Teacher Trisha Biondoletti works with a student on a mannequin.

Coral Shores High School students walk through the doors to a newly-transformed hair salon on a Monday. Located on the second floor, students first talk to teacher Trisha Biondoletti before proceeding to hair styling and nail polishing. 

In groups of two, students work on mannequins as they discuss techniques. Others get seated  at the nail station to paint their classmates’ nails. 

A little over 90 students are signed up for a cosmetology program that’s new to Coral Shores this year. That equates to five classes for Biondoletti, who’s been with the school for 20 years and has a background in cosmetology. 

Entering through the doors, students instantly get a salon feel with hair stations, nail stations and spa music playing faintly in the background. Biondoletti says the program includes quite a bit of content for students to work through, everything from caping to sectioning hair and updos. 

“They get a lot of practice and work together. In a salon, you’re a team,” she said. “Your neighbor may need help with something. We are working on building constant relationships.”

Not all of Biondoletti’s lessons focus solely on hair styling. Once seated, students look to the white board for the question of the day. Once they write down their answer, Biondoletti goes around to ask each student what they wrote. Biondoletti said it’s a way to improve their life skills and communications. 

“Listening in the salon, you have two ears and one mouth. You have to listen to your client,” she said. “But it’s not just a life skill for the salon. Not all are going on to be cosmetologists. They need communication for everything they do in life. It builds their confidence.”

Addison Arce works on Hannah Townsend’s nails.

Biondoletti said a cosmetology curriculum was needed at the high school since not all students will go on to college.  High school staff recently met with the College of the Florida Keys officials to discuss a potential program that would allow students to transfer to continue their education at the new facility in Key Largo. 

“We got the ball rolling,” she said. “That was Autumn Hager’s idea that she started.”

Freshmen who stay with Biondoletti through their senior year can accumulate 1,200 hours, go on to take their cosmetology state board and go to work. Those who need more hours could transfer to a community college. Biondoletti said the state sometimes forgives the few extra hours needed if students are close. 

 For nail technicians, 180 hours of training are needed.

“I have a student who wants to be a nail tech, and I’m like, ‘You’re going to be a nail technician because you’re awesome at nails,’” Biondoletti said. “My goal is to get this student — her passion — to where she needs to be.”

Principal Laura Lietaert said it’s a great way to keep students in the community, especially those who don’t want to go away after high school.

Student Maya Gada paints Malia Alexander’s nails during class.

“It gives us more connections with the community,” she said. “The community has been great to us as far as supporting the program. We get phone calls all the time about how they can support the students and come to demonstrate hair styles.”

Biondoletti said the cosmetology program wouldn’t be where it stands today without the help of the late Mike Forster. She recalls a day inside his restaurant where he came by and presented her a check after hearing about the new class. With his check, Biondoletti was able to order two chairs and supplies. 

“We wouldn’t be this far right now without him,” she said. “Because of him we’re able to forge forward. And kids feel like they’re in a salon. That was important to me.”

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.