After exoneration for murder he didn’t commit, man opens barber college in Rogers Park

Chicago News

CHICAGO — A new barber college in Rogers Park has a mission to create jobs and hope.

For one of the owners, he said the new space is so much more than just a place for a trim or shave.

While Juan Rivera was serving 20 years for a murder and rape he didn’t commit, he constantly dreamed of opening Legacy Barber Shop, located at 1546 W. Howard St.

While in prison, Rivera’s correctional officer, Bobby Mattison, made the prison’s barbershop one of the state’s first licenses barber colleges in a maximum security setting.

“I used to walk around the prison facility angry and upset. His words of wisdom was ‘no one is going to see an angry individual,'” said Rivera. “Bees get honey not vinegar.”

Rivera’s sentence was overturned in 2012 and he was granted a $20,000,000 settlement three years later.

“But I kept the hope. My family was strong and supportive,” Rivera said. “I’ve got an amazing group of attorneys from Northwestern and Loyola.”

In 2016, the pair opened their first barber college, but it closed down last year amid the pandemic.

“The pandemic hit everyone hard. And we closed the doors it was like ‘man, what are we gonna do now,'” Mattison said.

The new location opened last month and is already inspiring the next generation of barbers.

“His story is very inspiring to me. He’s came up a lot. He could have spiraled down coming out. Could have been mad at the world but he came up,” said student Juan Robles.

Anyone can enroll in the school. So far, eight are community members and 24 are high school or college students.

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