Yolanda Martinelli is graduating her 25th cosmetology class at the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna, New York. She estimates that she has worked with more than 1,000 students during her 25 years who have gone on to careers in cosmetology. Many, she says, either own or manage a salon.
Martinelli is not only proud of her part in helping the student’s transition into a cosmetology career, but she is proud of the trade itself. She says that she takes it personally when trades are put down and call them valuable and lucrative skills that everybody needs. She also hopes that more teens consider the opportunity to work in a trade.
The cosmetology program at the Career Technology Center currently has 80 students enrolled in the program made up of a mixture of 10th-, 11th-, and 12th– grade students. Students cut hair on mannequin heads at first before moving on to working with the people. Reduced priced haircuts are offered to the public twice a week which gives students more practice.
Students in the senior co-op program are able to prep for state certification during their senior year of high school and can even pursue paid opportunities before graduation.
Martinelli began her career in a similar fashion, attending cosmetology classes while in high school in the early 1980s. She originally thought she wanted to be an accountant but once she took the cosmetology classes, she found that she loved it.
She opened her own business by the time she was 19 and still operates it to this day. Soon after, she began teaching night school classes which led to her position at the Career Technology Center.
Martinelli says that enrollment is increasing now that teens are realizing that they can start a career without spending tens of thousands of dollars on tuition.
“Once you learn a trade, it’s yours for life,” she says.