GEN NXT: Leslie Maldonado and Israel Bugarin

Words: Isa Stein

Sponsored By:

Editor’s Note: For the first time, MASONRY Magazine sat down with two people, Leslie Maldonado and Israel Bugarin, who both have shared their passion for the industry in their relationship. As current students, they spend their time studying, competing, and working in masonry.

MASONRY Magazine: Tell me a bit about yourselves.

Leslie Maldonado & Israel Bugarin: Our names are Leslie Maldonado, 19 years old, and Israel Bugarin, 18 years old, and we are currently attending Columbus Career and College Academy and also attending Southeastern Community College. We are masonry pre-apprentice students at Columbus Career and College Academy. Masonry has been a part of our life ever since we were 15 and 14 years old. Ever since then, we’ve never seen masonry the same. In other words, we both consider masonry a beautiful art.

M.M.: How did you get into the masonry industry?

L.M.: When I was in the 8th grade, I came to visit the CCCA school, and the school introduced many CTE classes. When masonry was introduced to me, I knew I wanted to do masonry just by looking at the amazing stuff that was built in the classroom. And knowing I was going to be the second generation in the family but the first woman in the family to do masonry made me even more excited to get into the masonry industry.

I.B.: Ever since I was little, I was always attracted to construction and being on job sites with my dad. Once I went to the 8th grade to visit CCCA, I knew that masonry was for me. Throughout my years of high school, I became more involved in the industry. Being the first generation in my family to do masonry got me really excited to begin a new journey.

M.M.: Have you competed in competitions before? Would you?

L.M.: Competition is something that I have been doing ever since I started doing masonry, and I will continue competing at the SCC college level once I graduate from CCCA. Throughout the years of competing from freshman year up to now, I’ve gotten a couple of wins. Placing 1st in my district and top 5 at state, and another couple of wins. Thanks to a student-organized club, SkillsUSA allows competition to happen for masonry and all work industries. North Carolina Masonry Contractor Association has also made it possible to have many masonry competitions. Thanks to all these organizations, competition has been possible for me.

I.B.: Yes, I have competed in many masonry competitions from level 1 all the way to pre-apprentice. I have had several 2nd and 3rd place wins, and I even placed 4th at the SkillsUSA state competition. But it wasn't until my last year of high school that I got my 1st place win at the regional H.A. Hardy competition. Competitions have been a great part of my life through high school, and I can't thank SkillsUSA and NCMCA enough for helping out the schools and getting kids involved in masonry.

M.M.: Did/Do you have a mentor that has helped you in the industry? If so, tell me about that experience.

L.M. & I.B.: Our mentor Mr. Mason is our instructor who taught us and helped us get into the industry all throughout freshman year up to now. All our experiences with Mr. Mason throughout all these years have been nothing but amazing, cherished and memorable. We will always be appreciative of all the time and effort he took to make us grow in the masonry industry.

M.M.: What are your goals in the industry?

L.M. & I.B.: Our goals in the masonry industry are to graduate from high school and college and go straight to work in the masonry field. We plan to expand our B&M Masonry small company that we started in 2021.

M.M.: What has been your favorite experience in the industry so far?

L.M.: My favorite experience in this industry so far is the masonry competitions. Building things such as small structures or even big structures is also such a nice experience in the industry because you can sit back and look at the structure you built and say, “I built that,” and feel very proud of your work.

I.B.: My favorite experience in the industry has also definitely been the competitions. Going on road trips and bringing back wins and prizes while having fun.

M.M.: What keeps you motivated?

L.M. & I.B.: The biggest thing that keeps us motivated is our parents. Making them proud motivates us to keep growing in the masonry industry. Having a good future motivates us to keep growing and keep setting a great example for the next generation.

M.M: Do either of you work in the industry now? If so, what does your routine look like?

L.M. & I.B.: Yes, we both work in the industry as much as we can when we have days off from school or during the weekends. Two summers ago, we had a busy summer full of brick and block jobs and decided we needed to make our little business cards to give to customers who were really satisfied with our work. And wanted to give them out to anyone who wanted jobs done. Since then, we have been getting jobs left and right, which has been a blessing for both of us. We both have a goal to make our small business grow over the years.

M.M.: What advice would you give to someone looking to join the masonry industry?

L.M. & I.B.: If we were to give advice to someone who would want to join the industry, we would tell them not to be afraid of joining the industry because once they get into it, they'll really enjoy it. Especially women, don't be afraid to join the industry because more women are needed in the construction fields.

M.M.: Is there anything else you want to add?

L.M. & I.B.: Something we would really like to add is: Thank you, Mr. Mason, for everything. You have been a great instructor and friend to us. And a big thanks to our parents, who have supported us through every step of our journey in the masonry field.

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