Making the Grade
I have to recruit, just like college coaches do," says Joe Luchtenburg, instructor at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "We don't have a secondary masonry program in Iowa, so I'm always recruiting young people for our program."
Like all good coaches and instructors, Luchtenburg is a talented recruiter, too. He recruited James Baca from Prairie High School's construction maintenance program. During Baca's junior and senior years in high school, he occasionally attended Luchtenburg's classes. He learned basic masonry skills, and then entered the SkillsUSA Iowa State Competition. Baca earned first-place honors in two consecutive years.
|Shown is Baca in action at a national masonry contest held in conjunction with the SkillsUSA Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo., in June 2007.
During high school, Baca stayed busy, earning his OSHA 10 Hour Certification and Building Trades Certificate. He also earned a letter in wrestling and worked as both a construction and lawn maintenance laborer. He is certified in CPR and continues to pursue his interests in fishing, hunting and camping.
During the summer of 2007, Baca entered the National Masonry Contest, held in conjunction with the annual SkillsUSA National Leadership Conference at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo. Although he did not place in his first competition, Baca was the first to complete a visually attractive composite project.
Baca is currently enrolled in Luchtenburg's masonry program at Kirkwood Community College. He has every intention of returning to the national competition, in the post-secondary division.
"I think that with another year under my belt and learning from Mr. Luchtenburg, I'll have a chance to win it [the national competition]," says Baca. "He taught me everything I know about masonry, and he encourages me to better myself all the time."
Luchtenburg has high regard for his student. "If all students were as enthusiastic and eager to learn as James, my job would be very easy," he says. "His work ethic, attitude and attendance are textbook."
Baca has a job lined up with Sedorff Masonry following graduation.
"When James Baca graduates from our program, he will be greatly missed," Luchtenburg says. "He has been a great joy to have in my class, because he has made teaching fun through his strong desire and an appreciation of the masonry trade. I just hope he will visit my classes from time to time, because I know he can always make a contribution."
Return to Table of Contents