More than 'just about cutting hair': Athens native uses barber academy to teach leadership – Online Athens

Tyron Harris vividly remembers his first time cutting hair.
At 14, he received a haircut from his uncle on the back porch. But when the cut was done, his uncle turned to him to return the favor.
“I said ‘dude I don’t know how to cut no hair,'” Harris, 46, recalled. “He told me he’ll show me what to do … he put the clippers in my hand and I’ve been at it ever since.”
Today, Harris owns his own barbershop in Winder and is providing kids with the tools to pursue a similar career.
Over the summer, he launched his barber academy, a month-long program in June where he taught the basics of grooming and cutting hair. But the academy didn’t stop at just haircuts, it also included lessons on leadership, guest speakers and helped participants build new bonds.
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The camp attracted a range of boys with differing skill levels. But all shared praise for what they learned.
Bryson Faust, 18, of Bethlehem said he has always been interested in learning how to cut hair. Upon returning from training for the National Guard in May, he saw an opportunity to pursue his passion when he spotted the academy advertised on Facebook.
“It was a good experience from the start,” Faust said. “I knew this was where I was supposed to be, and it’s been a good journey so far.” 
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Faust said his interest in cutting hair came from the relationship he had with his barbershop growing up. Over the course of the month, he learned how to not only be a better barber, but how to develop more confidence.
“It made me realize my first cut isn’t always going to be great, but as I keep going I can be where I want to be at,” he said. “It made me more persistent in completing my goals and trying to reach what I want to do.”
Faust said he hopes his new skills will help him when he arrives at Clark Atlanta University this fall. Most of all, he said he enjoyed how Harris taught everyone about life inside and outside the barbershop. 
“It wasn’t just information,” he said. “It was information then we sat down and talked about real life, and what’s actually happening out here.”
Harris said he found it important to teach kids more than just barber skills because growing up in Athens, he was a troubled youth. He said his father wasn’t around and he had to learn many hard lessons on his own.
“I wanted them to understand the importance of decision making,” Harris said. ” I wanted it to be more than just about cutting; I wanted it to be about life.”
He said he also knew the essential role a barbershop plays in developing a sense of community. Growing up, very Saturday he would walk to the barbershop with his grandmother, then go eat soul food after getting a fresh cut.
“It’s the pillar of the community,” he said of barbershops. “A haircut can change your whole momentum, your energy, your mood.”
The success of the first barber academy inspired him to start an adult class on Tuesdays.
But the original idea sprang from Harris looking to fill a void he saw growing up in Athens. He said there was no barber school in the area, and dreamed of forming one that could help those who didn’t want to travel to Atlanta or get a master’s degree in cosmetology when they just wanted to cut hair.
“I came up with a brilliant idea to open up a barber school,” he said. “But the fire was burning inside me so long and I knew it was something I knew I wanted to do immediately, and I didn’t have all the credentials at the time.
“It wasn’t going to happen overnight, but I couldn’t sleep at night with the idea. So I came up with the bootcamp to keep the fire lit.”
Jeremizer Crawford, 16, of Athens said he joined the academy because he used to cut his own hair. He said watching his mother — a professional hairstylist — made him want to enter the field.
But the academy taught him more than just fades and hairlines. Crawford said while he is admittedly quiet, the experience has helped him be more outspoken.
“I don’t even talk much,” he said. “It made me start talking more. When I first got here I was quiet.”
Quincey Haynes, 14, of Athens said he balanced football practice at Cedar Shoals High School with attending the barber academy. But the academy taught him an invaluable lesson.
“I learned about speaking, not being nervous when someone asks you to cut their hair,” he said, adding Harris also taught everyone the importance of staying true to themselves despite negative influences.
Other graduates of the academy shared a similar experience.
“I enjoyed my time while being here,” Rico Holt, 15, of Athens said. “This camp wasn’t just about cutting hair it was a lot of life lessons.”
To learn more about the barber academy or how to register, contact Harris at brodean58@gmail.com.

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