“Yeah, I heard it. Some of them put me down. One of them said I might as well give it up now.” That's how Shelby Crawford described some of her 44 competitors at the 44th annual SkillsUSA national masonry contest in Kansas City in June 2008.

“I just told them ‘We'll see after I compete.' The best part was that I finished higher than many of my critics,” said Crawford.

Following graduation from Eureka Springs High School in Arkansas, Crawford returned to Kansas City to compete in her second national competition. Crawford was trained by two excellent instructors. Larry Wicker was her instructor during her junior year. He was a mentor and a supporter and he showed her she could do anything, including masonry, that she set he mind to.

“Mr. Wicker was an awesome instructor. He taught me everything I needed to know,” says Crawford.

Of Crawford, Wicker says, “Shelby was dedicated, self-motivated, and exhibited strong leadership qualities. She helped her fellow students when the need arose and had a kind word for everyone. Community and family are the keys to what made her the wonderful student she was.”

Wicker retired after 38 years as an instructor. In his last 10 years as an instructor, Wheeler sponsored 10 students in the national competition.

Mike Bonds was Crawford's instructor her senior year. “Mr. Bonds was taught by Mr. Wicker,” points out Crawford. “He is so much like Mr. Wicker, it's like we never lost him (Wicker)! Mr. Bonds has done a great job.” Bonds' students placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the 2009 Arkansas State masonry competition.

Crawford has participated in her Skills-USA Club since her freshman year. An accomplished horsewoman, she has been showing horses and winning awards and championships since she was “old enough to ride.”

Crawford has enrolled in a nursing assistant program. Later this fall, she will start a three-year program at Northwest Arkansas Community College to become a registered nurse.

“Being part of SkillsUSA and competing have made me a better person. It's taught me how to believe in myself and to work with others,” says Crawford. “Masonry work will help me get through nursing school. I guess it doesn't hurt to be qualified for two different careers.”