosmetology school. Sadly, when I went into the office to meet with the financial aid person they let me know that although I was eligible for financial aid I wasn’t a eligible for any type of student loan which is what I needed to pay for the rest of my schooling. Leaving that day, I felt devastated by the thought that I couldn’t start school and didn’t know if I ever would be able to go to GJA.

Over the next five years, I had multiple jobs, saved up money, built my credit and bought a reliable car. I was ready to return back to Gene Juarez and apply again and see if I was now eligible for student loans. The excitement and butterflies returned when I got there but I felt way more confident than before and just had a good feeling that this was the right time for me. And it was!  I walked out as a Gene Juarez Academy student and it was one of the best days of my life. I knew that the day I started school would begin one the longest journeys of my life, but also the best one.

My first day of school arrived and I remember feeling so nervous and excited. When we were opening our kits during the first class, I couldn’t wait to get started. Over the next few months, there were many times that I would get discouraged, but I kept telling myself “it’s alright Alyssa, you will get this”. My first day on the clinic floor was a mess spending 9 hours doing my best friend’s hair.  By the time it was all over, I was so tired and unhappy with the way it turned out that I felt so scared to go back out onto the floor. But then I had a different experience with my next guest, who I didn’t know.  I colored and styled her hair and she was so happy that she rescheduled with me which gave me a big boost of confidence.  I left that day feeling so much better about myself.

While school was going better, my home life was in shatters. My life felt like it was on repeat mode every day of the week. My school mornings would start with my getting up at 3:00 am and leaving the house by 5:30 am so I was able to get to school on time and beat the morning traffic. And I would get home from school between 8:45 pm and 9:30 pm and would have to go straight to bed because Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday I worked at 5 am. I was putting in a total of 85 hours a week between work and school. I had no time for anything else but school and work which was ok with me because I loved school and I had worked hard to get there.

I have had to over come many obstacles while in school including a car accident driving to school that left me hospitalized for a short time.  I also lost my mom and my dad, my house, and a six year relationship. There were so many times that I thought I wasn’t going to make it to school but I still pushed forward and was at school remembering that this was my dream. My educators, family and friends also helped me to push through.

While attending GJA, I have been Student of the Month and have received three outstanding student awards. One of the goals I had during school was to become a Student Ambassador.  When it happened, I was so happy and filled with joy. Even though I had a lot going on, all of my hard work was being noticed and that also kept me moving forward.

The main thing that I take away from school is that no matter how hard it might get in life or in school, just remember your goals are meant to be set and then meant to be conquered, and you are the only thing that is in the way of completing your goals. My goals are almost complete with my graduation day quickly approaching but then I will have even bigger goals to achieve after I am licensed and I feel completely ready to complete them.

Meet Alyssa’s fellow Student Ambassadors!