The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Barbering Bonds: “Cuttz by J” Mentors Students

Johnny Jenkins offers free haircuts to Teen Center members and high school students through “Cuttz by J,” where he forms meaningful connections with high school students. The program hopes to create a listening space for the students based on shared life experiences.

The hum of clippers and snip-snap of scissors harmonizes with the lively chatter of a mentor and student at the Brookline Teen Center.

Recently implemented at the Brookline Teen Center, “Cuttz by J” is a program that offers free haircuts to Teen Center members who attend the high school. The program is run on Mondays and Thursdays by high school paraprofessional Johnny Jenkins.

Gary Frazier, Program Manager at the Teen Center, said that he likes to take advantage of the many talents possessed by Teen Center staff members to create programs, and one of the talents he found was haircutting.

“‘Cuttz by J’ came about because our staff member, Johnny Jenkins, is a barber,” Frazier said. “Any staff that works here likes to utilize their talents and their extracurriculars and things that they can do outside of the teen center.”

Jenkins has been cutting hair since middle school but chose to use his college degree to work as a teacher rather than becoming a full-time barber. At the Teen Center, Jenkins said he hopes to build a place similar to a barber shop, where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.

“It’s not just the haircuts,” Jenkins said. “When you go to the barber shop, you see a bunch of guys, a bunch of girls in there chit-chatting it up. I feel like I’m still that type of, you know, confidential barber. Anything anybody comes with me, it’s confidential.”

Frazier, who has a background in coaching and youth development, said he sees himself as a connector of young people and adults.

“Every young person needs somebody outside of their parents that can help them,” Frazier said.

Although Jenkins grew up in Dorchester, he moved through multiple schools in Cambridge and Boston. Jenkins said his background helps him build connections with the students he talks to.

“I’ve met some of the students that come to Brookline High from the Dorchester area, and I noticed they adapt to me more,” Jenkins said. “They know that I am not just some Black guy that’s coming here telling them what to do, you know, I come from the same place you come from and grew up probably worse than you grew up.”

Jenkins said he wants “Cuttz by J” to be an important resource for everyone in the high school community.

“It makes them feel good because they know they’re getting a service, and they’re getting it for free somewhere where they can be comfortable,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins’ age also creates a unique presence for the students who come to him. As an adult still young enough to understand what teenagers are going through, Jenkins said he can support a wide range of students.

“Being a parent figure and old enough to be most of these students’ parents, also to be most of these student’s older brother, they look at me as a mentor,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the most important part of “Cuttz by J” is its mentorship aspect. Jenkins said that, above all, he prioritizes building a relationship with the students he sees.

“It offers a sense of awareness to be able to express yourself in a scenery where you don’t have to worry about anybody judging you,” Jenkins said. “What happens in the room I’m doing haircuts stays in the room where I’m doing haircuts. This is supposed to be your safe space. You know, that’s what barbers do.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All comments are reviewed by Cypress staff before being published. To read our complete policy, see our policies underneath the About tab.
All The Cypress Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *