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Styling a new niche in family’s tradition

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TMP Photo by Kelly Hite. GateWay Barber & Design College students Michelle Bryant (left) and Kimberly Ambercrombie (right), practice what they have learned in class on Kelvin Jones and Ava Radley.
Carlus Sanders quickly clips the hair of one of the first clients to walk through the doors of the Murfreesboro’s newest barber school, Gateway Barber & Design College.

Sanders looks comfortable working his clippers, putting to practical practice the skills he has learned in 15 hours of training at Gateway and 500 hours over two years he earned from another local school.
The full-time tractor-trailer driver made the switch to Gateway, operated by 25-year barber veteran Pamela Swader, after it opened Jan. 3 for the convenience of evening classes.

Sanders also thought he could learn a lot from Swader’s experience. He hopes to open his own barbershop after receiving his master barber license in about seven months.

Gateway Barber & Design College is accepting students now. The school is located at 810 NW Broad St., Suite 268 in the Jackson Heights Plaza.

“In Murfreesboro at the rate it is growing, I think there is a need (for another barber school),” Swader said.

The city was “desperately needing” a school that offers evening classes, she added.

Gateway Barber & Design College offers classes Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Murfreesboro has two long-standing barber schools The ‘Boro Barber Academy and Middle Tennessee Barber & Styling College as well as the Georgia Career Institute.

Swader’s uncle, William Kennedy, founded the Middle Tennessee Barber & Styling College. By the age of 10, Swader was working as a receptionist there. Less than eight years later, she was a licensed master barber working in family salons and then her own.

“If you were in my family, you were bound to do hair,” Swader said frankly.

Swader has been a certified instructor for the past five years. She has been a practical examiner for the Tennessee Board of Barber Examiners for the last three years.

Swader has wanted to operate her own school for some time, even more so after a major car accident about 10 years ago left her unable to stand long periods of time cutting hair.

She wants to give back to the community what has been given to her.

Barber school is a great alternative for those people who aren’t “college material,” Swader said, adding being a barber or a hair stylist is a great career, in which someone could support a family.

She plans to offer a scholarship to one high school student and a woman who has sought help from the Rutherford County Domestic Violence Program. She had yet to determine when the scholarships would be awarded.

“I just want to give back like my uncle did for me,” she said.

Currently, Swader is the only instructor at the school. By the end of May, she hopes to have an ethically diverse group of instructors to aid communication between Hispanics and Laotian students.

The average barber student can complete the requirements for master barber (1,500 hours) in 13 to 14 months. Students receive wide-ranging training in haircutting, facial shaving, facials, coloring, highlights, perms, manicures and pedicures. They must also learn the history and fundamentals of barbering; proper sterilization and hygiene practices; barber laws, rules and regulations; and anatomy, physiology and systems structure of the head, face and neck including muscles and nerves.
Barber technician, instructor and refresher courses also are offered.
“My students are going to leave and know how to do everything,” Swader said.
Before cutting hair for the public in the salon classroom, students must have at least 100 hours of classroom training.
Haircuts are now being offered for $5.
Swader said customers shouldn’t be apprehensive about getting their hair cut at the barber school. She checks every haircut before the customer walks out the door.

Erin Edgemon can be reached at 869-0812 and at eedgemon@murfreesboropost.com.

Gateway Barber & Design College
810 NW Broad St., Suite 268
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