February 2010: Making the Grade


Making the Grade

Luis Martell started out as a student in the auto mechanics program at The Edison School of Applied Technology in Rochester, N.Y. At the start of his senior year, Martell transferred into the masonry program.  Ten months later, he was participating in the SkillsUSA National Masonry Contest.

“Luis Martell is an amazing story,” says his masonry instructor, Frank Arena. “Luis’ instructor in auto mechanics, Phillip Stoklosa, was a steadying influence in Luis’ life. I know he was planning on the prospects of Martell competing in SkillsUSA’s auto mechanics competition. Instead, at the start of his senior year, Luis asked to transfer to masonry. Phil did not stand in his way. He encouraged him.  Phil deserves a lot of credit for mentoring this young man.

“From the very beginning, Luis demonstrated amazing hands-on and creative skills in our masonry class,” Arena continues. “And, obviously, he was motivated. In just seven months, he qualified to compete in the regional SkillsUSA competition at Alfred State University, and he won it.”

The following month, Martell competed in, and won, the New York State SkillsUSA masonry competition. As a result, in January 2009, Martell became the first masonry student from The Edison School of Applied Technology to compete in the national masonry contest. He tied for highest score on the written test and placed 15th overall.

Martell is also a member of The Youth Construction Initiative Program of New York State. The program trains students for careers in construction. While participating in the program, Martell helped construct a house, demonstrating transit layout skills, blocklaying, and cement finishing.

During the summer program, Martell learned to operate a back-hoe, poured a concrete basement floor, and formed and poured concrete sidewalks.

Last August, Martell enrolled in the two-year building construction program at Alfred State University. It has been during the SkillsUSA  regional masonry competition that Martell saw the campus and met the program’s administrator.

“I do what I like to do which is work,” Martell says. He works numerous side jobs, he says, and particularly enjoys working with ceramic and marble tile, landscaping stones and pavers.

“My teacher, Frank Arena, has made me the man I am today,” he says.  “Through his love and determination to see me succeed, he has made me open my eyes and has made me want to work harder and better than I have ever wanted before.”

“We are extremely honored that Luis has represented our school the way he has,” says Arena. “His goal is to become an independent contractor.  I’m confident Luis can achieve anything that he sets his mind to do.”

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