• Diana Matthews

Masonry student has her eye on school record


When Columbus Career and College Academy student Maria Torres was originally put into masonry class, she wasn’t sure it was what she wanted. “I’m glad I decided to stay,” she now says. “I enjoy it very much. I’m very surprised to have come this far.”

Maria, a junior, was the most experienced student in Fred Mason Jr.’s advanced studies masonry class this semester. When classes resume in January, she will be attending Southeastern Community College, but her instructor and classmates hope she will make time to return to CCCA for bricklaying practice as often as possible. The students are scheduled to take part in several local competitions, leading to a statewide competition in May.

Last school year, Maria was part of a CCCA team that won first place in the H.A. Hardy masonry contest. Teammate Natltaly Razo, who was then Mason’s only senior student, won over $1000 worth of cash and tools as first place female and first place overall.

During her student days, Razo set a good example for the younger bricklayers, Mason said. She communicated well, especially with the female students, when they needed help understanding a technique.

Maria said “Natltaly inspired me a lot as a lady. I never knew a female bricklayer before.”

With Razo out of school and working, Mason said that Maria has stepped into the mentoring role this year. He described her as “soft-spoken and calm.” There are 13 freshmen in Mason’s beginning class this year.

“I help teach them and show them things,” said Maria.

Her final project was a lattice wall with columns at the ends. The wall incorporates effects that Maria called “a waterfall, butterflies and rowlocks.”

The project, like other assignments in Mason’s classroom, was held together with a lime-based “practice mortar” that could be chipped apart when dry so students could re-use the space and the bricks.

Before she left CCCA, Maria hoped to break the school record of 600 bricks laid in an hour.

Accomplishing a feat of that sort takes a lot of strength, speed and skill. Said Maria, “You need the right type mud (mortar), you need your bricks right there, and you need to believe in yourself. The bottom course has to be right. You start slow and build up speed.

“It’s kind of intense. Your back will hurt. You’ll think your back is breaking, but you keep going.”

“Last year I laid 531,” she said.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, Maria and Mason prepared a batch of practice mortar. The next day, Maria worked as hard as she could but did not surpass her own record nor the school’s.

“I know she was disappointed,” her teacher said. Maria didn’t make any excuses for falling short of last year’s accomplishment, and she said she might try again to top 600 before she graduates from SCC.

Mason was the one who pointed out that, “Maria had the speed, but we had to mix the mortar in the rain, and our sand was wet.” The resulting mix was “not tight enough, and that actually slowed her down.”

In spite of the extra difficulty, Maria pushed on through the backbreaking hour and laid 526 bricks.

“I’m almost certain she will try again,” said Mason.

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