Industrial tech student a jack of all trades

A photo of Samy Rash

Normally industrial technology, ballroom dance and cosmetology wouldn’t come up in the same conversation, but if you’re talking with Samy Rash that could very likely be the course of the discussion.

Rash grew up in Needles, Calif. and from the time he was 13, he was working. “My grandmother would have me doing odd jobs. I worked one summer roofing and then with a tire shredding company. I got a work permit when I was 14 and got a job at a pizza place. I was always doing something,” he said.

Rash joined the Air Force right after high school graduation in 2005. He worked as an aerospace ground equipment mechanic, servicing equipment used on C-130 aircraft at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville including heating and air conditioning units and generators. “We worked on the equipment used for the plane, not the plane itself. We called ourselves the Jiffy Lube of the flight deck.”

After the military, Rash attended cosmetology school and graduated but never worked as a cosmetologist. “I made this life goals poster of all these things I wanted to do. I wanted to learn to dance, learn cosmetology, learn massage therapy and then open my own business. Sort of a health and wellness shopping mall,” he said.

That’s when Rash discovered Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio in Little Rock. The studio was looking for instructors but needed a full-time commitment. “I chose to do dance full-time and taught there for four years,” he said.

His dance career would open numerous travel opportunities to competitions in Dallas, Florida, New Jersey, Cancun and more. Rash competed with both professional partners and in professional/amateur competitions with his students. He’s taught well-known students including Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daughter, Sarah Hutchinson Wengel, and THV 11’s Dawn Scott. He volunteered for three years straight with Dancing with Our Stars Little Rock, a red carpet gala that benefited the Arkansas chapter of the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

While he continued to teach dance, Rash returned to the cosmetology world and worked at Paul Mitchell cosmetology school in Little Rock. He worked in admissions as well as the professional development leader and a career counselor helping the up-and-coming “future professionals” develop their own brand and find career opportunities.

“One of my favorite things was helping them [students] find their passion and figure out who they want to be. It’s like dancing. You have to understand what people are saying without saying it and figure out what they truly want,” he said.

After Rash left Paul Mitchell, he went back to odd jobs for a while. He built Tuff Sheds; took a course in hardscaping and learned how to build retaining walls, waterfalls and outdoor kitchens; and washed and sealed decks, siding and fences. With all of these skills under his belt, something was still missing.

“I was thinking about moving back to California, but before I made that big move, I thought I would try one more thing. A friend told me about the industrial technology program at UACCB. Heating and air is something I already know, so I’m working toward the industrial tech degree with an emphasis in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. I’ve done lots of things, but this is the first time I’ve taken actual college courses,” Rash said laughing.

He plans to graduate with his associate’s degree in December and wants to open his own heating and air conditioning company. He said he will probably offer a variety of services that utilize his construction and industrial technology skills.

And he plans to carry on dancing. “I still want to teach dance on the side. My business will provide my financial reward, but dancing provides that emotional reward and that connection with people that I love.” Rash is teaching a ballroom dance class at UACCB through the Community and Technical Education department this spring. His personal favorite dances are the salsa and swing dance.

Rash said he’ll never lose his desire to learn new things and try new experiences. Among the items on his bucket list are learning to play the guitar and learning Spanish. His ultimate goal is to become a motivational speaker. With his wide array of life experiences, he’ll have plenty of stories to share with others.

“I don’t want to be stuck in one job my whole life. I have so many things I want to do before I die. I don’t want to spend my life doing something that doesn’t make me happy. That’s why I never settle,” he said.