"To be honest, it's not about the haircuts."


Five years ago Fidell Woods was visiting his niece at Memphis' Brewster Elementary School when he noticed that a lot of the little boys needed haircuts. Woods, a barber at CJ's First Class Cuts in nearby Cordova, asked principal Angela Askew if he could come by and give a few kids a free trim.

"Just from past experience I didn't think it would be consistent," Askew tells the Commercial Appeal. "And he proved me wrong, and I was very happy that he did."

Since then, Woods' Wednesday visits to the school have become a weekly ritual, and with some encouragement from the administration, the free cuts have evolved into a mentoring program, called Man Up. Woods gives the boys a trim, some advice, and a homework sheet. In order to get a haircut again, they need to do the homework.

Now Man Up has expanded to students' fathers, who come to the school and listen to Woods talk about setting positive examples, Commercial Appeal reports. Woods says he wants black men to understand they have to work together.

"That's really why I'm here," Woods said. "To be honest, it's not about the haircuts."

Susan Black, a Brewster Elementary School family engagement specialist, says Woods' work has been invaluable to the community, where many of the students come from families who live below the poverty line.

"I don't think you can put a price on a good mentor," Black tells Today. "You can't put a dollar on the look in children's eyes when you embrace them, or when you help them with their math, or help them with their reading. It's priceless."

Priceless, yes, but at $12 per cut with an average of 10 cuts each week, over the last five years the value of Woods' donated services have totaled a staggering $21,000. For the 75 percent of the school's 485 students who are economically disadvantaged, it's been a huge help, in more ways than one.