Jan Stemmer is giving back to the industry that has been so good to her for the last 35 years by offering scholarships to her school, Schererville-based Don Roberts School of Hair Design.
She is offering 10 scholarships, valued at $3,500 each, to be awarded at the beginning of December for students to start school before the end of the year. She is hoping the scholarships will eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, student loan debt for those students.
“I absolutely love what I do,” she said. “The industry has been so good to me, and after 35 years, it’s time to give back through the form of scholarships.”
The cosmetology school, which opened its first Illinois-based location in 1961, has been located in Schererville for about the last 10 years.
The full-service spa school offers undergraduate programs in esthetics, cosmetology, manicuring that all lead to licensure. It also offers instructor training programs as well as several other programs that do not lead to licensure.
In 2014, Stemmer is hoping to begin a massage program.
Stemmer, who first started at the school as a student in 1965 and then became an instructor, purchased her branch of the school in 1978 and is celebrating her 35th year as an owner.
She said her students are extremely successful when taking their state exams, and the school’s placement rate is always higher than 90 percent, she said.
She is proud of the fact her school is privately owned, and enjoys not only having community members in her salon for services but also having her students participate in community outreach events.
Among other things, students participate in the annual Dyer Halloween festival, where they offer face painting as well as hand and arm massages.
“We want people to understand that we are a school, the students’ work is overseen and supervised by licensed instructors,” she said.
Chris Valvanis, owner of the Vanis Salon and Day Spa, first met Stemmer when she was his teacher more than 30 years ago.
Since then, he has gone on to open his own successful salon and has hired innumerable graduates from Stemmer’s school. He also regularly goes into her school to make presentations about his salon to her students.
“It’s not just a business for her,” he said. “She’s trying to elevate the entry-level student and bring them to the highest level they can achieve. She helps them bring out the best of their skill set and pushes them forward.”
Stemmer said she has no plans of slowing down or retiring any time soon.
“I just love it. I’m stimulated by my students, who range in age from 18 to 60,” she said. “I think this industry is going to continue to grow. There’s a bright future with great possibilities. This school is my passion.”