It takes a lot of work to pull off an in-person event these days, but a group of students at Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI) did so last week with aplomb.
The first year esthetics students at SGEI held a Night in Pink spa event at the Fort Frances campus from 3:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where they gave relaxing hand massages in return for a small donation that went to benefiting cancer research by way of the Canadian Cancer Society. Program instructor Chantal Spuzak said the event came about as a way to give back to the community.
“I just like to do stuff to give back to the community and back to people who come and enjoy our services all the time,” Spuzak said.
“It's nice to be able to give a relaxation service, and to be able to do something fun with the students so they can engage with and meet people. They're just starting in their program, they started this September, and in January they will be advertising to do services for the public, so this is also an opportunity to build a relationship with individuals from the town and community.”
As part of the event, the students set up socially distanced workstations with specially made plexiglass barriers that allowed for hand contact. In between each appointment, one student also performed sanitation duties in order to ensure that each new client would be met with a clean and sanitized area to get their hand massage.
Part of the reason that the manicure massages were selected for the spa night, aside from being one of the first things the students learn to do in the program, is that doing a full manicure would increase the amount of sanitization that would need to be done between clients.
“In this stage of the game, if we were to provide a manicure, we would have to sterilize our tools and disinfect, and there would be a lot more to the procedure,” Spuzak explained.
“This way they can just clean in-between the stations. With COVID going on, you have to clean so much, this way you're able to sanitize your hands in between, and it's just cream that is being used so you're not having to go and sterilize yourself and your tools.”
The added benefit for putting on the event, according to SGEI program coordinator Aimee Beazley, is that it helps provide students with a way to practice and hone the skills they are developing as part of the esthetics program.
“Opportunities like this will help the students for when they've graduated and they're in the field and starting to build their own clientele base,” Beazley said.
“I think the biggest thing is just that they wanted to practice some of their skills and celebrate a good cause. We totally booked up, which is awesome for the girls. I'm super impressed with that. They helped; they did a lot of advertising on their own.”
Events like the Night in Pink spa also help to get the general public through the door and into the SGEI campus so that they can learn about just what goes on at the Institute, something Beazley said is still something the school is working on.
“It draws awareness to Seven Generations as a whole,” she explained.
“Not a lot of people have been here. Not a lot of people know what we are and what we do here. We service both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, that's not necessarily widely known in the public, so it's good to get the traffic flow into the building and people can see what happens here and what our students are doing.”
It's certainly a tall order getting people into the campus in any capacity right now, with a majority of post-secondary staff working from home and only the esthetics and culinary students still taking in person practical classes on the campus grounds, but Beazley said that she's seeing resilience from staff and students as they face this new normal.
“It's been hard,” she said.
“I would say for the most part, most of our students are adjusting to the change. In the spring it was a fast change, we were all learning as we went. Our instructors and staff worked really hard over the summer so that we were ready to be online, our students were ready to be online, and they seem to be doing ok, but it's a very quiet school. It's kind of sad.”
While there aren't currently many concrete plans for more in person events at the moment, the school is actively recruiting for future programs, and the culinary students will eventually start up their restaurant nights again.
“That will probably be the next thing to start running,” Beazley said.
“We have a new chef, so our restaurant nights will happen I think they said they're going to be once a month instead of four nights a week as it was before, but it's better than nothing. It still gives the culinary students a chance to show what they've learned.”
Overall, Spuzak said the night was a successful one, even before it had ended.
“It's been really great,” she said.
“I'm really thankful that we were able to do this event. I wasn't sure because of COVID and getting the proper procedures and stuff like that. Before you would have just said 'come on down at 3:30' and it could be 30 people in here. It was really great to be able to book appointments, and we booked up really quickly. It was awesome. It will be a good group to work with on planning events in the future.”
For more information on Seven Generations Education Institute or any of their programs, visit their website at www.7generations.org.