On the Cutting Edge: Master Barber Inspires OYA Youth

Darrin Lyons visited with MacLaren and Rogue Valley’s barbers-in-training, motivating them to make a difference in the industry.

Master barber Darrin Lyons visited MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility April 15 and 16 to motivate and work alongside youth involved in the barbering program.

Three youth from the barbering program at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility were also invited to participate in the two-day event with eight MacLaren youth and Lyons, who offered inspirational words before working with the youth on their skills.

“If there is anything I can do to make the world a better place or an individual a better person, then I want to come,” Lyons said about why he visited. “Sometimes it seems like society has left prisoners behind, but they’re still people. … I want them to understand they have choices.”

Darrin Lyons, also known as DL Master Barber, is a nationally-recognized motivational speaker and author. Since opening his first barbershop at the age of 19 in Pasadena, California, he has served as a barber to many celebrities, including well-known athletes and rappers. Inspired by his own struggle to overcome poverty and homelessness, Lyons’ books and speaking engagements focus on how other barbers and stylists can also find success in their careers.

This was actually Lyons’ third visit to the facility, which was made possible thanks to a connection with Chemeketa Community College. Lyons, who traveled from Southern California, remembered some of the youth from his last visit.

“Their energy level has changed, their attitude has changed,” he said. “It’s attitude that distinguishes your altitude.”

Former youth who have re-entered the community have reached out to Lyons to update him on their lives and work, he said.

“This is life changing,” Lyons said about the barbering program. “It gives MacLaren (and Rogue Valley) a good name. To have employees treat them the way they do, treating them with respect, speaking to them like people, that changes things.”

During his visit, Lyons talked to the youth about taking personal responsibility, exercising humility, and having people skills.

“You want my formula? Just be nice,” Lyons said. “You go around acting all tough and see how many clients you get. … Have an ear to hear people, what they ask of us. Believe it or not, it’s more important than sight in this job.”

OYA’s Barbering Program

Seven youth at MacLaren and six at Rogue Valley are currently enrolled in the barbering program, which requires an application and interview process. Once in the program, students spend about a year and a half working toward a barbering license, gaining experience by practicing their skills on willing youth and staff, and working under the tutelage of instructors Michelle McMullen (MacLaren) and Ron Gillaspie (Rogue Valley). The license requires 1,350 active hours in the program, whether the student is doing textbook work, cutting hair, or sweeping the barbershop floor.

John H., 20, just earned his barbering license this month and now hopes to work toward a vocational teaching license. He’ll continue to work in the barbershop full time, offering haircuts, hair coloring, shaves, facials, and more.

“I didn’t have role models growing up,” he said. “When I came to (OYA), the best people at the time were the barbers. I thought it would be a good way to be around people who are intelligent.”

John quit the program relatively quickly — “I didn’t have a work ethic,” he explained — and tried to work elsewhere, only to eventually find himself back in the barbershop.

“Even when I was gone, I was still cutting hair — it’s a stress reliever,” he said. “I could envision myself in the community going to a barbershop every day. It doesn’t feel like work.”

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