A mason uses tools of his trade — a trowel, grout and bricks — to make sidewalks, fireplaces, patios and walls. High school students who attend Abington Heights are learning the skills needed to become a mason and are creating their own masterpieces, including fireplaces and walls.
A student can become certified in the masonry field after they take a state practical, hands-on test, as well as a written test.
“The class has to create something that has not been done before by another class,” said teacher Frank Summa, who is also the golf coach at Abington Heights. “One class made a spiral pier that is still in the work shop at the school. The students have to do the math, design the project, do the layout and build it. They have to figure it out themselves. I give them very little help.”
“We made a fireplace with cultured stone and brick,” said senior Tyler Lesjack who will attend the University of Scranton as a business administration major. He will be taking the test in the next few weeks to become a certified mason. “The fireplace we made had a western style and had a river running through it. Masonry was the best one the school offered besides automotive and woodworking. I work for Siekierka Landscaping and use the skills I learned here all the time in the summer working for the landscape company.”
“I knew about woodshop and automotive that the school offered,” said senior Tyler James. “Masonry was the one I knew the least about so I decided to add that to my list to try. You can get creative with masonry. After high school, I might be doing masonry jobs during the day.”
“I am a laborer,” said senior T.J. Lacey who will attend the University of Scranton after graduation to major in exercise science. “I set up the work station, mix the mortar and get the other students the things that they need. I am interested in masonry and like it a lot. It’s fun.”
The students do a series of projects around the high school. They built a retaining wall by the field house to prevent dirt and water runoff.
“Masonry is more hands on, “ said junior Austin Savaro. “You can use masonry throughout your life. My dad is a carpenter. A carpenter is like a mason because both jobs are hands-on.”
“Mr. Summa gives a blue print,” said senior Daniel Muller, who will attend West Chester University upon graduation to major in international business. “We have to lay out the fireplace using exact dimensions, have to know how many blocks to start with and then build from there. “Masonry is relaxing. I can use these skills later on in life if I plan to put an addition onto my house or build a patio.”
“Masonry is a dying art,” said Summa. “This is a life skill that they will never forget. It is like riding a bike in that you don’t forget how to do it.”