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Feb, 14. 2013

CSU student helps community one haircut at a time

By Gabriel Hart

Waverly Willis is a senior at Cleveland State University majoring in Non-Profit Administration. He has taken grave advantage of the things he has learned at Cleveland State by actually creating and implementing a non-profit organization called The Urban Barber Association, also known as TUBA.

Waverly WillisHe is a 48-year-old barber, Cleveland State student and now the executive director of TUBA, which is designed to provide resources to the urban community.

TUBA’s mission is “to collectively and simultaneously use our minority-owned business network as a vehicle to empower the minority community through culturally specific education, and community-based programs that will increase public awareness about the disparities that affect under-served neighborhoods.”

TUBA has taken on many forms in the urban community, offering services such as the Can of Care Program where they provide canned goods for those in need, drug and alcohol referral programs, HIV testing and the list goes on.

Tuba contains about 10 active barber and beauty shops whose missions are all the same, to bring awareness to the urban community. Willis states that he is using barber and beauty shops as the platform for his non-profit because “there’s no other entity that’s closer to the urban community.”

Willis chose to create TUBA, because he says by working in a barber shop he meets a lot of men and hears a lot of their stories. But it seems that Willis is not one to sit by and just listen to problems. He decided to put a plan in action that helps these men resolve their issues.

He said that a lot of men who come through his barber shop are unemployed. One reason is because they have felonies, so Willis passes out a job list for former felons.
Another problem he is seeing from men not being employed is that they do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent. This is why Willis came up with the “I Read, I Lead Literacy Program.”

“A lot of guys might be my age and they’re kind of apprehensive about going back to school because they are a little older and it’s embarrassing, so we have tutors come here to the barber shop and tutor them in private,” Willis explained.

Tracee Sailes is among Willis’s board of trustees. She also assists him with most of TUBA’s events. Having the opportunity to work side by side with Willis on this non-profit she has become quite drawn into his passion and work.

“Wave is just a very thorough person, and he is very caring,” Sailes said.

While TUBA shows great attention to men, they have not forgotten about the women in the urban community. One of TUBA’s events that is receiving a vast amount of attention is “Saving Women and Gents” (SWAG).

This event takes place every year in collaboration with a beauty shop and two other barber shops. This year it will take place on July 27, their goal is to get 1000 people screened in one day.

All of these programs are funded from grants that Willis has received from foundations, and also from the donations of clients and people who want to help.
Willis attributes his success to some of the classes such as Proposal writing, Fundamentals of non-profits and Fundraising that he took right here at Cleveland State.

“Cleveland State taught me how to take my ideas and put them down on paper correctly,” Willis said.

Willis and his professors still keep in contact with each other, and his professors inform him of grants when they become available.

Those interested can find a broad range of handouts on the resources that his organization provides at his Barber Shop “Urban Kutz,” located at 11106 Detroit Ave. on Cleveland’s West side.

For more information on TUBA and their events, visit TUBA’s website at www.TheUrbanBarberAssociation.org.