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Becoming Barbers in Indianola

Posted on: January 10, 2016

For longtime barber Bryant Smith, hair is a renewable resource that can provide a future for Indianola’s young people.

“It can provide these kids with more than a job. It can teach them to be entrepreneurs and business owners. It can build self-esteem and confidence,” said Smith. “It’s a profession that’s been very good to me.”

Now through a new partnership between Smith’s S&S Barber College and the Indianola Promise Community, young adults 18-24 years old will be given the opportunity to learn those skills in a nine-month barber training course set to begin in 2016. The tuition that is provided will cover the cost of supplies and testing fees for state licensure as barbers.

The program is a key component of an IPC program called GREAT, or Getting Ready to Excel, Achieve and Triumph. The program gives young adults in Indianola the opportunity to gain skills that will assist them with employment and furthering their education.

GREAT is open to Indianola residents who are:

  • between 18-24 years old
  • graduated from or attended Indianola’s Gentry High School
  • recipients of a high school diploma or GED

“The barber training is a continuing effort to provide our young men and women with more than just a job,” said Lolita Gladney, an IPC program manager. “If we expect them to succeed in life then we have to be willing to give them training for a long-term career. Indianola has historically lacked this kind of training.”

The two other components of the GREAT program offers scholarships for career opportunities on one track and technical skills with national certification on a second track.

The scholarships in the first component are available for up to 12 young adults ages 18-24 who meet the aforementioned requirements. The scholarships pay for instruction at Indianola’s Keplere Institute of Technology and covers the cost of state testing for certification in four career fields — certified nursing assistant, phlebotomist, pharmacy technician and child development associate.

The second component offers up to 15 young adults training in basic technical skills at the Sunflower County Consolidated School District’s Technical Center. Skills such as tool handling and worksite safety are offered to participants ages 16-24. No high school diploma or GED is required. The program offers students national certification that will help them with future employment.

“The fact is that Indianola can be a tough place to land a good job,” said Gladney. “We have to create our own opportunities instead of relying on others to do it for us. We’re excited about these new programs and what they can mean for our young people.”

In more than 15 years as a barber, Bryant has left a lot of hair on the floor in his efforts to make Indianola look good. Now he wants to improve the look of employability in his community.

“Anyone can get a job, but to have a career that can sustain a family and a household is what the future is really about,” he said. “If not for programs like this, these kids would never have a true profession.”