"A lot of my peers are still in college and are deep in debt," says Crystal Pruskowski, 21. "I have no debt, work in the world and have been to places they've never dreamed of."
The cosmetology gene runs strong in Crystal Pruskowski's family, but the competition gene seems to skip a generation.
Pruskowski's mom is also a cosmetologist and a former SkillsUSA member, but the competitive aspects of SkillsUSA never appealed to her. For Pruskowski, a self-described "small-town girl" from Cochranton, Pa., competition is a passion, and during her time in SkillsUSA, she embraced it at every opportunity.
"I love competing," she says. "You're nervous and usually sick before, but you've got to be able to deal with pressure and people watching you. You have to get in your zone and stay focused. " Pruskowski was definitely "in the zone" during her first national competition, bringing home the silver medal. She thought she'd reached her competitive peak. She was wrong.
"PivotPoint [sponsor of the Cosmetology competition] showed us a DVD about the international competitions," she remembers. "I didn't even know they existed! I thought to myself, 'I am going to do that.' " With the new goal in mind, Pruskowski competed in Chicago-based trials in the hopes of making TeamUSA 2001, but she was not selected. A disappointment? Yes. A defeat? No way. You see, Pruskowski credits SkillsUSA for not only providing her with competitive opportunities, but also for helping her to develop life skills such as self-confidence and goal planning. She wasn 't about to give up.
Returning to the SkillsUSA Championships during her senior year, Pruskowski once again snagged the silver, immediately qualifying her to again participate in the TeamUSA trials. This time, she was selected to represent her country at the 2003 WorldSkills Competition in St. Gallen, Switzerland. It was an honor she says she'll never forget. She also won't forget how hard her skills were tested.
"The level of competition was 10 times higher [than nationals]," Pruskowski remembers. "It was four days long, with eight categories." She once again entered her zone, bringing home a diploma of honor. The entire experience was a huge stepping stone in Pruskowski's life and career. PivotPoint was so impressed with her that they've asked her to help judge the next WorldSkills trials.
She's also stayed on the competition trail, competing internationally in China and Italy (as well as in many national competitions) while working in her mother's salon. Her next goal? The 2006 World Championships for Hairdressing in Moscow. Oh, and to open up a salon of her own soon.
Not bad for a small-town girl.
SkillsUSA Champions | Spring 2005 | Volume 39, No. 3