RCC Barber Students in a league of their own
Haircuts. Facials. Beard Trimming. Shaves and Fades. You name it, and a student studying in the barbering program at Robeson Community College can probably do it.
Barbering is one of the oldest professions, and going to the barbershop is one of those time-honored traditions, as it tends to be thought of as that old-fashioned, community gathering place to catch up on news, relax, and get refreshed with a new look, trim, or cut.
RCC’s Barbering program, housed within the RCC COMTech Campus in Pembroke, fits the bill, providing services to the public while educating aspiring barbers with the foundational principles and techniques in an environment that’s fun, inviting, and friendly with lots of camaraderie and good energy… just like the barbershops you may know and love.
“What we do here is learn the basic knowledge of haircutting and the basic knowledge to prepare you for the state board,” stated RCC Instructor Connie Baker. “As the student grows, and they get out on their own, they’ll fill their niche… In the barber world, we call it a signature style and that’s what they’ll be known for.”
When students begin the program, they must complete almost 1528 hours in clinical, performing services for the general public, and then spend a year as an apprentice, working under the supervision of a licensed shop owner before they can become fully licensed.
For many students, barber school is an opportunity of a lifetime to make their dreams come true.
“Nothing else felt right until I put clippers in my hands, I’ve always been around it but I haven’t ever dove into it, and I’m like now is the right time,” barber student Jerel Preston said. “Mrs. Baker is a great teacher, she’s going to make sure you know your stuff. That’s the best part about being here, I’ve never really been good at school, so just coming here and seeing myself succeed, gives me the confidence I need to be able to reach those extra levels in life.”
Preston says that the barbering program is a vessel that will help get him to his next destination, Atlanta, and that it will “instantly” create a better life for him and his family.
“That’s where I want to be,” Preston stated. “Atlanta is known as the ‘Hair Mecca’ of the world. It’s where all the big people go for all the big hair shows, so I kind of want to be there in that environment… I know this program will get me there.”
“I couldn’t stand school when I was in high school, I wanted to drop out,” Preston said. “But here you have more freedoms, and we are more hands-on, and I’m learning about something I’m passionate about.”
That’s how barber student Praythyn Oxendine also feels, saying “It’s something I had a passion for when I was in high school… now that I’ve got hands-on, it’s pretty easy and fun…it just fits.”
Oxendine started at RCC in the welding program, earning a certificate in the program, but says, it just wasn’t the right career path for him, even though he was good at it.
“Sometimes you have to make a change,” Oxendine said. “I’m going to build up my clientele and open my own shop… It feels good to make someone look nice, people are usually very appreciative.”
Kierra Locklear, also a student in the barbering program, hopes to land in a metropolitan area once she finishes.
“I want it to be somewhere big… I want to think bigger, better, and go far away… I want to start off fresh,” Locklear stated.
Being a female going into a predominantly male profession, Locklear says she doesn’t let that intimidate her.
“A lot of people look at me differently, but I like that actually, I like to fool people and just like to open people’s eyes,” Locklear said. “People say, ‘Dang I can’t believe she can cut like that.’”
“There are lots of strong women in this world that do men’s jobs… I know I’ll just have to keep showing them that women can do as much as a man in barbering,” she said.
Locklear grew up going with her cousins to the barber shop, and it’s part of the reason she chose to enter this profession.
“I always wanted to cut men’s hair, and I always wanted to learn to do that, and I thought maybe one day I can do it… so I tried and when I first started, I wasn’t all that, but I kept trying and trying, starting with some cheap clippers and I just have worked myself up…. To this day, I am still working on it,” Locklear said. “I feel like I’m better at cutting men’s hair, I love how it blends and the fades that I do. I’ll cut women’s hair, no problem, I just have more passion for cutting men’s hair.”
Over the past semester, Locklear has achieved the highest number of services in the RCC Barbershop with 75 completed.
“I don’t turn anybody down, I want to learn everything,” she said. “I feel like I have made a big step in life.”
For Joe Hunter, taking that step towards getting a license by enrolling at RCC, has helped him grow professionally.
“I’m learning that there’s so much that I didn’t know,” said Hunter, who has cut hair, off and on, for the last 35 years for friends and family. “I’m learning how to use a razor, different massage techniques, I learned how to do a facial, I’ve learned the difference in shampoos, shampoos that you should and shouldn’t use… I do wish I had come out earlier, but it is, what it is.”
Just like the other students, Hunter wants to open his own shop as well but says he just enjoys meeting new people and getting to know them.
“We had a nice outing at UNCP the other day, we cut like 40 heads, all faculty, I really enjoyed that,” Hunter stated. “I was surprised that so many women got their hair cut, I cut two or three women, did some cuts and some layers…. It helped boost my confidence and just felt great to give back.”
Hunter says he encourages others, young and old, to follow their dreams and not give up.
“If you’re my age, it’s never too late, if that’s what you want to do, go ahead and do it,” he says. “For a young person, just stick to it, stay focused, and be willing to learn and soak it up like a sponge.”
“I appreciate RCC. I’m glad they have the barbering program and other trade programs like truck driving that’s more hands-on. It used to be that you had to go far off to do stuff like that,” Hunter stated. “High school and this are not the same, college is different. Everyone should try the experience just once and see for themselves… it’s totally different.”
If you are interested giving the the Barber program at Robeson Community College a try, please contact Natalia Townsend, the director, at 910-272-3447 or email@example.com or visit https://www.robeson.edu/service-industries/. The Barber Shop at RCC is open Monday thru Thursday from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the ComTech Campus located at 124 Livermore Drive in Pembroke. Haircuts are just $5.00 per person. Walk-ins welcome.