Making the Grade
Starting Them Young
If you want a good read on a masonry student, just ask a veteran masonry instructor.
“Kevin Morris is one of the most outstanding young men I have ever had in my class, and I mean that,” says Carlos G. Jones Sr., masonry instructor at Camden County High School in Kingsland, Ga. “I can’t say enough about this young man. He’s young, yet he’s outstanding.”
Jones has been teaching masonry in the classroom for more than 30 years. His student, Kevin Morris, qualified for and participated in the high school division of the National Masonry Contest when he was only a sophomore. The contest was held in conjunction with the 44th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo.
Kevin Morris shows off his masonry skills.
Morris is equally complimentary of his instructor. “[Jones] has always believed in me,” says Morris. “He encourages me, telling me how well I’m doing and how successful I can be.
“At school, we’re supposed to take an introduction to four different trade units,” says Morris. “My first unit was masonry. On the last day, Mr. Jones told me I’d scored a 95 on my performance test. He said I had a knack for it and offered to let me stay in the program.”
Later that year, Morris entered his first competition in a local contest in Starke, Fla. As the awards were being announced, Morris believed his project to be the worst of all the entries. He was right, and he vowed never to let that happen again.
After that contest, Morris met Al Herndon of the Florida Masonry Apprentice and Education Foundation, who spoke to Morris’ class, and Greg Moore of Florida Rock Industries. Herndon offered inspiration and opportunity, and Moore offered to provide Morris with practice materials.
Ever since, Morris has been practicing at home in his spare time. He started using his home basketball court as a storage and prep area, and began improving his speed and quality.
“My next competition was a regional SkillsUSA competition, and I was really nervous,” Morris says. “When I took first place, I knew the hard work and knowledge was starting to pay off. I was getting ready to have a shot at going to the national competition.
“At the state competition, I remember sitting in a high school gymnasium in Lafeyette County, Ga., hearing ‘masonry’ being announced,” he continues. “I figured that at best, I’d maybe take third or second. They called both, but neither was my name. Then, they announced my name, ‘First place, Kevin Morris.’”
Morris is still practicing at home and is starting to get calls from contractors for small projects.
“My parents have supported my love for masonry, so they get credit, too,” Morris says. “They’ve purchased my tools and supplies.”
Morris’ fellow student, Garrett Tanner, shared stories about his dad, Norman Tanner, who is a block, brick and stone mason. Morris eventually began to work with Norman on local projects, amazed by his speed and accuracy. His obvious influence on Morris was positive and motivating.
Not only does Morris possess natural abilities as a mason, he also is pleasurable to work alongside.
“It’s a credit to Kevin that he works so well with my other students,” says Jones. “I assigned one of my slower and disinterested students to work with Kevin. In no time, the student was more enthusiastic and doing better work. He works really hard and has such a great attitude.”
It’s no surprise that Morris has his sights set on many goals. “I want to win [SkillsUSA],” he says. “I can earn a scholarship for that. Then, I hope to get accepted to Mr. Herndon’s apprenticeship program.”