New barbershop opens at East High School, will give out free haircuts while mentoring students

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) —No, it’s not cutting class. It’s cutting hair before, in between, or after class, that is. It’s happening at East High School, as the school opens its new barbershop Monday morning.

The shop, known officially as "The East Cutting Edge," will give free haircuts to students at both East’s Upper and Lower schools. The partnership is between the school and the United Professional Barbers and Cosmetologists Association and is the first of its kind in the Rochester City School District.

UPBCA board members will voluntarily staff the shop with barbers from around the Rochester area.

The school says the shop is more than just about a snip and a fresh cut, as it will give students the chance to learn more about the industry and provide an opportunity for mentorship.

"The barbershop is where everybody comes together to conversations. It’s a place of encouragement, a place of openness, and it’s almost like a rite of passage of some degree for young men," said Willie Lightfoot, president of the UPBCA.

Just steps away from their classrooms, students of East will not only have the opportunity to get free haircuts, but also the opportunity to learn life skills, get exposure to the trade and talk shop.

"It’s really the mentoring piece that’s important as students are sitting In these chairs for 20 to 30 mins and hearing from these individuals who are professionals in the community. They’re involved in local churches, and they are true heroes within our space," said Shaun Nelms, superintendent of East High School.

According to Superintendent Nelms, East already has six different skilled trades offered, but organizers say this barbershop is an extension of that.

"This is to create business exposure for these young people to give them alternatives to college, alternatives to the military offering and introducing them to skilled trades," Lightfoot said.

"The sky is the limit on this project and this opportunity. We know within our community right now there are young men and women who are looking for mentors, and barbershops are often the epicenter of where we find our information, where we get our help and where we are able to decompress sometimes as a community," Nelms said.

The shop will be open for two hours every Monday or Tuesday, and students can sign up ahead of time.