November 2011: Making the Grade

Words: Dan Kamys

Making the Grade

Zook participates in SkillsUSA, Kansas City, Mo.

The winner of the secondary division of the 2011 SkillsUSA National Masonry Contest, Jordon Zook recalls his experience at last year’s competition. “I underestimated the competition, and I didn’t do as well as I could have,” says Zook.??“I walked away with fourth place, knowing I could have done better, had I really perfected my project and put in 100 percent of my effort.

“This year, I did everything I possibly could to prepare for the competition,” he continues. “And God definitely rewarded the hard work and effort I put in to win.”

“We’ve have been wanting to have a winner here for a long time,” says Mike Kern, Zook’s masonry instructor at Berks Career & Technical Center in Oley, Pa. “I’ve been at Berks for 19 years, and I have to admit, it’s pretty sweet.”

It was a team effort as both the student and teacher invested many extra hours in preparation for Zook’s return to the national contest.

“All the work I did preparing for the contest came together and paid off for both me and my instructor,” says Zook. “Mr. Kern spent countless hours helping, teaching, and critiquing me, so I was as ready for the contest as I possibly could be.??Going into the competition, I knew I had the skills and practice I needed to construct a winning project.”

Kern says Jordan was a student with skills so advanced that he would complete tasks in just one or two days that should have taken a week.??“I had to constantly challenge him,” Kern says. “Jordan started late, but advanced quickly.??During his first year in the program, I challenged him to compete against a state champion bricklayer in a shop competition.??He held his own and learned from the experience.”

Win or lose, Zook always does his very best.

Like father, like son Zook’s father operates his own masonry construction company, and Zook remembers going to a jobsite when he was 5 years old, admiring his father’s brick and block work and thinking “how cool it would be” to be like his dad.

Zook started working summers and days off from school doing cleanup work and laboring when he was 13. Gradually, his father starting teaching him technique, allowing him to lay bricks and blocks on jobs for which some of the work wasn’t visible.

“I started laying regularly when I was in the 11th grade,” says Zook. “By that time, I had two years of masonry vo-tech under my belt.??Dad trusted me and liked the work I did.??Now, I lay pretty much all the time with my dad and my brother.”

Winning “Winning the national masonry contest was awesome,” says Zook. “After the competition was over, I walked away from my project knowing that what I did there was the best I could have possibly done.??Honestly, it didn’t matter to me if I won that day or not, because I knew I’d done the very best I could do.??That was the blessing in all this for me, because the previous year, I hadn’t done the very best I could do.”

In spite of living on a farm, going to school, and laying bricks and block for his father, Zook found time for ice hockey and the Central Pennsylvania Youth Rodeo Association. And, as expected, he participated in his church youth group.

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