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A Delaware principal is taking a unique approach to fostering connections with the students that he serves. According to Delaware Online, Dr. Terrance Newton—the leader of Warner Elementary School in Wilmington—created a barbershop inside of the school to shape relationships with his students while giving them free shape-ups.

Dr. Newton transformed a room inside of the school into a makeshift barbershop equipped with a styling chair and other barber essentials; some of which were donated. Aware of the fact that many of his students couldn’t afford to get their hair cut, he decided to create the shop—dubbed Hair Cuts and Books—as an avenue to build their self-esteem. Newton believes there is a direct correlation between self-confidence and academic performance and wanted to create a safe space for students outside of the classroom to share their experiences. Many of the students reside in rough, crime-ridden communities.

The educator—who learned barbering skills on his own—cuts their hair himself. He offers free haircuts twice a week. “If we don’t get a grip on our kids now, we’re going to lose them to violence. We’re going to lose them to the graveyards. We’re going to lose them to incarceration, and we don’t want that,” he told NBC News. “We talk about academics. We talk about behavior and we talk about things that are going on in the community. When I see them, I see me.” To ensure that the girls attending his school have an outlet as well, Dr. Newton has enlisted professional hairstylists so they can get their hair done.

Barbershops have been used as vessels to empower youth. Entrepreneur Alvin Irby launched an initiative called Barbershop Books that works to bring literature to barbershops across the country to inspire young African American boys to read.

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