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High school masonry competition featured region’s best

By David Freeze

For the Salisbury Post

High school masonry, carpentry and cabinetmaking students from five school districts gathered Saturday morning for the inaugural Skills Rowan Competition. The districts represented were Cabarrus County, Kannapolis, Montgomery County, Stanly County and Rowan-Salisbury. The regional competition was one of six scheduled across the state.

Cabinetmaking and carpentry projects were delivered to Chandler Concrete already completed, but the masonry competition happened on site. Mandy Mills, career and technical education director for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, organized the competition.

Carson, South, East and West Rowan high schools all competed in masonry while the carpentry and cabinetmaking projects included those from Salisbury, East, North, Carson and West high schools, she said. There were 82 masonry participants.

Masonry teacher Rodney Harrington and career development coordinator Colleen Young from West Rowan had key planning roles. The morning started with a presentation of the colors by West Rowan High School and the national anthem.

The co-chairmen of Rowan Partners in Education, Jon and Susan Steele, were thrilled with the competition.

“Rowan Partners for Education is excited to support the CTE program through this competition,” said Jon Steele. “These students are not only an integral part of our student population; they will become a vital part of our employment base here in Rowan County. I don’t believe these students are always given the support and recognition that they deserve. Anyone who saw their work here today will realize how talented they are.”

The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce serves as the administrative arm of Rowan Partners for Education, providing accounting and other services as needed. Sponsors supporting the skills competition included Chandler Concrete, Shea Homes, Griffin Masonry, Gates Constructions and Morrison Brothers. They provided over $6,000 in money along with other prizes.

The masonry competition included separate divisions for Level 1, open to freshmen and sophomores, and Level 2, open to juniors and seniors. Level 1 contestants had two hours to complete a project. Level 2 students had three hours on a more advanced project. Both groups’ work ended at noon.

Potential employers and judges walked around checking the quality of each student’s work.

Griffin Masonry had three supervisors watching the work.

“There is a lot of talent here,” said masonry supervisor Tim Roseman. “We use this event as a recruiting tool. We can start them as summer interns or let them work with us over their breaks. They get an incentive bonus to work with us for 300 hours while they are completing their school year. We want those who will make a career with us. Masonry is a trade that is not going away.”

Now a nine-year employee for Griffin, Ryan Love started with an internship because he got a chance to try it out. Richard Myers, a 19-year employee, took second in the North Carolina competition before advancing to a third place in the nation.

“I always knew that I wanted to work with my hands,” Myers said.

All three men said they love to ride through neighborhoods and see the lasting work that they have been a part of.

One of three girls in the masonry competition was Harley Amos, a senior from Carson High who is headed to the University of North Carolina at Asheville to study engineering.

“I got started because I had an opening and needed to add a class,” Amos said. “One of my friends wanted me to join her to take masonry, and I enjoyed it. Darren Yow has been an excellent teacher, and he even lets me co-teach Masonry 1.”

A former state winner at Masonry Level 1, West Rowan junior Jesse Baker credits Harrington with extra effort on his behalf.

“I want to get a civil engineering degree and eventually own an all-around construction company,” Baker said. “I am pretty confident about my work today.”

Central Cabarrus senior Kelby Thornton won the National Masonry Level 2 competition in Louisville, Kentucky, last year. He has been working part time with Huntley Brothers and plans to remain with the company because he has been treated like family. Unlike other participants, Thornton said he had no trouble sleeping the night before the competition. He said he doesn’t get nervous and was pumped to do well.

Lynn Nash of the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association was impressed with the competition.

“It was great to see the local merchants supporting this today and so many parents on hand,” Nash said. “Thanks to Chandler for hosting this event that calls attention to the trade. North Carolina had won more of the national competitions than all of the other states put together. We have about a hundred high schools with well-run masonry programs. Of those, Cabarrus and Rowan do extremely well in the state because the competitors and instructors are so intense. They have certainly raised masonry competitions to a new level in North Carolina.”

 Baker edged Thornton for the top prize of the day that included $1,000 and tools. Other winners are posted at www.cterowan.com.

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