Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Sebastian, a 2021 graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School. who is now enjoying his ideal career and sharing his talents with the Kalamazoo community, serving as one of six barbers working at UncLee’s Barber Shop.
As their website states, UncLee’s is “more than just a place to get a great haircut.” One of its goals is to provide the community with a place rooted in love and giving.” Sebastian and his father, Leland ‘Unclee’ Pratt, uprooted themselves one day to share that love and giving spirit with students at CIS Think Summer! The barbers talked with students about the trade schools as a career path and gave them the inside scoop of owning a business. (In 2015, Sebastian’s father opened UncLee’s on West Vine Street. Four years later, he expanded to 1909 West Main.)
Sebastian first became connected with CIS when, as a sixth grader at Linden Grove Middle School, he participated in the CIS After School program. So giving back to CIS students, was especially fun for him. “I can’t do just that one class,” he said. “I have to do it again. I’ve got too!”
Sebastian also made the cut for the CIS Newsletter, so be sure to check out more of his thoughts about CIS and his barbering career in the Winter 2023 issue.
Alright, Sebastian, pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What are you currently reading?
I’m about to start a Stephen King book, The Talisman. I like King’s vibe.
What is your favorite word or phrase?
That’s what up! I say that a lot. I like how it has different meanings based on how you say it.
Thinking back on your Kalamazoo Public School days, what teacher(s) most influenced you?
My third-grade teacher, Ms. [Cheryl] Snow. That was when I was at Woodward School [for Technology and Research]. She wasn’t super strict but she was on top of everything and just a really good teacher all around. She told us whenever we saw snow falling outside to think of her. So I was just thinking of her the other day, all these years later.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue barbering as a career?
Probably during the first haircut I gave. I was in barbering school. The first time I picked up hair clippers was in barbering school, so I was very nervous to give my first haircut. I found that I like to be nervous at first. I have a chance to not be nervous and to get better at cutting hair. I really just wanted to get better at it and that’s what, I think, sparked my interest.
So who does your hair?
Do you do his?
There was a really cool article that was part of a series that came in the San Francisco Chronicle about barbershops. The article said barbershops can be havens for men, particularly Black men, and quoted a statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor: there are over 100,000 barbers in America and slightly more than 20% of them are Black (making up a men’s grooming industry that Forbes estimated exceeded $20 billion in 2015). Bottom line, a barbershop isn’t just a barbershop, is it?
It is definitely more than just about cutting hair. There’s a lot to barbering that goes beyond the haircuts. Men walk in to Unclee’s and can just relax and feel comfortable. It’s a space where they can say whatever you need to say. You can just joke around and no one judges you. We’re all dudes here. It’s such a good time and I don’t see that as working. It’s more like I’m hanging out and being with every person who comes through the door.
That’s beautiful. And, in the process, you are also making people look good.
Making people look good, yes! That’s a good feeling. When they come in and then leave with a smile on their face … That’s just so rewarding.
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My dad, Leland ‘Unclee’ Pratt. He works really hard and there is really a plan behind everything he does. I admire that most. He works hard and he also knows how to have fun. He’s never really lost, he always seems to know what to do next. He’s a smart guy.
And if I made a mistake, he helps me out so that I wouldn’t make mistake again. And I don’t make the same mistake twice. I learn from the first time.
Thank you, Sebastian, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.