Speaking Up At The Barber Shop

Speaking Up At The Barber Shop

Kids get a haircut—and valuable experience speaking in public

When Jon Escueta was coaching basketball for seventh and eighth graders, he noticed that his players were afraid to speak up during practices and games. “So we made it our priority to have our players speak to each other,” he said. “We would tell one player the game plan and then he would have to relay it to the other players. It kind of put them in the spotlight, so we started doing it in games, and practices and in the huddles, and they played a lot better, started winning some games, just because of them speaking up.”

Escueta wanted to find a way to help kids boost their confidence outside games—and he found it at City Cuts, the barber shop he owns in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. “I figured, if we hit it at a younger stage, like ten years old and younger, then by the time they get to seventh, eighth grade, they won’t be as afraid,” Escueta told Good Turns recently.

To put his theory to the test, Escueta started a program at the shop called Books By Kids. “Pretty much the way it works is, a kid comes into the shop and we ask him if he would like to read, just to the barber at first,” Escueta said. “If it’s a brand new kid or the kid has been coming for a while, some of them are a little more comfortable, but we try to target the shyer kids that don’t want to read. So they just read to us, we tell them to just read quietly, just the first few pages. And then eventually we want them to start reading out loud, it doesn’t matter how many people there is in the shop.”

“Anything we can do to give back, to kids especially, we’re there”

“We try to boost their confidence, their public confidence, without them actually speaking to a crowd. For that, I needed a way to do it, and I figured reading would be a perfect way to integrate that. And after they read, they get $3 for reading,” Escueta told Good Turns.

The program has been around for about a year and a half, and sees great results, Escueta said: “We had one kid, he made a jump from reading the first page, the first time, he was very quiet, I was helping him read. Then the last time he read he was actually just blasting through it.”

“It works a lot better for kids,” Escueta said. “They might be shy, but once they get comfortable with something it’s not that bad. But as an adult, that fear plays a bigger part.”

Even as a kid, though, Escueta—originally from nearby Allentown—says he doesn’t think he would have participated in the program. “I was just very, very shy as a kid, so I don’t think I would’ve. It doesn’t matter how much money was on the line, I don’t think I would’ve did it, period.”

Now that he’s a business owner—Escueta opened City Cuts 12 years ago, when he was only about 20—he goes out of his way to give back to the community that raised him with such generosity of spirit: “We always give back-to-school haircuts for free, we go back to Allentown sometimes to cut hair for free for underprivileged kids there. Anything we can do to give back, to kids especially, we’re there.”

Escueta now has the help of a GoFundMe campaign, as well as a partnership with a local Chik-Fil-A, to help with his mission. And, soon, a bigger shop. Having purchased the property last year, Escueta is moving his shop from the rear of his building to the front, changing his location from Sander Alley to 126 West Main. “We’ll get more space, more barbers, and hopefully more kids participating,” Escueta said. And more kudos from us.

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