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Barbers: Montreal high schoolers learn to cut hair

It may be the last place you think of high school students doing an extracurricular activity.

After school, twice a week, a group of Montreal teenagers are learning the clips of the trade at Quality Cuts West Island.

Austin Russo picked up a pair of shears for the first time a few months ago. He is only 13 years old.

“I cut my dad’s hair. He is like, ‘Do you want to cut my hair?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And then after that day, I just fell in love with it.”

He says he loves how cutting hair can transform a person. As of next week, the Grade 8 student will be a certified barber.

He is among a small group of students at his high school who are completing a 10-week program, learning everything from basic techniques like parting and sectioning hair, to what it’s like to run a barber shop.

“A lot of people think you can only start doing things for your future when you’re older, but I can start at 15, you know? Why not start young?” said Grade 10 student Kevin Patel.

“You get to talk to people, hear everyone’s stories, it’s not for everyone but personally I enjoy what I’m doing,” he said.

Patel said he told his friends he’s going to cut their hair and start charging them to make a little money on the side.

“I’ve had a part-time job during the summer, but I feel like this is better than a part-time job because it’s something I actually enjoy doing,” he said.

The course is done on the students’ own time, with costs covered by the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

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Their teachers want them to see that success doesn’t just come in the form of a university degree.

“This is, first off, a great way for kids to see what they might be interested in. We also know there are great vocational programs that pay just as much,” said Roberto Esperance, John Rennie High School French teacher and extracurricular activities co-ordinator.

“Students aren’t going to remember the French grammar I taught them, but they’ll definitely take this experience with them further in life.”

Russo hopes to start taking clients at home in his garage.

“He better be giving me a discount, I don’t know yet,” his father, Anthony Russo, said with a laugh, to which Austin promised he would.

It’s perhaps the start of a career, a part-time job or maybe a hobby empowering the next generation to be a cut above.

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