Making the Grade
When I was a little kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather," Jonathan Mitchell recalled. "We'd drive the back roads together. I admired the old, stone farmhouses in our area, and one day commented that I'd like to build one. Grandfather liked the idea and suggested that masonry would be a good career.
"In ninth grade, my class got to tour the tech school [Upper Bucks County AVTS, Perkasie, Pa.], and I liked the hands-on opportunities," he continued. "I started in the construction trades sequence, but transferred to masonry my sophomore year. There were only five guys in the class, so I got to lay a lot of brick."
"Jonathan came to class in 10th grade with no experience, but a very competitive attitude," said masonry instructor Brian Moser. "His skills really improved during his junior year."
And Mitchell is appreciative of his instructor. "He taught me all the skills that I know," Mitchell said.
As an apprentice for E.L.K. Masonry, Mitchell was laying brick the first week on the job. "Most of the guys on the crew were stonemasons, so whenever we had block or brick work, I got to work with the owner. That was pretty cool."
While completing his high school education, Mitchell was an active participant in football, volleyball and, his specialty, track. Twice, he was on his way to a state championship finish when hamstring injuries took him out of the race.
Last summer, Mitchell was one of 54 apprentices who participated in the national masonry contest held in conjunction with the 41st annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City, Mo.
"The Kansas City contest was an amazing experience," Mitchell said. "I was really nervous at the start, but I looked around and could tell everyone else was as nervous as I was. Once I got started, I looked out of the corner of my eye, and I could tell my project was going to be very competitive. That gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the day."
Now a student at West Virginia University, Mitchell plans to start his own business one day. He started out as a business major, but then he discovered landscape architecture.
"I'm going to combine the landscape architecture with a business minor," Mitchell said. "I'm working my own small masonry jobs while I'm in college, so I hope someday to combine all these skills and experiences into one business."
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