Blount County residents Sher’ee Wright and her daughter Bailee Smith, owners of Serenity Hair Salon, are both proud graduates of Wallace State Community College. Smith was in the seventh grade when her mom started the Nursing program at Wallace State. Three years later, Smith enrolled at Wallace State as a Dual Enrollment student with the intention of following in her mom’s nursing footsteps, but wound up taking another but also similar path to her mother.
Sher’ee Wright started taking classes at Wallace State Community College in 2007 she was already privately trained as a cosmetologist, but she wanted to be a nurse as well. She started taking night classes to complete the prerequisites she would need to apply for the Nursing program. For a time, she worked as a cosmetologist during the day and was a student at night.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do when I finished my prerequisites,” Wright said, wondering at the time how she would manage to find the time for full-time nursing classes and her job as a cosmetologist. “But about that time, Wallace started a part-time option for Nursing students. That worked better for my schedule and made things more flexible. That was the only way that I could go.”
Though it took a little longer, Wright accomplished her goal and graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing in December 2011. She was a Nightingale Award nominee and was inducted into Sigma Kappa Delta and Phi Theta Kappa honor societies. She was also the recipient of three scholarships: the Brookwood Medical Auxiliary Scholarship, a Lions Scholarship and third scholarship that aided students who experienced damage in the 2011 tornado outbreak. After that storm, she volunteered with disaster relief, assisting residents who were temporarily housed at the former Woodland Health Care Center because they were without electricity needed at their homes to power medical equipment.
Upon graduating and earning her license as a registered nurse, Wright took a job with UAB Hospital, where she worked first in Pulmonary and then in Labor and Delivery. She was there for eight years before taking a job with Alacare in August of last year.
But she’s still splitting her time between cosmetology and nursing, and this time sharing the cosmetology load at Serenity Hair Salon with her daughter, Bailee Smith, who graduated from Wallace State’s Salon and Spa Management program in 2014.
Wright said her education at Wallace State prepared her as much as possible for being a nurse in the field. “We were so hands-on at Wallace,” she said, adding after she entered the workforce she understood why the nursing instructors were so particular in their grading. “When you actually get out there and have someone’s life is in your hands, you understand the narrow margins and the validations,” she said. “There is no room for error when it comes to someone’s life.”
Wright said she chose Wallace State’s Nursing program because of its stellar reputation. “I knew they had the best nursing program in the area,” she said, adding she’s been told many times that Wallace State Nursing students have the best clinical skills. She also appreciated the part-time option, which allowed her to make her dream of becoming a nurse come true.
“I got to accomplish something that I always wanted to accomplish,” she said. “But the flexibility of this program, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
Wallace State’s Department of Nursing Education was designated in 2016 as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing.
Smith was also aware of the Nursing program and started taking her general required courses for the program as a Dual Enrollment student from Susan Moore. “I wanted to be able to get through as quickly as possible, and it counted for both my college and high school credits,” Smith said of her reasoning for choosing the Dual Enrollment program.
She’d completed all of her pre-requisite courses when she decided nursing really wasn’t what she wanted to do and that she did want to be hair stylist, despite telling herself differently while growing up. She was able to segue directly into the Salon and Spa Management program.
Smith said she was impressed by the brand-new facilities that had recently been renovated when she started the program. “I didn’t expect it to be as modern and updated as it was,” she said. “There were a lot of newer technologies, especially in esthetics, that I didn’t expect.”
All throughout her time in the program, Smith said she worked as her mother’s assistant and continued working with her after she received her student license and then after she graduated and received her permanent license. That last year in the program was difficult, Smith said, but thanked her instructors for their support.
“I was pregnant with my oldest daughter during my last year,” Smith said, adding she went into early labor during her 23rd week. Doctors were able to hold off labor for another 13 weeks. Her instructors would make sure she was able to sit down while she was doing hair and called to check on her after she gave birth.
“Tracy Smith was a godsend,” Smith said of the now-retired instructor. “She was so understanding and helpful. Tracy actually called me and prayed with me. She’s one of those teachers you just don’t forget.”