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First Tennessee cosmetology student to compete internationally plans to become instructor

Rick Wagner • Dec 2, 2017 at 1:00 PM

KINGSPORT — When you’re one of the top cosmetology students in Tennessee, the United States and the world, what do you do for an encore?

Sullivan Central High School graduate Kylie Burkey is back from an international hairdressing competition, working in her chosen field of cosmetology and planning to start training and job-shadowing with two Sullivan County cosmetology instructors soon.

Burkey’s goal? To become an instructor like her mentor, Central cosmetology teacher Avery Putney, who went with her to the Oct. 14-19 international competition.

Medal of Excellence winner

Burkey, who has earned gold medals at state and national SkillsUSA cosmetology events, earned a Medal of Excellence for the United States at WorldSkills, a 65-year-old international competition in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. She was the first Tennesseean to participate in the event.

Three other members of the 11-person U.S. hairdressing team won the Medal of Excellence, which means they and Burkey were in the 90th percentile at the event. Burkey said she thought she had a shot at winning a bronze, silver or even gold, but she was pleased to earn the recognition and to see and be in a competition with folks from around the globe.

“Our scores overall averaged higher than the last (U.S) team,” Burkey said of the 23-member squad that attended the last international competition in 2015. The global events are held every other year.

Thirty-four nations were represented at the competition in hairdressing, the international category for cosmetology.

Jet lag and career plans

Burkey and Putney said they had serious cases of jet lag after they returned to the Volunteer State and their jobs. Putney works full-time at Central and also is a partner in Cutter’s Alley, a hair business in Colonial Heights. Burkey rents a booth there to serve her hair clients.

“I’m actually supposed to be starting an instructor’s license program in Sullivan County,” Burkey said.

Working with Bo Shadden, supervisor of secondary education and career technical education for Sullivan County Schools, Burkey hopes to participate in the new program beginning next year that will produce graduates licensed to teach cosmetology in Tennessee high schools. 

Toni Campbell from Sullivan South and Putney are to serve as instructors for the program.

If things work as out planned, in August of 2020 Sullivan County will open a comprehensive high school with a CTE focus off Exit 63 of Interstate 81, near Tri-Cities Airport. 

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