POTTSTOWN>> Those looking for a way to enter the ever-growing world of barbering need look no further than a new program at Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute, located at 1700 Industrial Highway in Pottstown.

Classes in Antonelli’s new barber program kicked off on Thursday, July 25, with an inaugural class of seven. Students enrolled in the program must clock 1250 hours in areas such as haircutting, hairstyling and shampooing, as well as shop management and anatomy to complete their degree. The program will prepare students to secure an entry-level position as a barber, according to the school’s website. Upon completion of the program, graduates will be eligible to take the State Board of Barber Examiner’s Licensure Examination.

Michelle Nagy, director of admissions at Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute, said that since there are not many schools with barber programs in the area, it was a great opportunity to fill a need.

“We’ve been here so long, so to have a new program gets people saying ‘Hey, you have a barber program?’ And then people can come on in,” Nagy said.

Wes “Fresh” Riley has been named barber program supervisor. He has been a licensed barber for more than 11 years, a barber-manager for six years and a licensed barber teacher for three years, according to the Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute website, www.iloveampi.com . Riley has won numerous competitions and guest-lectures on the Art of Barbering and Branding. He is also one-fourth of a hair care company called Dope Haircare.

Rick Reikob, COO of Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute, said, “Knowing that we could put a program in here that would draw a different audience than what we’re used to, and allow us to put something here local that doesn’t exist, and that fits a need.”

The first person to sign up for the new program was Marc Debnam Sr. of Pottstown, who said he called as soon as he heard that Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute was adding a barber program. The 47-year-old Debnam has been a truck driver.

“But I have wanted to cut hair for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I was looking at barber schools when I was in my early 20s. Looking back through my important paperwork, I found a brochure from 1998 from the Gordon Phillips Beauty Academy.”

Debnam said someone told him about the new program and then he saw a sign on the marquee at the school as he was getting off of Route 422. Debnam called Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute right away, but the school wasn’t quite ready to begin the program. Debnam said within a couple of weeks, however, his paperwork was complete.

“I thought it was meant to be,” he added. Once Debnam took the step — so, too, did his son Marc Debnam Jr. and his nephew Auston Debnam.

“After we all pass the course I plan to open up a family barbershop,” the older Debnam added.

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of barbers is projected to grow by 17,000 new positions between 2014 and 2021, faster than the average for all occupations.

“Knowing that the community needed it, we delivered it.” Reikob said.

Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute has been in business for 31 years in Pottstown, is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The barbering program at the institute is just one of the programs offered by the school, including medical office administration, nurse aide and medical assistant.

“Our original mission statement largely worked toward preparing students for entry-level careers in the health and medical fields,” Reikob said. “The first step in all of this was to change that mission statement to encompass all trades; the first of which we already knew was going to become barbering.”

Reikob said that the goal is to continue to push expansion into other trade programs that would otherwise be inaccessible to people.

“Our school is the type of place where you’re not a number, where you’re not just another student,” Reikob said.

For more information about Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute, visit www.iloveampi.com/

Donna Rovins contributed to this story.

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