New River CTC Cosmetology graduates follow different paths to new career

One thought she wanted to be a school teacher. The other was a nail technician who always wanted to do hair. Last May, Crystal Yates of Ronceverte and Stephanie Baldwin of Clintonville were members of the first graduating class from the New River Community and Technical College cosmetology program, and they couldn’t be happier about the choice they made.
Crystal Yates (left) and Stephanie Baldwin (right) pictured with New River Community and Technical College Cosmetology Program Director Lisa Carter
Crystal Yates (left) and Stephanie Baldwin (right) pictured with New River Community and Technical College Cosmetology Program Director Lisa Carter

Yates had earned an associate’s degree in general education 13 years ago and decided to enroll at the New River CTC Greenbrier Valley Campus to pursue a degree in elementary education. After 40 hours in the classroom with second graders, she found herself questioning her choice. Her husband knew she enjoyed coloring hair and suggested that she try cosmetology.

“I had always wanted to do that, but I didn’t want to drive to Beckley,” Yates explained.

The timing was perfect, because the Beckley Beauty Academy had just closed, and the New River CTC Greenbrier Valley Campus had developed a two-year associate degree program in cosmetology to fill the void.

Yates said that after talking to Cosmetology Program Director Lisa Carter and Campus Dean Roger Griffith, she dropped all of her education classes, and within a day was enrolled in cosmetology.

“I started a week late and finished a week before everyone else,” she says. “The instructors are just wonderful.”

Stephanie Baldwin had attended Beckley Beauty Academy more than 15 years ago and was working as a nail technician. She had always wanted to do hair, and since she had worked for Carter, who previously owned the Hair Fantastic Salon, she heard about plans for the new program.

“The timing was good. My children were older, and I really enjoyed it,” she commented. “There is a lot of one-on-one with the students. It was really a learning and growing process.”

Both women enjoyed tremendous support from their families when they returned to school. Yates used her daughter, Tori, as a “test dummy,” and Tori is now interested in taking some basic cosmetology classes herself. Her husband and son, Hayden, also helped out and cheered her throughout the two years.

Baldwin had a similar experience with her family of two children, two step children and two step grandchildren. With three teenagers in the house at times, she said it was a rough road, but that they all were supportive.

In addition to learning a great deal, the two had a lot of fun in the program, where they explained there were lots of creative theme days and everyone really loved to eat. They said they will miss their instructors and the friends they made in the program.

The two are now ready to launch their careers as cosmetologists. Yates plans to open a salon on the outskirts of Ronceverte and is counting on word of mouth to build clientele. Baldwin is partnering with a friend to open a salon called the Best Little Hair House in Fairlea, where they will provide both hair and nail services.

Baldwin has advice for others who may be considering a return to college a number of years after high school. “Don’t get frustrated, and don’t give up. It’s worth it no matter how old you are,” she said.”

The New River CTC cosmetology program is offered exclusively at the Greenbrier Valley Campus in Lewisburg. Fall classes begin Aug. 18, and the deadline to register for classes is Aug. 8. There are still a few openings in the cosmetology degree program as well as in the shorter-term nail technician and esthetics certificate programs. For further information, contact Lisa Carter at 304-793-3005.