A first for an Options School in Chicago – Excel Academy of South Shore Launches Barbering Program
Always looking for new ways to meet students’ needs, Camelot Education has launched a new curriculum at Excel Academy of South Shore that leads to state certification in barbering. The program is the first of its kind in the Chicago Public Schools’ options schools network.
“Some students may not aspire to go to a two-year or four-year university after high school, so we have been exploring additional pathways for them because Camelot’s goal and the district’s goal is for every student to have a verified post-secondary plan,” said Executive Director, Anthony Haley.
The program aligns with the district’s Learn.Plan.Succeed. initiative. Under the guidelines, students must have a plan to go to college, trade or vocational school, enter meaningful employment or take a year off (gap year) where they continue an activity toward their career before beginning post-secondary school.
“We want to expose our students to the widest spectrum of possibilities, and we want our students to explore career options before they graduate,” Haley said.
The CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Dr. Janice Jackson, and the Executive Directive of Early College and Career Education, Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri, joined Camelot’s CEO, Andrew Morrison, as well as local aldermen, community members, and other district officials on February 21, to celebrate the opening of this unique program. Support for this effort was evident.
Camelot formally applied to CPS in 2018 to host a career and technical education program. Following a rigorous process, Excel Academy of South Shore was approved. Camelot paid for almost all of the costs to renovate and convert a former science lab on the third floor into a barber studio, including the special electrical wiring needs, barber chairs, stations, and supplies.
In order to work as a barber in Illinois, an individual must have at least 1500 hours of theory, practicum, and internships. Those hours must be under a state-certified barber instructor, so Camelot hired one, Zachery Morris, who comes to the program with 15 years of experience as a barber and instructor. Once a student meets those hours, he or she is then able to apply to take the state-mandated written exam to become a state-approved barber.
“Our students will be able to graduate with not only a high school diploma but also a barber certificate,” Haley said. This makes them immediately employable, or they can become an entrepreneur and begin their own barbering business.”
Of Excel Academy’s 250 students, a maximum of 20 may enroll in the program, a major commitment. It takes 1.5 to two years to complete the barbering program. All students take five classes a day in Camelot’s accelerated school model. The students in the barbering curriculum are in the barbering courses for two out of five of their classes each day and in regular core subject areas like English and math for the other three.
Haley said students who decide on this career path in high school take advantage of a great opportunity.
“If a student waited until after graduation to get this same education at a technical school, it would be very expensive, whereas here, they are getting this training for free.”