HENRY COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — At Henry County Public Schools, students are excited to head back to the classroom. For some, the joy of heading back is two-fold: they get an education and a jump start on their careers.

twelfth grader, Shakira Johnson says, “I’m practicing cause I’m not that good at them,” said Shakira Johnson, a 12th grader at Henry County Public Schools’ Career Academy, as she worked to master the finger-waving hairstyle.

Johnson uses a mannequin head, Whitney, to do all of her cosmetology training.

“I have gel on it. it’s wet and all you really have to do is just move the hair a certain way, ” she added.

During her first year of this two-year cosmetology program at the district’s Career Academy, Johnson learned many hair care techniques.

Johnson, along with many other cosmetology students, complete 1,500 training hours to obtain the highly sought-after license.

At the end of this school year, she will not only have her high school diploma, but also have her Virginia State Board certified cosmetology license.

“It’s very beneficial. A lot of people don’t have this opportunity,” she said.

Several students are turning to the Career Academy for this kind of career help. Besides cosmetology, the school offers programs in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and industrial maintenance; agricultural science; and cybersecurity.

“My whole life, I’ve always used technology and worked with technology, and I found a love for it, and when cybersecurity became available in our school system, I jumped on it,” shared Tyrian Harriston, a senior at the Career Academy.

He, too, will graduate with several certifications before heading off to college with his advanced knowledge of cybersecurity, from the fundamentals to 3D-printing to stopping hackers.

“I think it’s important so we can help protect our organizations or people with their accounts to reduce hackers in the real world,” Tyrian adds.

“‘Part of our model is learning to do, doing to learn, so we want to give them skills that they can take into the real world to actually apply, but also give them a chance to apply in the classroom setting,” explained Brittany Brummitt, who teaches and heads up the agriculture program.

Students not only learn the skills of the field they want to study, but also how to run a business through the principles of entrepreneurship. For some students, these skills are already putting money in their pockets.

“We do things for the community as well. We work on washers, dryers, refrigerators, video games, and other things,” shared Michael Minter Jr., the director of career and technical education for Henry County Public Schools.

He sees students try the program, some initially out of sheer interest. Then, those students decide to fully indulge in the skills and choose one of these programs as a career instead of going off to college.

Minter admits that decision is not a bad option, as many of the students who bet on themselves by enrolling in Career Academy graduate with no regrets.

“The only thing is they don’t have that debt on top of them, so it’s a great opportunity that Henry County can provide students at Magna Vista and Bassett High School,” Minter said.

That’s a big win for these students. Not only are the programs free, but they come with another bright side for Johnson.

Even if she doesn’t quite master the finger-wave technique the first go round, “I’ll take that knowledge and go take it again,” according to Johnson.

At the very least, she deserves an ‘A’ for attitude.