By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Josh Heredia already cuts his family members' hair for free.

Heredia, a student at Hays Academy of Hair Design, is looking forward to cutting hair for a fee.

On schedule to graduate in three months, Heredia plans to work at his girlfriend's hair salon in Great Bend. He's been commuting between Hays and Great Bend since he enrolled at the academy in April.

At a family gathering during Christmas, Heredia was giving haircuts, pedicures, massages -- you name it. Giving haircuts to family members is nothing new; he's been cutting his brothers' hair for years.

"I'm like the oldest of seven kids, and they're all boys," Heredia said. "I like to think I saved my parents some money by cutting my brothers' hair. That's kind of where I started, seeing how the hair really cuts, lays, stuff like that. I like it. I have the patience for it."

Heredia, 29, knew he had to look for something to help his girlfriend support their two sons after he was laid off last year at the factory he worked at in Great Bend. He cut his friends' hair on the side, and knew he liked doing it.

However, the closest barber school was in Wichita. His girlfriend suggested checking out a cosmetology school.

It was between a school in Hutchinson and the academy in Hays, and Hays came out the easy winner, Heredia said.

"I toured both of them, and I liked Hays Academy; I really did," Heredia said. "They have the Sassoon way of teaching. They have a program they call 'nuts and bolts,' which is teaching the business aspect of a salon."

Heredia, who cuts hair at the academy while learning the trade, likes the social aspect of what he does.

"I always felt like I was a people person," he said. "I love the attention, the chance to meet different walks of life. It's interesting, other people's careers."

In a few short months, Heredia will be starting his own career.

"I love it," he said. "I love what I do."