Angel Hampton spent much of the day on Wednesday taking care of last-minute preparations for her 10-year-old son’s first day of school, like getting him a haircut.

After working all night in respiratory therapy at Summa Health System, Hampton and her son, Jonathan McCray Jr., headed over to Beyond Expectations Barber College — where she encountered two surprises.

“I pulled into the lot and saw all these cars and people in line. I really didn’t expect that, but I figured everybody was trying to get a haircut the day before school starts,” Hampton said. “When I got to the door, I was told it‘s free haircut day. I had no idea they were doing this today. What a blessing — he loves his haircut and I can use that money on something else that he needs.”

Jonathan, a fifth-grade student at Miller South Visual and Performing Arts School, has been a regular customer at Beyond Expectations since it opened four years ago. The barber college at 2202 Romig Road has offered a free back-to -school haircut day each year.

During this year’s 12-hour event, 16 barbers completed more than 300 haircuts.

The free hair cut day was meant to encourage young people to feel good about themselves and about going back to school. In addition to free haircuts, it included vendors, free school supplies, food and advice from barbers to students to stay in school and do their best.

“Whenever I have a client in my chair, I always try to say something that will be encouraging or enlightening. I want them to know that if I can do something positive, so can they,” said Khyree Sincere, 26, who received his barber’s license on Tuesday. “I’ve been through some struggles, financial and legal. When I showed up here at the barber college, I had never cut hair before. Now, I’m a licensed barber because Eric Garrett wanted to give back to the community and because he believed in me.”

Garrett, 45, owner/director of the barber college, started the school as a way to provide job opportunities for young African-American men and women, especially those with criminal records and without a high school diploma. Garrett, a married father of two teenagers, is an Army veteran who worked for the U.S. Social Security Administration for more than 20 years.

In four years, Beyond Expectations has trained 40 barbers (including Sincere), four master instructors and one state inspector.

“I started the barber college because I wanted to give back and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people, especially young black men who have the odds stacked against them. The goal is to give them tools that can help them succeed,” Garrett said. “Just like the barber college is about giving back and making a difference, so is the free haircut day. We want to help kids look and feel their best when school starts.”

DeShawn Roberts, 14, who came to the barber college with his younger brother, Elijah, 11, and stepfather, Terrence Johnson, said being well-groomed at school is important.

“You want to look good and get proper for school,” said DeShawn, a student at Litchfield Community Learning Center, while inspecting his younger brother’s fresh cut. “They do good work here. The cut looks real good, real clean. I like it!”

Beyond Expectations is open to walk-ins from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Two barbershops affiliated with the college — Legends, 567 Vernon Odom Blvd. and Legends East, 854 E. Exchange St. — are open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., respectively.

For more information about Beyond Expectations, call 330-745-8288 or go to www.BEBC-OHIO.com. Legends can be reached at 234-678-7277 and Legends East at 330-304-0142.

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or cjenkins@thebeaconjournal.com. She can be followed at www.twitter.com/ColetteMJenkins.