Scherri Matlock-Kelly poses for a photo with friends, family and supporters on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, at the opening of The First Cut Barber College on Broadway in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Scherri Matlock-Kelly’s new school is designed to do more than build the next generation of barbers.

The longtime barber and stylist also hopes to aid in the revitalization of the Broadway business district, provide fresh opportunities for people in search of a career and inspire people to do something positive.

“This area needs revitalization,” said Matlock-Kelly, the owner of The First Cut Barber College. “Maybe I’ll be another starting point as far as education. There are businesses over here already: There’s restaurants, car lots, barbershops, but education is important.”

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The First Cut Barber College celebrated its ribbon cutting on Friday at 1306 Broadway, which is at the northeast corner of Ninth Street and Broadway.

Matlock-Kelly has been a barber and stylist for more than two decades and attended barber school in the same neighborhood where she has now opened First Cut. However, the school she started at on Sixth Street closed. Then so did the barber college she graduated from on Seventh Street. For years, she’s dreamed of filling the void by starting her own school. She says she’s committed to staying in the 11th Ward.

“Even if I do get big, I still want to stay here in the community because I think it’s important for people to see women, minorities in this community doing something positive,” she said.

Scherri Matlock-Kelly, the owner of The First Cut Barber College, prepares to cut the ribbon on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023 with (from left) her husband Glen Kelly, Alderwoman Aprel Prunty, Alderman Isidro Barrios, and her daughter, Kennedy Porter. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

Matlock-Kelly has provided haircuts at Milestone, Inc. for more than 10 years. The 1993 Boylan Catholic High School graduate has also provided free homecoming and prom styling for students at Roosevelt Community Education Center and Auburn High School as a way to give back to local youth.

“First Cut Barber College is one of a kind,” said Ebony Hillsman, the college’s first student. “She will accept anyone. No matter what your background is, you’re welcome here.”

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Hillsman, a mother of two, said Matlock-Kelly has already been both a teacher and a role model.

“She’s a great teacher,” she said. “The way she teaches, it’s sticking with me.”

Matlock-Kelly’s family bought the building where the college is located about a decade ago. It has been leased to various salons and was recently Barrel of Beauty Salon.

The First Cut Barber College owner Scherri Matlock-Kelly laughs on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, as she prepares to take a photo with family and friends at the opening of the new school on Broadway in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

At First Cut Barber College, students will learn fundamental haircut and styling techniques, shaving, beard grooming, product knowledge and other more advanced topics. The curriculum is multicultural so that students can serve a wide variety of customers.

“I want to offer an opportunity for people whose first attempt didn’t work out and give first time students a chance to realize their dream,” she said.

First Cut Barber College provides the state of Illinois minimum required 1,500-hour barber program. It incorporates hands-on training and classroom instruction.

Fast facts | First Cut Barber College

Where: 1306 Broadway, Rockford

On the web:

Contact: 779-207-0314;

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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