Local barbers open barbershop school


Patrick Murphy

Legacy Academy, located at 309 East State Street in Sycamore IL.

By Jamie O'Toole, Columnist

DeKALB — Owners of Legacy Academy, Andre Powell and Jonathan Thompson, partnered up with local colleges to give high school students the opportunity to become a licensed barber during their junior and senior year, while simultaneously gaining elective credit to complete their diploma.

Powell owns In & Out Cuts, 1963 DeKalb Ave., and Thompson owns Jonathan Roc’s Barbershop, 114 E. Hillcrest Drive. The two decided to open up a barber school because there wasn’t one within 65 miles, and barbering is a great opportunity for those with a passion for cutting hair, and who might not want to pursue cosmetology, Powell said. 

Legacy Academy, 309 E. State St., was set to open in March, but officially got the green light from the state to open on Oct. 5, due to the pandemic. 

To become a licensed barber in Illinois, 1,500 hours are required, consisting of theory, which is textbook material, and practical, which requires the student to practice their skills on mannequins or people. 

Legacy Barbershop Academy student Ryan Echavarria practices shampooing hair with the help of his instructor on Dec. 3, 2020.
(Patrick Murphy )

Since October, Legacy has offered a program to complete those 1,500 hours to anyone and everyone looking to become a barber. They currently have six students, with about a 90 percent success rate, Powell said. However, working with high school students was an afterthought, a later addition to their school, Powell said. 

The certification for high school students will be available Jan. 5, and so far Legacy has partnered with Kishwaukee Education Consortium and Fox Valley Technical College, Powell said. Kishwaukee gives Legacy connections with five high schools, while Fox Valley connects them with about 10 high schools. 

Those interested must contact their high school counselor to start the process. 

Within the program for high school students there will also be a mentorship program, Thompson said, to guide students with self development as individuals.

Legacy Barbershop Academy instructor Andre Powell instructs his student Julian Camacho on Dec. 3, 2020. (Patrick Murphy )

By the end of the mentorship program, students will conduct a project  to produce their own hypothetical business plan as if they were opening their own barbershop, and do research on necessary equipment and furniture. 

To do that, Powell and Thompson will invite community leaders, loan officers, business owners, insurance and real estate agents, accountants and credit restoration agents to talk with students. One day will be reserved for theory book work and the next day students will listen to professionals to gather how, from start to finish, they can open their own business in addition to how to cut hair after they finish the certification, Thompson said.

“We want to not only build barbers but build great human beings,” Thompson said. 

Because of the pandemic, Illinois is permitting barber schools to offer only a portion of theory hours online. Typically students would complete all of their hours of theory at the school, then they would be granted access to an outside barbershop to complete an apprenticeship for their last 150 hours of the 1,500. These guidelines apply to all high school or non-high school students, Powell said. 

After students reach 1,500 hours, Legacy will distribute a final exam, and once a student passes, they will then take a state exam to become licensed, Powell said.

Students will attend the program during school hours with an opportunity to receive one to three high school credits depending which program they are a part of, according to Legacy’s website.

At Legacy there is a “practical floor” that offers $10 haircuts to the public from students. With proof of ID, college students can get their hair cut for $8 and healthcare frontliners with proof of ID are offered $7 haircuts.

This hands-on experience before students move on to start their apprenticeship is what makes Legacy stand out from other barber schools, Powell said.

Students Amy Scorzo, Ryan Echavarria and Julian Camacho read barbershop textbooks at Legacy Barbershop Academy in Sycamore. (Patrick Murphy )

“I know barbers who went to school for a year and a half and can’t cut hair because they just read books and practiced on mannequins,” Powell said. 

There being two instructors who own their own barber shops, there’s a versatility that’s accessible at Legacy as well, Powell said. 

The biggest reward for the two barbers is being able to give back to the community, Thompson said. 

Students are often introduced to options after high school that they may not want to pursue, and barbering gives them an alternate route they may enjoy more, Thompson said. 

Thompson said he knows what barbering has allowed him to do, and he hopes Legacy opens the same doors for students.