January 2011: Making the Grade

Words: Dan Kamys Making the Grade Accomplishing a Goal This photo shows Bradley Wright working on his composite project at the 2010 SkillsUSA national masonry contest. This photo shows Bradley Wright working on his composite project at the 2010 SkillsUSA national masonry contest.

Bradley Wright is the unprecedented, three-time winner of this year’s national masonry contest held in Kansas City, Mo., in conjunction with the 46th annual SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference. Wright earned a gold medal, with his third-consecutive first-place finish, and fourth-consecutive medal in four consecutive national contests.

Wright is not shy about proclaiming his goal of the past four years. “I want my high school teacher’s job,” he says. “That’s what I’d really like to do.”

After three years in the masonry program at the Earnest Pruett Center of Technology in Hollywood, Ala., Wright completed two additional years in the technical masonry training program at Wallace State Community College.

Asked if his instructor at the Earnest Pruett Center of Technology, Charles A. West, knows about his plans, Wright replies, “Oh, yes. We’ve talked about that. Others have talked to him about the same thing, but I’m trying to follow through with the training and experience.

“When Mr. West is ready to retire, I’ll be ready to apply for his position,” he adds.

As a 29-year instructor, West has impressive credentials. Since 2002, he has sponsored eight participants in the National Masonry Contest. Two students earned first place, and two others earned second place, before Wright finished third in 2007 and first in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

West was responsible for Wright’s interest in masonry. “My Mother encouraged me to choose the electrical program, but Mr. West convinced me that he really wanted me in his masonry program,” says Wright. “And the more brick I laid, the better I got. The better I got, the more I liked it.

“If I ever get a chance become an instructor myself,” Wright continues, “I’ll rely a lot on what Mr. West taught me. He pushed me. He was never satisfied. He told me I could always do better. I’m a better mason because of Mr. West.”

Wright completed his training at Wallace State Community College in Selma, Ala.?? However, it wasn’t easy getting there.

“[Kenny] Allen (Wright’s masonry instructor) got me interested in Wallace State when I was competing in the state high school contest,” says Wright. “I visited the school, and I liked it; but the challenge for me was that it’s 170 miles from home. I didn’t have the money to afford housing there.”

Determined and persistent, Wright found a solution: For two years, he lived in a small trailer that he pulled behind his pick-up truck.

“It worked out okay,” says Wright. “The owner of the campground cut me a pretty good deal on rent. With a four-day class schedule, I could haul my trailer around to odd jobs on weekends near school or at home. Between my Pell grant and the money I made working, I could pay my rent and my truck payments.”

Wright’s instructor at Wallace State Community College, Kenny Allen, says of Wright, “Bradley is a very hard worker. He puts himself into his work. He’s going to do well in anything he pursues, because he is just that kind of person.”

So impressed by his contest accomplishments, SkillsUSA and the Masonry Technical Committee will sponsor Wright in the 2011 World Skills Competition. The world’s largest international skills competition will be held Oct. 5-8, 2011, in London, England. The bi-annual contest has not had an American contestant since 1997.

After working through the summer on a major construction project at Camp Lejune, N.C., Wright now is back in Alabama, working small jobs and substituting for Mr. West.

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