When Lori Kepke first arrived at the College’s Cranbrook campus to register for the Hairstylist program she was overwhelmed by emotion. “I walked up to the counter and I kind of choked up and said ‘I’m here!’ she says. “I was really excited to be here – and scared. Super scared.”
The Hairstylist program is a big change for Lori who spent the past 30 years working on a dairy farm. She married her husband Ken in 1988 and his family owned a dairy farm that she and Ken worked on for 20 years before deciding to expand. Ken and Lori bought 170 acres of land and rebuilt everything – from the infrastructure up.
Their plan at that point was to continue dairy farming for another 10 years and to then retire from the industry. Lori would have continued on but Ken, who had been dairy farming since he was 12, was ready for a change. On October 31, 2016, after fulfilling their plan of another decade of dairy farming, they sold all of their cows and quota. It was a sad day for Lori, seeing those cows leave their property. But she told Ken, “If you’re selling my cows, then I’m going back to school.”
She tossed around a few ideas, originally thinking that perhaps she’d be a realtor, but since high school she had always wanted to be a hairstylist. She explored taking the Hairstylist program at the College which started in the fall of 2017. In the meantime, she took a gel nail course in Kelowna over the winter and an eyelash extension course in Lethbridge in the summer before starting the Hairstylist program.
Following her dream didn’t stop Lori from being scared, though. “My biggest fear was whether I was going to be able to understand the work or whether there would be too much information for my brain to retain. I also wondered if I was going to be able to balance work with the rest of my life,” she says.
Turns out Lori’s fears were for nothing. She’s doing exceptionally well in the program – having received two scores of 100% and two over 90% on her first four tests.
“I love the program,” she adds. “I absolutely love it. I feel like with Gwen as an instructor – I’ve struck gold. She is so inspiring and encouraging as well as being a fountain of information.”
Though she spends four days a week in Cranbrook before returning home to Creston for the weekends, Lori is grateful to have a Hairstylist program in the region. “I mean, how nice – I don’t have to go to Calgary, I don’t have to go to a big city. I mean I’m away from home but this is close enough.”
Used to the busy life of a dairy farmer, Lori hasn’t slowed down. In addition to going to school she works at a Creston salon doing gel nails and eyelash extensions on the weekend and has been told that when she’s done the Hairstylist program, there will be a chair there ready for her to rent as well. Her plan is to work at the salon until 3 pm most days and to then continue to teach her other passion – Highland Dance – on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Though she started out so scared of what her experience at school was going to be like, she would encourage anyone, no matter their age, to pursue their dreams. “Now I realize age has no bearing on your ability to do it,” she adds. “It boils down to – do your homework. It doesn’t matter if you’re 21 or 50, you have to do the work, you have to study and then you can be successful.”
And as she stands at her station in the College’s hair salon each morning, she often finds herself getting emotional and wiping away tears. “I can’t believe I’m here and doing this,” she say, welling up. “I’m so happy to be here.”
We’re so happy you’re here too, Lori.