Rebekah Hagberg, a 2018 graduate of Normal Community West High School, said that, since she was almost to junior high, she became interested being a hairdresser and working in the beauty industry. Come mid-July, she will take the world stage in Russia to show her skills.

That’s because Rebekah, 18, will compete as a member of the WorldSkills USA team, selected and trained by SkillsUSA in the category of Hairdressing at the biennial WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia. The 45th international event will be held Aug. 22-27. At WorldSkills, Rebekah will be with 39 other contestants vying for the top prize in her vocation’s competition.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators, public policymakers, employers, teachers, trainers, technical experts and government officials from around the world will attend this competition.

This wasn’t just some notion of a job she was curious about, either. With an aunt who owned a salon, Rebekah’s interest started early, as she was able to get a jump on learning about the business.

Through Normal West, Rebekah became involved with Bloomington Area Career Center (BACC), which has a chapter of SkillsUSA, giving students an opportunity to learn a skill which will help them become productive members of the community. They hold national and international competitions in a variety of vocations. Rebekah has become fluent in competitions having done so at State level last summer finishing first, and getting as far as nationals at Louisville, Ky. in 2017, where she finished third.

Her finishing third at that time, she explained, left her thinking she was through with competitions. But then over Christmas that year, she received a letter asking her to submit an entry for the international event. She had to submit an entry because there were, she said, “about 15 people” applying to be on the hairdressing competition team. Needless to say, she applied.

That application led to a phone interview with applicants, Rebekah said. In spring of 2018, the applicants then were given a series of test projects to complete and turn in photographic evidence of their completion, which would be judged to see which contestants complied with instructions given to see if they would advance further. Advancing further turned out to take place on a national stage at Louisville.

Concerning Rebekah’s turn at Nationals last year, she wasn’t the only contestant from the Twin Cities to finish high when the competition ended. Laura Coronel, then a student at Bloomington High School, was also trying to win that event, and finished second behind Rebekah.

Keep in mind Rebekah was doing these test projects all while still going through her senior year of high school. “It was a lot of commitment,” Rebekah said of the time she needed to devote to trying to complete the projects given while still going to class at Normal West and fulfill any family obligations, as well. In addition to that, during her junior and senior year at Normal West, she was taking night classes in cosmetology to turn her dream of working toward being a working member in that field into a reality.

“After the test projects were turned in, it was a little bit of a waiting game,” Rebekah said. Finding out she finished as one of the two finalists who would be going to Russia to compete at the WorldSkills Competition came in an email.

The entire WorldSkills team met in Leesburg, Va. last year to get to know each other, she said. Rebekah’s coach is Michigan resident Linda Ward. Locally, Rebekah’s boss at the salon she works at, Bloomington-based Station 710 Salon, Megan Jenkins-Anderson, has been mentoring and monitoring her protégé’s progress. Rebekah said Jenkins-Anderson has sent her to the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Chicago and even to Finland with Jenkins-Anderson to another beauty academy to extend her training.

Of the experience, Rebekah, daughter of Dan and Jody Hagberg, Bloomington, said, “It was definitely worth it because it was something I really wanted to do, so I put in all the effort I could.”

For Rebekah, if she wins the World title, “It will be a huge honor and very exciting.” She said there is no trophy or trinkets winners receive if they take first. But rather, winners receive the honor of being able to add the title to their resumes, and share the pride of accomplishment on the world stage.

She said the past year has been a “jump start” on her career and she has learned a great deal about herself through the experience. When this experience is completed, regardless of where she places, Rebekah said she will resume her education in cosmetology and continuing on to get her barbering license. Next spring, she said, she plans to take some business classes at Heartland Community College. “That will help me in case I get the opportunity to own a salon in the future,” she explained.

“The BACC, as a whole is very proud of Rebekah, for all of her work, effort, and time she has put in for this event,” stated Tom Frazer, BACC Director. “She has had tremendous support from her family and employer, and from her instructors at Hairmasters.” He said there are only 25 students going from America, and Frazier said he thinks she is the only one going from Illinois. “She is a very dedicated and intelligent young lady.” He added participating in this event “is a huge win” for her as she pursues her future career goals.

“I’m very excited for this to happen,” Rebekah said. “I’m excited and nervous, both equally. It’s healthy to have a little bit of nerves because that keeps you on your ‘A” game. But I’m very excited because this whole year has been leading up to this. I’m ready for this.”

Here’s hoping Rebekah comes back with a finish among the competitors she will be proud of. But the truth is, it sounds like we can all be proud of her now, and wish her the best in her future.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019 at 9:43 am and is filed under The Normalite. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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