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Sussex County Community College cosmetology program grows into larger space

VERNON TOWNSHIP, NJ (Sussex County) – Stuck in a hairy situation with too many students and needing more space, heads got creative.

They recently upgraded a vacant building at Vernon Township High School (VTHS) to house the Sussex County Community College (SCCC) Cosmetology Program. Completed October 16, the newly renovated cosmetology center is located at 1832 Route 565 in the Glenwood section of Vernon Township.

Through a partnership with VTHS, college students can learn the technical skills demanded by today’s beauty industry.

“The new cosmetology space will further fortify the already stellar cosmetology program, exemplified by its 100% license passage rate,” said SCCC President Dr. Jon Connolly. “The newly upgraded space was built with both permission and assistance from Vernon, and was built out at a cost savings. This will benefit SCCC students by providing a dedicated space that students call “home” for the important work of proper haircare.”

According to Connolly, SCCC built the Cosmetology program at Vernon High School eight years ago as one of many collaborations with former Vernon High School administrators Chuck McKay and Art Dibenedetto.

“The reason for the partnership was to show that the College was no longer considering itself as the “center of its purpose,” but that Sussex County itself was/is the “center of its purpose,” said Connolly. “We serve the county – if we do not, we are not serving our purpose for existing.

“This re-invigorated connection to the county-at-large was essential to both gaining support and understanding what the community needed from us,” said Connolly. “Having a presence in the community rather than just in Newton emphasized this point and was therefore symbolic.”

Additionally, “the college did not have the space in Newton on-campus to locate a cosmetology program,” said Connolly. McKay and Dibenedetto “were gracious and enthusiastically offered space at their high school to accomplish the work. We accepted this help, and the rest is history.”

Susan Discorfana-Catania, adjunct professor and cosmetology supervisor, has taught cosmetology classes to SCCC students for the past four years and at Vernon High School for five years. A licensed cosmetologist, she has worked in the industry since 1989 and owned her shop for 18 years.

Vernon High School provided a classroom where she would teach the classes, but with more students interested in the profession, she outgrew her space.

“It grew in such leaps and bounds,” said Discorfana-Catania. “We outgrew that classroom.”

More room was needed to accommodate the additional sinks, stations, and counter space. Therefore, the program needed to move into a larger space.

A vacant building on the Vernon High School property was identified as the perfect space once some remodeling was completed. The building was used as two classrooms and later became a consignment shop, but it is no longer being used.

SCCC Chief Operating and Human Resources Officer James Gaddy rallied up his team to get the job done.

“We used operational funds to do the work, but it was an amazing team effort and collaboration to get the project done in about six weeks,” said Gaddy. “The facilities team pitched in, including me as the COO, to design the space and make the work happen. The final stretch was to get the floor done, and after getting some crazy quotes, we decided to lay the floor ourselves – our custodians, facilities, staff, and folks from all over the operations team got together to lay nearly 1,600 sq. ft. of flooring the week before classes began in the space. We worked as a team and had a fun “floor-laying party.” We are so thrilled that we increased the number of students in the program and gave Susan the space she deserves!”

“With two classrooms, the 22 students in the program can expand and know what it’s like to be in a real salon,” said Discorfano-Catania. “The expansion even allows the program to compete with the private sector. Everything is state-of-the-art. We are ADA accessible with a ramp and stairs; the building is equipped with counters, four sinks, six salon stations, two pedicure and three manicure tables, a private area for facials and waxing, a stand-alone dryer, and a full-barbering area.”

The Cosmetology program prepares students to become creative, well-trained professionals with hands-on lessons in all aspects of cosmetology: Skin, nails, hair design, sculpting, and advanced coloring. Barbering skills with up-to-date cuts are part of the curriculum, as well as salon operations, marketing and retail, hygiene, and communication skills. Students can even get certified in eyelash extensions and hair extensions, adds Discorfano-Catania.

Those who complete two semesters are eligible to qualify for a N.J. State Student Permit so they can start as an entry-level stylist. Upon completion of the program, students can qualify to take the N.J. Board licensing examinations in cosmetology.

The clinic is open every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for the SCCC cosmetology students to practice their skills with public clients by appointment only; and for the high school students from 2:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information about the Cosmetology Program at SCCC, call Susan Discorfano-Catania at 973-494-3686 or email

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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