Wednesday, August 27, 2014
When Jason Collins graduated from Georgetown High School in 1992, he felt like something was missing from his education.
“I wanted to take up barbering. That was always something I wanted to do, but at Georgetown High School they only had cosmetology, and they still only have cosmetology to this day.
“In those days it was pretty shameful for guys to go to cosmetology class, they got made fun of, so I never signed up. I wanted to learn how to cut hair, not how to do roller sets or color,” he said.
So upon graduation, Collins enrolled at the closest barber school to Georgetown, in Florence.
“It was a hard time. The commute was so far, my parents’ car broke down several times on the way to and from Florence. It took me about one-and-a-half years to finish because of that, and I just thought it wasn’t fair, I felt like there should be more opportunities here.”
After working in the barbering industry for more than 20 years, Collins decided to bring those opportunities to Georgetown.
He opened his own barber school four months ago at 622 Washington Street. But pretty soon there will be more than barbering – the business, Collins Barber, Beauty, Nursing and Truck Driver School, will soon have classes for all of the industries in the name.
“I’m trying to give the community opportunities that didn’t exist before,” he said.
When deciding to open the school, Collins said he was certain he wanted to open it in Georgetown.
“I lived in Atlanta for a while, but I just feel like ‘why do you have to go so far away to get an education for your career?’ It’s 2014, Georgetown students shouldn’t have to go away for those chances. So I just knew if I ever had the opportunity to bring things here, I would bring things here.
“I want my students to be proud to be Georgetownians, and I want my school to be something Georgetownians are proud of.”
Collins said with a smile that his dream is to one day expand his schools into a community college with a basketball team.
But for now he’s focusing on what he knows best, and that’s cutting hair.
So far eight students are enrolled in the school, Collins said, which he thinks is encouraging for how short a period of time the school has been open.
Students must be at least 16 years old to enroll, and must be able to prove they’ve passed at least ninth grade. However, he does not require any background checks for criminal records, which Collins said he did on purpose.
“Some people have been to prison, or have just had a bad way in life, and they need an opportunity like this,” Collins said.
“This is a second chance for a lot of guys. Barbering allows these guys an opportunity to come back and be an asset to the community, not a liability.”
Collins approached the Georgetown County School District board about partnering with his school to provide students in the district with more vocational training opportunities.
“This is a great opportunity for those students,” Collins said. “I challenge Georgetown High and any other school in the district to expand their programs and help these kids out.”
He said a career in barbering offers unique benefits such as high job security – “this job has been around since Moses” – and entrepreneurial opportunities for barbers to rent booths or own their own shops.
All of the students manning the chairs at the school said that’s what they are hoping to do one day.
Students Kenneth Graves, Daniea Kelly, Dedrick Gilliard and Jerod Fairley said they all hope to one day own their own shops; Ahrmaund “Dat” Jenkins said he hopes to own a barber school.
Collins “teaches us anything we want to learn,” Jenkins said.
In the few months he’s been enrolled, Graves said he’s been learning how to work with a razor and cut with scissors. Fairley loves to “keep working on that fade,” he said. Kelly said he’s most enjoyed learning business skills from Collins.
Each of the students have a student barber license, and have to complete 1,500 work hours before they can graduate from the school and apply for a full license.
Collins said if a student worked on barbering full time, it may take 10 months to one year to complete their hours.
All of the current students thought a partnership between the school district and the barber school would be beneficial for the community.
“It gives them something to do,” said Gilliard. “Lots of kids drop out of school, but here as long as you have a ninth grade education, you can come and learn. It’s always good to get a trade.”
Fairley agreed: “This would be a major step for a lot of young people that really don’t have any skills.”
And for adults, too, according to Kelly. He said although he’s been cutting hair for years, he’s enrolled to move up in his career.
“I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “I wanted to fine-tune my skills, and put my skills to good use.”
In a few months, Collins School will begin teaching nursing and truck driving, too, which will offer even more chances for local teenagers and adults to start on a new career path.
“We’re just here trying to make this community the best it can be,” Collins said. “There should be an opportunity for everyone to be successful, and learn to do what they love to do.”