If Kyle Savage could give anyone in the world a haircut, it would be President Obama, he joked recently as he stood outside the barbershop class at his school.
"I've been cutting since I was 13," the junior said. "I always had a thing for hair."
Savage, 18, is hoping to use his "thing for hair" to go into business for himself as a licensed barber, and thanks to a new program at Murrell Dobbins Vocational Technical High School, in North Philadelphia, he's one step closer to reaching his goal.
In February, he and 35 other Dobbins students had the distinction of entering his school's - and the state's - first certified Barbering Program in a high school.
Once they have completed 1,250 clinical and instructional hours, they'll be able to sit for the state's licensing exam, said Leslye Saul, Coordinator for the school district's communications, cosmetology, barbering and fashion programs.
In the past, "any students who wanted to become barbers had to go through the cosmetology program or pay exorbitant fees for their licenses," by becoming apprentices at approved barbershops charged with providing the apprentice with 2,000 hours of instruction, said Saul, who helped start the program at Dobbins. "It's given our young people additional opportunities."
Dobbins Principal Charles Whiting agreed.
"It's offering another opportunity to, upon graduation, be gainfully employed," he said.
Recently, the practical barbering classroom at Dobbins - called Mustang Cuts after the school mascot - featured 12 sleek new chairs and mirror stations.
Gloria Johnson, the program's sole teacher, fluttered animatedly about the room, speaking to four of her students who were still left on a hot June afternoon.
"This one, he's the best," she said, patting Savage's shoulders as he meticulously trimmed the hair of sophomore Rasheed Dowd, 16.
"They've proven themselves," Johnson continued. "I have not been disappointed at all. They've grown, and they suck [what they learn] up, take it in and use it."
Troy Dorsey, 16, said that he joined the Barbering Program because there are always opportunities to make money.
"Everyone wants to look good," said the sophomore, adding that he, too, plans to open his own shops someday.
As Savage finished up his haircut, Dowd said that he joined the program because he wanted to try it. After high school, he hopes to attend college and then pursue an MBA or law degree, he said. And as for his barbering skills, he'll use them to make extra money on the side.
"I always thought barbering would be fun," added sophomore Andre Fullart, 16, who said that he hopes to be a barber when he's older, because it's a lucrative position.
"We are one of the only depression-proof professions," Johnson said. "We work everywhere there's hair."
In the theory classroom, a traditional room where barbering students attend lecture next door to the shop, Johnson pointed to a wall with a poster of the world that read, "Where in the world will you cut hair?"
"I give them 'Reality 101,' " Johnson said. "Reality is, you have to be skilled, take this skill and be all the things you want to be.