Gaining Confidence One Cut at a Time

Keyvis Russell was born deaf, and because of that, when he’s working at Visio Hair Salon in Rome he can’t hear the bell on the door announcing a new customer. He can’t hear the buzz of the clippers when they’re in his hand, and he can’t talk to his supervisor because his supervisor doesn’t speak American Sign Language.

No problem though. There’s always a workaround.

For Keyvis, that involves texting. Need to clarify what kind of a haircut a customer wants? He texts his boss. Need to figure out how tips work? He texts his boss.

It’s a relatively simple solution to the problem, but it’s not the first easy fix Keyvis has discovered since he started at the Cave Spring Center in July of last year.

“I learned a lot about following the rules,” Keyvis said. “I learned how to dress appropriately for a job. I learned the importance of social skills, how to practice those skills and pick up more skills. I learned how not to be lazy and push things to the side but to think about my future and work towards my future.”

Cutting hair wasn’t always Keyvis’ plan. He initially planned on working in a warehouse, but staff at CSC noticed something about how he was spending his free time.

“He was cutting everybody’s hair and doing these cool designs, and we thought ‘there’s a skill he has,” said Gola Burton, special education teacher at the center. “We had someone who had a relationship with Rodney [the owner of Visio], and here we are.”

When Keyvis started at the salon, he had a job coach who was there to help out where needed, but within a week, it was clear Keyvis could handle it all on his own.

His position at Visio isn’t a long-term job, but rather, it’s made possible through a program called Community Work Adjustment Training (CWAT). CWAT allows clients to get work experience and learn the ins and outs of the working world in a training setting.

Once they graduate from the program at Cave Spring, they use this training to move back to their home community and find a job there. At that point, once they work for 90 days, their case is closed.

In Keyvis’ case, CSC staff are still waiting to get him new hearing aids. In the meantime, he texts when he has a question, and he’s quick to find innovative ways to get to where he needs to be, Gola said.

“He’s a hard worker and quite smart,” she said. “I think he’ll be able to accomplish anything he sets his mind to.”

While he’s learned a lot in the last six months, Keyvis said the biggest thing he’s learned is how always to be optimistic about whatever comes next.

“When I first got to Cave Spring, I didn’t have a positive attitude, but now I feel more confident in what I can do,” he said. “Cave Spring has really given me that.”

Keyvis specifically wanted to thank the staff of the Cave Spring Center for all the help they’ve given him. He also wanted to thank his counselor in Griffin, Tasha Singleton.

“Everybody has been very supportive and helpful,” he said. “And without all that help, I don’t know what I would have done.