Masonry students finish first at Trowel Trades Competition

Four masonry students received first place ribbons in the 20th Annual Massachusetts Trowel Trades Association competition yesterday, a contest that tests student ability to complete masonry and hardscaping challenges in a set amount of time.

This year's event was hosted at Whittier, where approximately 90 students from seven area schools had three hours to complete individual brick and block challenges, or a hardscaping design in teams of three. 

Inside the masonry shop, rows of individual students deftly scooped up mortar from the tub at each of their stations and began building brick and block walls. Outside, under a large white tent, hardscaping teams quickly got to work laying brick walkways and building retaining walls.

Throughout the competition, judges surveyed students' work, giving it a thorough review before declaring winners at the three-hour mark.

One of Whittier's teams -- senior Lauren Powers, of Haverhill, sophomore Brian Levesque, of Amesbury, and sophomore Asahya Hernandez, of Haverhill -- placed first. The team worked well together, each checking the other's work to ensure everything was level, properly laid out and aesthetically pleasing.

"I was dumbfounded when I heard our names," Powers said. "It's a great feeling of accomplishment. No one expects a girl to be good in this trade, but we proved them wrong."
"I was shocked, but at the same time, not shocked," added Hernandez, who participated in the competition for the first time this year. "We made sure everything was perfect, so I had a good feeling."

Sophomore Lily Fox, of Amesbury, took first place in her grade level, despite not completely finishing the brick wall. Judges focused not on if a project was completed, but on the technique and appearance of students' work.

"The kid next to me was wicked good and I didn't think I was going to win," Fox recalled. "I was surprised. A lot of people didn't want me to pick masonry for my area of study, so I'm glad I'm doing my parents proud."

Freshman Jordan Gouthier, of Bradford, and seniors Jonathan Caron and Christopher McNulty, both of Haverhill, earned fourth place in the brick and block challenge.

Other Whittier competitors included sophomores Matthew Livingood, of Haverhill, and Noah Foley, of Newburyport; juniors Edward Fernandez, of Haverhill, Xavier Valdivieso, of Haverhill, and Matthew Nunez, of Haverhill; and seniors Griffen Rogers, of Haverhill, and Shannon Loh, of Haverhill.

Students who placed first, second and third earned masonry tools donated by schools and industry partners. Every student, however, regardless of how they did in the competition, was able to take home a tool that they could use in their future work.

"With everything becoming so automated, masonry and hardscaping is one of the last hands on trades," Superintendent Lynch said. "It's really a lost art form, so it's great to be able to see students create some beautiful structures while interacting and learning from their peers. Everyone worked hard today and created some great pieces, so we're extremely excited to have our students place first in both categories."

Other participating schools included Essex Tech, Greater Lowell Tech, Greater Lawrence Tech, Shawsheen Valley Tech, Bay Path Regional Tech and Montachusett Tech.

Whittier Tech