Ulster BOCES Cosmetology Graduate Recalls Learning Important Salon Skills

Ulster BOCES Cosmetology Graduate Recalls Learning Important Salon Skills

Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For Emaly Baum, it meant being a part of a group of like-minded people where she could grow as both a person and a hairstylist, ultimately leading to becoming a business owner.

“I always knew I wanted to go to Ulster BOCES,” she said. “As soon as I got into high school, I told my guidance counselor I wanted to go.” Emaly, a student from the Wallkill Central School District, attended the Cosmetology program at the Career & Technical Center in Port Ewen, graduating in 2010.

There, she had a positive experience that cemented her desire to build a career in hair styling. “It was so exciting to be around students from other schools who were all there with a common interest,” she said. “We bonded together like a tight community.”

The Ulster BOCES Cosmetology program provides students like Emaly with the “real-world” experience of running a professional salon, serving clients from the public, and taking on every role necessary to run a good business. Emaly said this helped her develop career-readiness. “Each student did every job, from front desk receptionist, to shampooing hair, to sweeping the floor and making sure supplies were fully stocked,” she remembered. “Because of this, we learned how to work effectively as a team, a crucial skill for success in the industry.”

Another integral skill Emaly and her fellow students learned was how to create the right kind of atmosphere where customers will return. “Our teachers introduced us to the culture of the good salon, like making customers feel welcomed and comfortable, keeping up friendly conversation, and working to put forth the best possible impression,” she said.

Emaly’s instructors also instilled in her a conscientious respect for coworkers. “We learned to be aware of our space, and give our fellow stylists the room they needed to develop good client-relations and be the best they can be,” she said. “We learned to support each other.”

“Teachers also let us explore and be creative, encouraging us to experiment on each other, and allowing us to figure things out on our own, but were supportive when we asked for guidance,” she added.

With this blend of hands-off trust and a solid foundation of skills, Emaly felt her teachers made sure students were “very prepared” for the State exam in Cosmetology, helping them study and learn all the rules and procedures, get their cosmetic “kits” (which would be judged) in “tip-top shape,” and getting them ready for the practical part where they demonstrate their skills on a manikin. “Going in, I was nervous but confident,” she said. Not surprisingly, she passed the exam and became a licensed cosmetologist.

Emaly brought this foundation with her as she ventured into the work world, first at salons in her hometown area, and then at several exclusive establishments in New York City, including Ion Studio, where she became a color assistant by chance. “They didn’t need a hair stylist, but someone who could do hair color. I took a chance and wound up loving it, she said. “It became my passion!”

Emaly found her niche, and honed her craft by taking professional development classes offered at this salon, and then at her next job with Suite Caroline’s, another well-known New York City salon. She discovered she was best at creating what she calls “summer hair,” with realistic highlights that imitate where the sun would hit naturally. She uses a process called “balayage,” a technique in which hair color is painted onto the hair to create a graduated, more natural-looking highlighting effect.

This spring, Emaly opened her own salon, called “Beauty Supply,” that specializes in color. Perched on the second floor of a SoHo building, Beauty Supply is meant to create a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, much like the one she experienced in the Ulster BOCES cosmetology lab. Emaly wants her clients to feel welcomed, “almost like they are getting their hair done at a friend’s apartment,” she said.

She enjoys being her own boss, and said the most important thing to her is “to be fair, create a comfortable environment, and support employees so that they may grow and flourish.”