Conversational Cuts: Building relationships through barbering - Health Tips

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Conversational Cuts: Building relationships through barbering

It’s the end of another long day for students at Airport High School in West Columbia, but even after the final bell, things are still buzzing in Le’Shaun Mathis’s office.
“I come in here and we talk business,” said Xavier Ford-Bolton. “We talk about interest rates and the importance of having good credit.”
Mathis is completing his first year as an assistant principal and is utilizing his tools and talents to connect with students on a personal level.
“Everybody loves the barbershop,” said Mathis. “People enjoy the conversations, because the truth comes out in the barbershop.”
Mathis received his barber’s license during college, so he could pay his way through school. He wants his students to be better prepared for college, which is why he doesn’t charge for his services.
“You can come in here and get a haircut, but you have to put money in an account for college,” said Rolando “RJ” Howell. “It’s like an investment towards your future.”
Howell is a junior at Airport. For him, Mathis’ office is a safe place; a place to talk about sports, girls, grades and life.
“He’s always been there,” said Howell. “My dad passed away when I was 15 and ever since then I’ve been able to count on Mr. Mathis for anything.”
By design all haircuts are by appointment only, because Mathis says it forces the students to plan.
Mathis is familiar with a few of the students, because before he was an assistant principal, he taught. He was a science teacher at Pine Ridge Middle School and taught both Howell and Ford-Bolton.
“It’s like seeing a seed grow and develop into a plant,” said Mathis. “I’ve enjoyed seeing their growth.”
Mathis' office walls are covered with motivational artwork, including the words, "Dream Big." He hopes the phrase will continue to inspire future generations.
“Most people when they get to high school, they don’t know what to do,” said Ford-Bolton. “I don’t want to be like that. I’m trying to get the knowledge early.”
After a quick inspection, both boys thanked Mathis for his service and words of wisdom.
"I feel like a new man," said Howell. "I look better, feel better, everything."
"I've watched students gain their confidence back while I'm cutting their hair," said Mathis. "They walk out of here with their shoulders up and ready to be productive."