CLEVELAND — A good barber can take you from looking a little bit rough to a million bucks with a pair of clippers and thirty minutes in their chair, but the road to getting there is expensive and out of reach for some aspiring students.
A new scholarship program is giving low-income Clevelanders a chance to follow their hair-cutting dreams.
Eight Cleveland students have been awarded full scholarships to two city barber schools as part of Wahl Clipper Corporation’s Professional division and its Fade it Forward program.
The program started in Chicago in 2018 and expanded to St. Louis in 2020. In addition to providing full scholarships, the program provides mentoring opportunities to students from industry professionals. The goal is to reinforce the hard work and dedication needed to achieve success in the competitive barbering industry.
The program was brought to Cleveland through a partnership between Wahl Clipper Corporation and the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. President Marsha Mockabee helped foster the partnership.
The Urban League of Greater Cleveland chose the recipients of the scholarship. Four are enrolled at Allstate Hairstyling and Barber College in Ohio City and the other four are enrolled at Keratin Barber College in Cleveland’s Lee-Miles neighborhood.
One of those recipients is Jalen Dennis. He’s attending classes at Allstate and barbering is in his blood.
“Well my dad is a barber. So I was kind of wanting to follow in his footsteps and also be a barber,” said Dennis.
Dennis’s friend and classmate, Chad Medley Jr., is also a scholarship recipient and has the same kind of devotion for the trade.
“I love the way people feel after they get a haircut. I love cutting hair, it's my passion,” said Medley.
But going to school for that passion comes with a hefty price tag.
“Roughly anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000,” said Medley.
It's money both men just don’t have.
Dennis said he tried to apply for school earlier this year, but had a hard time finding the right fit for him.
“All the rest of the schools didn't take financial aid. So it's kind of hard for me to find a school,” said Dennis.
Medley has a wife and three children. He said he had to make many sacrifices to follow his dreams.
“My wife told me, ‘Listen, take this opportunity, and do what you got to do get through school so that we can be blessed.’ So that was one of the biggest opportunities,” said Medley.
The Fade it Forward program ensures that they can attend school free of charge and not incur any kind of student debt along the way.
“Oh, I was super grateful. Super excited. This is an opportunity of a lifetime that you cannot pass up,” said Medley.
Dennis and Medley have been attending classes since November 9 and said they are soaking up knowledge and lessons like sponges.
“They're just great. If you hear each one of the stories, you know, right off the bat, why they were chosen,” said Nathan Phillips, program manager with the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. “It’s always heartfelt, because I mean, think about it. To go to barber college, you have to have the commitment to stay the course. It's 1,800 hours. So when you get your mind wrapped around this is what you want to do, when you're committed, finances can get in the way. So we're talking upwards of, you know, $16,000 pretty much everything included per person, you know, to make it through barber college.”
Allstate’s president and founder Mike D’Amico said he was approached by the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and agreed to join the program.
“Feels good for us. Felt good that they approached us, first of all. And now that we see what’s going on and how the program is working, it's a good thing. It's a good thing for all of us–for the guys and us too,” said D’Amico.
Now, for these students their dreams are that much more attainable.
Like Dennis, who wants to join the family business.
“Right now, I want to get into my dad's shop and just graduate but after that, I'll probably want to own about four or five shops and then expand into other things,” said Dennis.
And Medley, who is creating the foundation for one of his own.
“This is going to bless my family, man. Just being able to be stable financially, and just be an entrepreneur and just have my hands on all sorts of things, especially with the community and things like that. So it's going to bless my family a whole lot,” said Medley.
More information about the Wahl Clipper Corporation's Fade it Forward program can be found here.
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