Academics

Cosmetology student graduates with two diplomas and a plan for the future

Yanet Gomez, outside her home after attending PBSC’s spring graduation on May 7.

Over the past year, Palm Beach State College cosmetology student Yanet Gomez spent her days on the Belle Glade campus, preparing to become a licensed cosmetologist. Classes began at 8 a.m. and went until 4 p.m., but her days didn’t end there. Gomez, a high school senior enrolled in the Florida Virtual School, would then tackle her online classes and homework while still participating in clubs and community activities.

Her hard work is now paying off. This May, Gomez will receive two diplomas: one from the PBSC Cosmetology Career Certificate Program and one from Florida Virtual School, making her both a college and high school graduate in the same month.

The Clewiston native is actually the second person in her family to graduate from PBSC’s Cosmetology program. In 2017, the Belle Glade campus had just restarted the program with a brand-new salon lab. Her mother, Vanessa Gomez, was enrolled in instructor Deborah Goldman’s first class.

Deborah Goldman, cosmetology instructor, and Vanessa Gomez on the occasion of Vanessa’s student achievement award.

“It was a small class that became very close, like a family,” Goldman said. “I stayed in touch with all the students, including Vanessa, and have literally watched Yanet grow up during the last seven years. I feel so lucky to have a second-generation student in my class, and such an outstanding student at that.”

Outstanding is the only way to describe a student who has been bringing home trophies and blue ribbons throughout her school years, from the prize swine that she raised in the 4-H Club to competing in beauty pageants like the 2023 Miss Latina of the Glades pageant, where she was first runner-up. While those two things may seem like polar opposites, it doesn’t faze Gomez, as she pursues her Agricultural Associate Certification and develops pageant platforms to stop bullying with equal commitment.

“I like to keep my options open to everything, and being able to do cosmetology, agriscience and other stuff—it just really opens my wings to more things,” she said.

However, at her core, Gomez says, “I’ve always been that cosmetology girl. I like anything to do with beauty, skin care or nail care. Having my mom be able to do the Cosmetology program first and then guide me along the way, helped me make sure it was actually something that I really wanted to do.”

In addition to being first runner-up in the 2023 Miss Latina of the Glades pageant, Yanet Gomez also won for best cultural outfit, which she made herself.

Once licensed, she plans to use her cosmetology training as “an amazing side hustle” to help defray expenses at Nova Southeastern University—at least those not covered by the scholarships she’s received, including two from NSU. Gomez has been homeschooled since the seventh grade, and while she’s loved the experience and the flexibility it has given her, she looks forward to attending college in person this fall. Her sister also goes to NSU, so that will ease the transition.

Cosmetology won’t be a side hustle for long.

“I definitely plan to open a salon one day, my own salon, and with my major in business, I will have a clear view of how to run a business and how to manage a nice and popular salon,” she said.

Goldman stresses that the Cosmetology program is a professional program and is not dumbed down for a high school student. In fact, many adults can’t cut it.

“Some people will leave the program right away,” Goldman said. “They think they’re just going to brush hair or learn a little bit of color. But no, they learn biology, chemistry, anatomy, even electricity—there’s a lot to this program. It’s definitely not an easy way out.”

Deborah Goldman fixes Yanet Gomez’s hair for her quinceañera.

Yet Gomez, the youngest person in the program, rose to the challenge.

“I just want to say I absolutely love the cosmetology program,” she said. “I love going there. I love spending time with my classmates. We all really celebrate each other and have grown together. To be honest, going into the Cosmetology program as young as I was, I really wasn’t expecting anybody around my age. But to have all of us from different backgrounds and different ages all go there and still get along the way that we did is just really amazing.”

Goldman feels like Gomez is one of her kids and is full of pride. She has attended Gomez’s 4-H livestock shows, beauty pageants and her quinceañera, for which Goldman did her hair.

“I’ve known Yanet since she was 10 years old,” said Goldman. “It’s been delightful to watch her grow and excel in both academic and personal pursuits. She’s always pursuing goals. I mean, imagine the hours she put in at PBSC and then afterward, doing her high school, her scholarship programs, or the beauty pageant or 4-H, and she still finds time to volunteer. She’s always positive and has a great family ethic. She’s following in her mom’s footsteps and has what it takes to be a success in this field.”

Yanet Gomez’s graduation mortarboard

For Gomez’s part, she tries to keep as humble as possible. “I definitely have been incredibly blessed to receive and have the opportunity to do all these things.”

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