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Aveda Institute recognized as best in the country

At Aveda Institute, a team of educators is adapting to a pandemic in an industry shaped around physical touch.

DES MOINES, Iowa — At Aveda Institute Des Moines, the passion for cosmetology is felt by every student. 

"I’ve wanted to be a stylist my entire life," said Erin Steinhart, who's preparing to graduate and find her first salon job. "More than once, I’ve cried with a guest in my chair. Talking to somebody and getting to know them, why they are the way they are. It changes your day."  

Nestled in West Des Moines, the institute is a safe space to learn, and Emma George is the student of the month. 

"I was so intimidated when I started," she said. "Am I going to be good at this? Is this something I can do? With all the support from educators, I realized yeah, I can do this."

At Aveda Institute, a team of educators is adapting to a pandemic in an industry shaped around physical touch.

Jana Van Polen is the director of education. She had to quickly get a digital program going when the pandemic shut down the business.

"We had to keep their hands busy with mannequins," she recalled. "We really had to evaluate on what we do as a company and how we have to change as a company while being true to yourself."

The institute is being recognized for not just top-notch technical training and non-toxic products; leaders are making mental health a new priority, with yoga and morning check-ins now a part of their curriculum.

Important changes for students who are living away from family in order to go to school. 

RELATED: Des Moines salon owner says inflation has forced her to raise prices

"It kind of makes you think about everything your life has been and it’s great because I’ve really found out who I am here," said Emma. 

It’s a place that acknowledges it can be scary meeting a client for the first time while honing stylist skills.

"It’s different every day," said Steinhart. "Sometimes it's absolutely terrifying because you never know what you’re going to get." 

 But hard times, especially during the pandemic, can bring people together.

"Our team showed up every day," said Doug Van Polen, co-owner of the institute. "The pandemic was difficult for all of us, from top to bottom, and I think it was equally as healing for me to show up for work to continue to drive this culture, this team."

The owners say the Aveda Institute teaches life skills to ensure they are not only successful in the workplace but also become contributing members of society.

Their hope when you look in the mirror after visiting a student? Katherine Hinchliff, director of education, had this to say:

"We just want our students and our guests to feel important and loved and valuable."

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The institute hopes to see more beauty schools incorporate mental health care and business strategy into their classes that consider pandemic challenges. They would also like to see salons bring yoga and mindfulness into their spaces.

And a special note to share, Local 5's Samantha Mesa was a cosmetology student in high school on a full-ride scholarship to beauty school! 

Mesa became licensed when she was 17, a job that carried her through college and journalism school to support the journalist she is today. 

It just goes to show how valuable trade schools are in our society, and this institute is an example of how evolved these careers are becoming. For more information on how to enroll, visit the institute's website

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