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7 Valley Academy students place top-70 in fastest trowel masonry competition

With the help of three student-tenders, seven Valley Academy masonry students finished top-70 in the Oct. 19 Fastest Trowel masonry competition in Chandler. Courtesy Valley Academy of Career and Technology Education

With the help of three student-tenders, seven Valley Academy masonry students finished top-70 in the Oct. 19 Fastest Trowel masonry competition in Chandler. Courtesy Valley Academy of Career and Technology Education

CHANDLER – Cottonwood home school student Jake Parker finished in third place at the Oct. 19 Fastest Trowel masonry skills challenge in Chandler.

Parker was one of seven Valley Academy students who finished in the top 70 at the masonry competition. For Parker, a junior, the competition was “fun, exciting and hard work.”

“When we got to the competition, we had a meeting about safety, the rules, how they would judge your walls and the project we would be trying to complete,” Parker said. “They gave us 15 minutes to get everything set up and laid out so that when it was 8 a.m. we could start laying block.”

Once they started, each of the challengers had three hours to complete their projects. “At 11 a.m. they told us to stop laying block so that they could come around and judge while we had lunch. After a while they told us to tear down our walls and clean up, and after we finished, and everything was clean they gathered everyone to announce the winners.”

Mingus Union High School’s Luke Doerksen (13th), Cottonwood NACOG’s Francisco Camacho (44th), and Camp Verde High School students Kris Whitley (25th), Gabe Cooper (26th), Louis Venegas (32nd) and Anthony Garcia (70th) also finished in the Oct. 19 competition’s top-70.

The Verde Valley’s career and technical education program also sent three student helpers as tenders to this year’s competition, Sedona Red Rock High School’s Francisco Bekele, Angel Roque and Ramiro Alvarez-Araiza.

“We arrived at the location of the competition and we got registered and given safety green shirts to wear then we proceeded to mix mortar for our students and we kept an eye on students who need a shake-up – moving the mortar around – or students who needed drinking water as well as students who needed mortar,” Alvarez-Araiza said. “It taught me to always be on my toes and be two steps ahead of what needed to be done.”

Each of the challengers was assigned the task of reading a blueprint for a 4-foot tall by 4-foot wide one-row block wall and to complete the project in a three-hour time frame, Weir said.

For Valley Academy, and for Parker, “this is an outstanding achievement,” Weir said. For Bekele, the competition was “very exhilarating and overall a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Also, Bekele said it was a learning experience, as it “taught participants how to work fast and work smart when it comes to brick laying.”

“My experience as a tender was much simpler than the brick laying, as my job only consisted of delivering mortar by shovel to my teammates as well as mixing it to ensure that my teammates who were competitors always had enough,” Bekele said.

The 2019 competition is Valley Academy’s third year participating, Weir said, against programs such as Western Maricopa Education Center – known as West-MEC.

According to Weir, more than 40 Phoenix-area high schools send students to West-MEC, which “takes the show every year in the top 10 places.”

Valley Academy “gives a shutout to West-MEC,” Weir said. “They still earned the top two spots in the event. But VACTE is starting to get the name out there for producing quality individuals in workplace skills and the construction industry.”

Valley Academy Construction Teacher Travis Black said that the program’s competitors “all put up some pretty nice walls for just starting masonry a couple of weeks ago.”

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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