Beyond barbering skills, students learn financial literacy, using their voice and running a business
February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. We will be celebrating with some features of unique programs within our schools!
A South Philadelphia High School alum and a first-generation Panamanian-American, Desmond F. Kirton Sr., picked up his first pair of clippers at the age of 10. He started Des in the Cut LLC when he was 28 years old and operated it for six years before he turned his passion to full-time high school teaching.
Now, he’s creating a next generation of barbers at Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School.
“I enjoyed cutting hair, taking care of people and making lots of money. But at some point, I realized that I’d have to replace myself,” says Kirton, who serves as the barbering instructor at Dobbins. “Teaching is more than providing students with a pathway to pursue barbering. It’s an opportunity to help kids see themselves as competent and capable. My job is to help them understand how to bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be.”
Through the school’s barbering program, students receive preparation for the Pennsylvania State Board of Barbering License Examination, which includes at least 1,250 hours of instruction and practical work. The program, which is a one-of-a-kind offering from the School District of Philadelphia’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, prepares students for a pathway in barbering with hands-on training in all aspects of hair and skin care for people of every ethnicity. It is designed to provide students with theoretical knowledge, practical skills and professional ethics to obtain barbering licensure.
As a son of a barber, senior Dymeer Burnett grew up in the barbershop. He joined the program to represent something missing from the barbering industry.
“I told myself that I wanted to be different from other children because seeing young barbers was rare,” says Burnett, who plans to partner with his dad and start a barber transportation service for his next venture upon graduation. “My father and I saw an opportunity to be able to travel and practice doing something that we both enjoy doing. Our dream and goal is to be able to travel all across the United States in a barber bus giving out haircuts. We also plan on giving out free haircuts to those who need it most.”
In 2019, Dobbins completely renovated the high school and officially reopened their Mustang Cuts Barber Shop and classroom. The new barber shop includes 20 barber chairs, 10 hair shampoo stations, five dryer chairs and four facial massage stations. The theory room includes a brand new Promethean SMART board, iPads and Macbook Airs for the students to use in class. Students run Mustang Cuts Barber School, which is by appointment only, Wednesday-Friday 8-10 a.m. and 12:30-2 p.m. The program’s Instagram page is @MustangBarbers.
The students in this program are learning more than fundamental barbering skills. Kirton says that the program teaches students valuable life skills, such as customer service and financial literacy skills, that can transfer to any industry.
“Kids have the opportunity to see how education should always translate into dollars,” says Kirton. “Our students should always be able to see how the education they are getting helps them to be able to build a financial plan for their future.”
“Our students learn to open their mouths and talk to people. When it comes to being a barber and being successful, you have to be comfortable opening your mouth and speaking up,” Kirton adds. “Financial literacy and budgeting is also a big part of the program. That starts as soon as they enter our program in the tenth grade.”
Students in the program are prepared for either a career in barbering or college- and some do both.
“My students learn how to make money while getting their education. As a future entrepreneur, you’re gonna need more than one positive stream of income, ” Kirton adds. “I believe in career and technical education. You get high school and a career all in one. If you do it right, by the time you graduate high school, you get to walk across that stage to get your high school diploma with a career already in your pocket. What’s better than that?”
As a US Army veteran, college student and mentor, Kirton still operates Des in the Cut LLC as a barber shop in the basement of his home. It’s a way to provide services for his clients who refuse to change barbers. Recently, he expanded the business to include a new favorite pastime: home remodeling. Kirton also serves as a member of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement (OBME).
For more information on the program, visit their website.