HOUSTON – Jan. 14, 2020 – When Burnell Williams graduated from Westfield High School last year, he didn’t have to go far to pursue the next step in his education. A scholarship to attend Mystros Barber Academy, just up the street from his alma mater, meant Williams could stay local while turning his passion into his profession.
“I was pretty excited,” Williams said. “I told basically my whole family I was going to become a barber.”
The scholarship offer came directly from the academy’s founder, Eros Shaw, himself a Westfield graduate with a history of going out of his way to make an impact in students’ lives. After struggling learning to read while growing up, Shaw now donates to Spring ISD literacy programs and other initiatives, and always keeps books on hand in his barbershops so area students can read when they come in for a trim. He founded the nonprofit Mystros Barber Academy – honored last fall by the Texas Association of School Boards and its annual Business Recognition Program – in 2012 to help train the next generation of barbers and give them a safe place to grow and learn.
“I like making people happy, and I like doing things for other people,” said Shaw, who feels his chosen profession – and the way it connects him to the community – has given him a unique chance to give back.
“Not many people get an opportunity to operate in their gift and their purpose at the same time, and so that’s the way I look at it,” Shaw said. “I know there’s a greater purpose for my life, but then there’s also a gift that I’ve been given – the gift of being able to cut hair – and it’s opening up doors and room for those that are coming behind me.”
Michael Martinez, who also attended Westfield and received one of the first scholarships to train at Mystros, said it always makes him happy to see new faces at the school, excited to learn a trade that has come to mean so much to him.
“The fact that people still want to come and learn is something that I really like to see,” said Martinez, who credits Shaw with helping him discover his own potential and get through some difficult times in his own life. Although he has finished his training and is now a licensed barber himself, Martinez said he still stops by the academy when he needs inspiration.
“Sometimes I just come in here to reminisce on where I came from, where I started,” said Martinez, “and that uplifts me – to not give up, to not go back to what I was doing, to not come back to the bad life or come back to the bad vibes. Cause where I’m at now, it’s good, you know?”
Aside from the craft itself, Martinez said his favorite thing about barbering is getting to meet new people and hear their stories. He thanked Shaw for making it possible.
“If it wasn’t for Mr. E,” Martinez said, “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now, you know? Mr. E made a big impact in my life.”