Teamwork learned in Skills USA competition often leads to greater opportunities. This is a lesson Jacob Fulford learned this past year.

Fulford graduated last May from Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, Fla. But soon after graduation he found himself teamed with his former SkillsUSA instructor on the jobsite

Fulford  learned about success in SkillsUSA. He twice finished in third place in the secondary division of the National Masonry Contest held in conjunction with the annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.  But to get there, he won the Florida state competition twice.

Fulford also learned that the difference between success and failure is often small. In his second national competition, there were only three points (out of a possible 1,000) between first place and my third place.  “I wanted to win the competition, of course; but I’m happy and proud to have done as well as I did,” said Fulford.

Fulford says he owes much of his success to  James Crutchfield. Crutchfield was an instructor at Pedro Mendenez High School, where Fulford attended for his sophomore and junior years.

Just as Fulford’s senior year began, officials eliminated the masonry program. Crutchfield left teaching for a fulltime position as the head mason at Castillo de San Marcos, a national monument, operated by the National Park Service. The Spanish fort near St. Augustine was constructed in 1672. It is the oldest  masonry fortification century fort in North America.

Crutchfield felt he had a lot invested in his former students, so he stayed on as a volunteer SkillsUSA coach.  “We won our regionals four years in a row.  The last two years, students from our seven-man team placed one, two and three in the Florida State competition.  And, of course, Jacob represented us well at two national contests,” said Crutchfield.

Crutchfield  provided lessons to the boys on Fridays as well as evenings and weekends when the boys desired. “We had a great team,” says Crutchfield.  “I never made them practice.  They wanted it.  They wanted to get better.”

Fulford and Crutchfield now work together at Castillo de San Marcos. In the summer of 2010, having heard of the SkillsUSA masonry team at the nearby high school, the National Park Service hired all seven masonry students and their instructor for a special project at Castillo de San Marcos. The next summer, the NPS re-hired Crutchfield, Fulford and another student.  Crutchfield later recommended Fulford to be his mason-helper when  Fulford returned from the 2012 National Masonry Contest.

Fulford is in a special student program with NPS. He has his job as long as he stays in school,” says Crutchfield. Fulford is upholding his obligation by attending classes two nights a week at nearby St. Johns River State College to complete his associate degree.

Fulford hopes to stay in masonry with NPS. Preservation masonry really interests the student. And he thinks there’s always going to be work. “NPS maintains more than 25,000 structures and there not getting any younger,” said Fulford.