Career center graduate selected to represent U.S. at international competion

BIG RAPIDS — Lauryn Erickson doesn’t have a clue what color to put for "hair color" when filling out her passport application. What she is sure of is the fact she’ll be in Brazil this summer to compete in WorldSkills.

A few weeks ago, the 19-year-old, whose long locks are currently various hues of blue, was selected as the hairstyling representative for the United States in the 2015 WorldSkills competition. The week-long event will take place from Aug. 11 to 16 in Sau Paulo, Brazil.

Erickson, of Hersey, graduated from the Mecosta-Osceola Career Center cosmetology program in May. She won the SkillsUSA national competition in 2014, making her an eligible finalist to represent the United States on an international level. Earlier this month, after a training and evaluation session at Pivot Point salon in Illinois with another finalist, Erickson was notified she had earned the lone hairstylist spot.

“I was pretty confident after the training session, but it was crazy to receive the call and have it be official,” Erickson smiled. “I felt like my heart was pounding, and I was crying. I tried to sound professional on the phone, but I couldn’t even focus on all the things he was telling me, I just kept thinking ‘I’m going to Brazil.’”

WorldSkills is an international competition held every two years at locations around the world, where participants from across the globe test their skills in varying categories. An estimated 30 different countries will compete in the hairstyling category. The stylist will complete eight tests in the competition, with contestants styling, cutting and coloring hair on male and female mannequins.

“This is a completely different ball game,” Erickson said. “It’s bigger and I’m going to be competing against people from all over the world, not just the U.S.”

This is the second time a graduate of the Mecosta-Osceola Career Center was selected to represent the U.S. at WorldSkills. Brooke Robison traveled to Germany for the competition in 2013.

“We’re very excited someone from the career center was chosen to represent the United States in Brazil,” said Linda Ward, cosmetology instructor. “It’s a huge honor for us and for her. She’s worked very hard to get where she is and she deserves it.”

When Erickson first started attending the career center, she remembers Robison training to compete at WorldSkills. To now be in that position is a surreal experience for Erickson.

“I just remember Mrs. Ward telling us, ‘She sat where you are sitting right now. She was a student just like you and now look what she’s doing,’” Erickson said. “It’s so crazy to me, remembering that story now that I’m doing that. Now I’m in her shoes and preparing to compete on an international level.”

For Erickson, who is employed at The STudio, being a hairstylist was always the plan.

“I don’t even know what else I would do if I wasn’t doing hair,” she said. “I love the creativity of it and the artistic side. I have a super artistic brain and I’m artsy to the bone, so it’s nice I get to express myself with different ideas.”

Competitive hairstyling is much more work than throwing in some highlights and doing a simple cut, Erickson explained, but she’s up for the challenge.

Throughout the next six months, Erickson will train with Ward, along with world-renowned stylists at Pivot Point salon.

Although the U.S. has never placed above fifth in hairdressing at WorldSkills, with her attitude, dedication and focus, Erickson thinks she can change that.

“Preparing for this is going to take over my life, but that’s OK because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’ll do whatever it takes,” she said. “Mrs. Ward asked me if I’m going to do the best I can or if I’m going to win, and I told her I’m going to win. That’s my goal.”