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Garcia Mentors Young African-American Men

It wasn’t a typical classroom, but the seven young men from the Urban League of the Upstate experienced a worthwhile morning of learning at First Class Hair Salon on Aug. 4.

They participated in a workshop that not only involved male grooming, but also incorporated philosophy, working in a professional setting, the importance of networking, tips for becoming an entrepreneur, how to work smarter and even how to create a certain atmosphere.

Wofford Bonner Scholar Jacolvy Garcia ’15 brought the young men, all All-African American students in the Spartanburg area schools, to meet community volunteer Rufus Watson, “barber/stylist and entrepreneur.” While soothing jazz played on the shop’s stereo, Watson led the group through techniques of grooming and shared some of life’s important lessons.

“Everyone you meet is important. Know their names and greet them personally,” Watson says. To make his point, he passed out nametags and made sure he called each student by name, especially when he sensed that he might be losing someone’s attention for a moment.

“Our appearance is one way we communicate with others,” Watson says. “It’s a way we say, look at me! For example, be careful not to put topic or hair cream on top of dirt. Oil and dead skin collect in your hair. Shampoo at least twice a week.”

“When styling hair, always concentrate and proceed carefully,” Watson says. “You can always come back and trim some more if that’s what the client wants, but once hair is lying on the floor, it’s too late to start over. The same thing is true when you think about your life after you graduate from college. You need to start listening and planning carefully now. You can’t get back wasted time. Once you have truly learned something, no one can take it away from you.”

“A hairstylist must be an entrepreneur at all times,” he says. “Always look for the revenue streams.” He pointed out a strategically located machine that vended snacks. At the same time, he noted, “Life is not about money. It’s about impacting the lives of others. Strive to be an asset to your community.”

Garcia was pleased with the results of the seminar, which he had conceived and prepared to offer in Spartanburg.

“As a Bonner Scholar, I decided to serve at the Urban League of the Upstate since I was thinking about a possible career in teaching. I was amazed by the family cohesiveness between the Urban League staff and the children. I feel that I learn new things whenever I interact with everyone (including the kids) at the UL,” says Garcia, who says that he has enjoyed the freedom to select his own workshop topics.

“Immediately, I thought of male grooming as a possible subject because there were times in my life when I wished I knew the proper way to shave. It was only through many Youtube videos that I was able to piece together how to condition/moisturize, wax and shave, cut my own hair and put on cologne properly,” says Garcia. “It was lucky when Rufus Watson came to an outreach program targeting hairstyles as an approach to talking about teen pregnancy, since stylists are professionals who deal with teenagers on a daily basis. He was delighted with my idea and agreed to lead the workshop.”

After the workshop, the young men were inspired, with some saying they want to start cutting their own hair and others planning to ask Rufus to serve as their own personal barber.

“As a Bonner Scholar, I hope to be able to continue growing and learning in my service. I know it will help me in my future life and career,” says Garcia.