Road to recovery ends with beauty school honors

February 2, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Makenna Converse (right) works some hairstyling artistry with a curling iron and hairspray for fellow student Catrina Hull at Evergreen Beauty College in Bellevue. By Greg Farrar

Two years ago, Makenna Converse was 16, living on her own after being asked to leave home because she was expelled from school and addicted to alcohol.

“My parents went through a rough divorce,” the now sober 17-year-old said. “I didn’t know how to handle it, so I started getting myself into trouble. I’d drink and do other things to myself to make it go away.”Today, there’s much more to Makenna than the cheerleader or the girl with bad grades. At a young age, she said she’s learned there’s more to life than the things you think will make you happy.

“There were a lot of people that thought I wouldn’t make it — that looked down at me,” she said. “Now, I’m sober, I’m healthy and I’m happy. When most people are now just graduating high school and thinking about college, I’ll start my career. It feels good to prove the people that said I wouldn’t make it wrong.”

In a few short months, she will graduate from Evergreen Beauty College, with honors as student of the year for the college’s business department and as a national finalist for her business presentation.

“What we are most proud of her for is being accountable and being honest,” her father Art Converse said of he and his wife Victoria Lee. “As parents in general, those are the two things I respect most about her. What I’m most proud of, as far as her accomplishments, is she has done it on her own.”

Road to recovery

Makenna is no high school dropout. In fact, she’s just the opposite. She had to finish high school early to get this far, she said.

To move home, Makenna said she needed to promise her father to go to rehabilitation therapy at Lakeside Milam, an outpatient care facility. She also needed to start going to classes at Tiger Mountain Community High School.

“This is a perfect example of the cliché of it takes a village to raise a child,” her father said.

“Everybody helped, and I just think some parents need to know if there is a problem,” he added, “they don’t have to go it alone.”

At Tiger Mountain, Makenna found a support system that finally understood her talents and goals.

“I loved Tiger. Without Tiger, I wouldn’t have graduated high school,” she said. “The teachers are just amazing.”

As a student, Makenna took on new challenges, often doubling up on courses like English and science to finish coursework so she could catch up and graduate on time.

“I’m proud of the fact that Makenna was able to put the expulsion behind her and recreate her life as a student at Tiger,” teacher Joy Allison wrote in an e-mail. “Makenna has a lot of determination and drive, and I was happy to be able to enjoy her as a student.”

Exceeding expectations

But in her drive to catch up, Makenna said she ended up moving ahead. So much so that she had enough credits and her senior project done by the end of her junior year.

It was then she turned her focus on cosmetology.

Makenna found herself entering Evergreen Beauty College on a tour; it was the first one she went to and the only one she applied to, she said.

“I’ve known I wanted to be a cosmetologist ever since I was little,” she said. “I’ve always been creative. I would cut my Barbie’s hair when I was 2 years old and would play with my mother’s makeup.

“I love things that are fast-paced and working with my hands in a creative way. It fits me.”

“We are all immensely proud of her and her progress,” teacher Lane Helgeson wrote in an e-mail. “I think that I am most proud of the fact that she knew early on that she wanted to study cosmetology, and she has worked very hard to remain focused on her goals and see them to fruition.”

Planning for the future

When she graduates, she’ll be able to cut, color and style, provide makeup services, complete waxes and be able to navigate her way around a business, she said.

But what she really enjoys most is helping with couture hair design for fashion shows and beauty events.

“It’s been a lot of fun, designing and competing in fashion shows,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of really inspiring people.

“I definitely see myself working in a high-end salon or in fashion,” she added. “That is why I want to continue school at the Vidal Sassoon Academy in London next fall.”

“I am very proud of her for persevering in high school, and for her passion and commitment in pursuing her dreams,” Liberty High School counselor Kay Hutchison wrote in an e-mail.

“Only a few people her age are lucky enough to have found something that works, and this works for Makenna,” Art Converse said.

Makenna said she is most proud of staying true to herself, even through the rough times.

“I’m really proud of being able to do this for myself,” she said. “But my dad and my stepmom, I wouldn’t be anything without their support and help.”

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@gmail.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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