If you take a walk down the halls of Savannah High School, it initially looks like your standard high school. But some of the classrooms you’ll find inside are anything but ordinary.
“We’re working to ensure that our students are both college and career ready," said Principal Tammy Broadnax.
The school's hands-on barbershop and cosmetology labs opened in August and are part of Savannah High School’s career pathway program. The classes are full functioning businesses taught by advisers and run by students.
“The goal of the labs and the career academies were just to get students a different opportunity, a different perspective when they walk to school on a day to day basis,” said Broadnax.
When coupled with academic and entrepreneurship courses, Broadnax says the program helps students develop a solid exit plan before they leave high school.
“And so what this does is to give the students the opportunity to explore some things while they’re here in high school, before they spend money on a program that they’re not sure that they’re interested in," said Broadnax.
It’s an opportunity that senior Lajuan Ellison jumped on. He’s finishing up his barbering courses this semester.
“Of course I’m going to use it as a hustle, especially if I don’t want to work. I still need some type of income so of course I would be in my dorm cutting hair," Ellison stated.
Ellison is looking at attending Morehouse College when he graduates, but he says he can see himself going on to open his own barbershop because of his classes.
“That seems like something that’s fun. You know, who wouldn’t like being their own boss someday maybe," he said.
These hands-on labs are unique resources within Savannah’s public education system, but are they enough to fix the district’s failing academic scores?
“Savannah High School has some of those challenges as it’s a reflection of the community. It’s not an isolation of what’s going on separately. I think the pathways help draw students' interest into school," Broadnax said.
She says so far, the labs put them on the right track.
“When you have those challenges of 'Am I going to eat today, do we have heat today, do I sleep on the floor or on the couch today,' coming to school then is a burden. So if my pathway gives them that hook to want to come to school, that’s one battle won," stated Broadnax.