Program gives next generation of barbers the skills, tools needed to start a career

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CHICAGO — At America’s Beauty Show the options are huge, as is the hair. There are booths bursting with brushes, lace and lashes, and tucked near the walls of McCormick Place sat Wahl, home of high-end clippers and barber Garland Fox.

A military vet who used to be homeless, Fox is a successful barber and teacher known as "G-Whiz" around the shop.

"I was cutting hair and I was cutting with two bare clippers at the same time, and I was dancing and I threw the clips and juggling, and everybody was like 'gee whiz,' and I was like, 'hey, I like that, I’m keeping that man!'”

Electric razor company Wahl gave four young men from Chicago full-ride scholarships to barber school, along with the equipment needed to start in a barbershop, as part of their new Fade-It-Forward Program. Garland says they hope to give every student what's needed to turn their young lives onto the right path for life.

"We’re taking the inner city youth, the at-risk youth and we’re trying to stop them before they get to that brink of destruction," Garland said. "Before the streets pull them in, we’re trying to grab them and give them an opportunity to have a life."

Young barber Sebastian Moore says he's drawn to the barbershop in part because it's a melting pot and a place full of "cultural buzz."

"Barbershops and barbers mean a lot to a community… they’re liaisons, confidants, therapists — everything," Moore said.

Coming from the South Shore neighborhood, Moore was one of the four chosen for the program.

"I was just so happy... I had no way to pay for school, I was just grateful," Moore said.

The non-profit UCAN is part of the program, which they hope will get at-risk youth on the right pathways towards productive careers.

"We’ve been able to take kids who normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity in regards to pay for school," said James Hollins, UCAN. "Wahl’s was so gracious to pay for these kids to go to school, and now their dreams are coming true."

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