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This Mass. middle school opened an in-house barbershop to give kids free haircuts

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“It’s really just a safe space where kids can just be themselves.”

Barber Joseph L’Heureux gives student Lucas a haircut at the ribbon-cutting event for Husky Kutz. Jennifer Myers

The back-to-school haircut is essential – either for changing up your look before a new year or cleaning up after a long summer. But at Sullivan Middle School in Lowell, community school manager Gayl Hurley noticed not all students were making the cut. 

“Some of our students are in homeless shelters, some of our families don’t have a car so there’s that barrier just getting to go get a haircut,” Hurley said. “$25 is a lot of money for some of our families.”

For the past two years, she’s worked to open Husky Kutz, a first-of-its-kind, fully operational barbershop in the eighth grade wing of the Lowell middle school. Husky Kutz, named for the school’s mascot, celebrated its ribbon cutting this week and will start offering cuts in December.

The state-inspected, licensed barbershop has a spinning barber pole, a husky mural done by the school’s art teacher, a barber chair, and even a price list of haircuts to choose from: regular haircuts, fades, blow-outs, and shape-ups, all $0.

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Hurley was inspired in January of 2022, then led the effort to get a state permit, pick the location, and connect with Joseph L’Heureux, the only barber who will be staffing Husky Kutz.

“He’s in it for all the right reasons, so he’s super excited,” Hurley said.

L’Heureux, 30, has co-owned a barbershop in Dracut for the past four years. He’ll be giving kids free haircuts at the school every Monday, as long as the school will have him, he said.

“There are a lot of kids that struggle with confidence issues because they don’t have the knowledge or resources,” said L’Heureux, who grew up in Lowell. “It’s really just a safe space where kids can just be themselves.”

Hurley said the shop is booked out into January, filling up L’Heureux’s schedule with six kids each Monday morning. His business, The Shoppe LLC, is closed on Mondays.

“When you look good, you feel good, L’Heureux said. “I cut hair every single day, but it’s not every single day where I get to give back.”

L’Heureux started cutting hair in high school and began doing it professionally in 2014. Now, he wants to be a positive male role model for all students.

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“I get to communicate with him or her,” L’Heureux said, “become, hopefully a positive influence in their life and shed light on not only the world of trades, but just life outside of everyday schooling.”

The barbershop is open to all, girls and boys.

“Anyone can go, so no one feels funny going to get the hair cut because all kids can go,” Hurley said. “Some kids that really need it financially or for whatever reason can go, and then there might be some students that just want to get to know the barber.”

As a part of her role, Hurley has organized community events for Sullivan students and families including in-house, free dentist appointments, a mobile optometrist to give eye exams and free glasses, and an upcoming rent and eviction Q&A session.

A concept like Husky Kutz is unheard of, both Hurley and L’Heureux said. They emphasized that other schools and barbers could replicate their initiative.

“I’m hoping this pioneers great things not only in local public schools, but all inner city schools where there’s a great need for kids to get a haircut,” Hurley said. “You might think it’s just oh, it’s just a haircut, but it’s more than that.”

Source: Boston Globe

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