October 2012: Making the Grade

Words: Dan Kamys Making the Grade

Jordan Hartsell Hartsell works on his winning composite project

Jordan Hartsell’s father, Darren, is a masonry instructor at nearby Jay M. Robinson High School. When Jordan attended Central Cabarrus High School, Todd Hartsell (unrelated) was his instructor and has sponsored nine national masonry contest winners in the last 12 years.

Jordan has taken full advantage of his opportunities to become a contest-winning young mason. He took first place honors in the post-secondary division of this year’s national masonry contest, held as part of the SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City, Mo.

Jordan is now a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at The University of North Carolina Charlotte. Despite being a full-time college student, he went back to his high school masonry instructor and asked if he’d sponsor him.?? Todd Hartsell agreed, and the two of them began extensive preparations, working together in the high school classroom six to eight hours a day, two to three days a week, for six months.

“I can’t imagine how many walls and practice projects I built,” Jordan says.

After winning the North Carolina post-secondary contest, both his instructor and his father accompanied Jordan to Kansas City. Returning to the national contest for the first time since he placed fourth in 1984, Darren was filled with trepidation.

“I was so hoping that Jordan would do well,” Darren says. “I finished fourth, and for me there was no second chance. There was not a post-secondary division then, and finishing so close to a medal was one of the biggest disappointments of my life.

“Before we left for Kansas City, I showed Jordan my scrapbook of photographs and newspaper clippings,” he continues. “I just told him that I knew he had worked hard preparing, and that no matter how well he did, he’d made his old man proud.”

After examining and measuring his son’s composite project, Darren had high hopes that his son might win a medal.

“I owned my own masonry construction business for 20 years before becoming an instructor 10 years ago,” says Darren. “I couldn’t have built that project any better than Jordan did. It’s a compliment to Jordan’s hard work and Todd’s excellent instruction.”

Jordan’s instructor wasn’t so sure, adding that Jordan ran short of time as the six-hour time limit approached. “He didn’t have time to check the details, to put the finishing touches on it,” he says. “I knew he’d lost some points there.”

“When they announced his name, Todd and I jumped from our seats,” Darren says. “My camera landed three rows down! It was a great father-son experience. I will always cherish that experience. I’m so glad I was there.”

A member of National Honor Society, Beta Club and National Technical Honors Society, Jordan’s decision to attend college was influenced by his mother and grandmother, both teachers.

“My grandmother had a master’s degree in mathematics, and I’ve always been good at math and science,” Jordan says. “Going to college was always something I thought I’d do.”

With no specific plans after he obtains his degree, Jordan continues laying bricks and working weekends to pay his way through college.

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