DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Friday marks the end of the school year for Palm Beach County kids and grades will soon follow. For one group of students, their jump on summer break began with a trip to the barbershop to cut their mentor's beard. It’s become an annual tradition with a lesson on commitment behind it.
This isn’t your average day at Blanc Fresh Out Barber Shop in Delray Beach. For starters, you’ve got boys and girls age 7 to 17 packed in this small space and C. Ron Allen actually sitting in a chair.
“You’re all here and I’m going to make sure that you have a chance to dive in,” Allen said. “A promise is a promise.”
Here’s the backstory, for 26 years Allen was a reporter for one of the largest newspapers in South Florida.
”I held the mirror to the society,” Allen said.
And he didn’t like what he saw.
”All zip codes - from the beaches to the boondocks. From Riviera Beach to Boca Raton,” said Allen.
And he said marginalized and forgotten kids appearing in police blotters was the motivation behind the Knowledge Opportunity and Prosperity (KOP) Mentoring Network. A nontraditional enrichment is nonprofit for ages 7 to 17.
”Everything we do is preparing them for life after graduation,” Allen said.
Preparation includes weekly enrichment seminars and community conversation — but also building confidence through exposure from fishing trips to attending Presidential Inaugurations.
”This is my ministry,” Allen said.
And the nonprofit has a lot of success stories and backers singing the program’s success.
”I couldn’t imagine myself where I am today without his leadership,” said Neilsonsky Noel, KOP Mentoring Network mentee. ” I grew up under his leadership.”
Sentiments echoed by Janet Meeks, City of Delray Beach's education coordinator.
“It’s invaluable honestly,” Meeks said. “This community would not work without its nonprofits helping us support our students and our community. And KOP in particular I think I’ve worked with C. Ron maybe 20 years now in programming.”
This leads us to why C. Ron invited WPTV to film him in a barber chair on June 16. Per tradition, during the last week of the school year, all “A” and “B” student’s enrolled in KOP get to shave Allen’s beard.
Some of it came off easy. Other hair didn’t come off at all. C. Ron said it’s bigger than a “rally” it’s a tradition to teach kids commitment is more than just a word.
”After 30 years, it’s my prayer that this will be my year that we have a permanent home in Delray,” Allen said. “We’ve met in old school buses over the years. We met in old churches, parking lots — we (even) had two police cars put their cars together when it rained one day at Pompe Park and we met in those cars. We’ve been resilient.”
KOP starts summer camp on Monday. C. Ron said the curriculum year-round is saving lives, making a difference, and sharing good news. To learn more about KOP, click here.