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Making the Grade

Based on glowing recommendations from his instructor and employer, 18-year-old Jules Branch is our Masonry Apprentice of the Month. A graduate of Mon Valley Career & Technology Center in Charleroi, Pa., Branch is already looking ahead to his future enrollment at the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Media, Pa.

His instructor, Jeff Yantis, recalled that Branch began his class in ninth grade and, by the end of his junior year, was determined to be a bricklayer. "He returned from the district competition in 2005 — where he finished in second place — a determined young man," Yantis said. "He told me, 'I'll be back next year. No one is going to beat me.'"

And until he reached the national competition, no one did; Branch won local, district and state contests.

"I was trained to be a neat mason and always conscious of safety issues," Branch said. "My instructor, Mr. Yantis, was always pushing for me to do better in all that I do."

A well-rounded student, Branch was student of the month and student of the quarter at Ringgold Senior High School in Monongahela, while also participating in varsity football and basketball.

His employer, Ron Donati, of Ronald C. Donati Masonry Contracting, explained that Branch began as a hod carrier at the age of 13, getting his start in the business through a neighbor and 25-year Donati Masonry employee, Kenny Hoetzlein.

"Jules always looked up to Kenny, and for a long time has wanted to make a career out of the masonry business," Donati said. "Jules is a great employee. He's hardworking, determined and he knows how to get each job done in a timely manner. He's always prompt to work, and works until he gets everything done. You can tell he really cares about this business and doing good work.

"Jules is a great, young bricklayer and a real asset to our company," Donati added. "He'll be a great employee until he decides to start his own business!"



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