mrWF Scholarship Recipient Trevor Huntley ~ Continuing to Build on a Firm Foundation
As a kid growing up in Conklin, NY, Trevor Huntley was drawn to jigsaw puzzles and Legos. “I was always hands-on.” He loved building and putting things together. But if you asked young Trevor what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer would always be the same – “A fireman.”
When Trevor was ten years old his grandpa asked for help rebuilding a wall. Trevor jumped at the chance. The wall was made of field stone, dry stacked without mortar. It was hard work for a young kid, but he and grandpa got it done. When the final stone was placed Trevor felt such a sense of pride and accomplishment that he altered his dream of fire fighting, and set his sights on a career in masonry.
In his sophomore year at Susquehanna Valley High School, Trevor’s class took a tour of Broome Tioga BOCES, or BTB for short. BOCES stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services. According to their website “BOCES is a unique and innovative educational institution established to help public schools control costs and provide quality programs by sharing services.” They offer classes in everything from automotive repair to nursing, math to masonry. It was on this tour that Trevor would meet the man that would change his life and become his mentor – Lenny Verrastro.
Trevor’s first impression of Mr. Verrastro was positive. “He could make you laugh on any day.” But it wasn’t until Trevor’s junior year that he became a student of Lenny’s. He would study the three R’s at Susquehanna in the morning, then study masonry at BTB in the afternoon. That’s when the mentoring began. “He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.” Lenny pushed Trevor to compete at New York State’s SkillsUSA competition and he placed 2nd. “I didn’t expect to do that well, but Lenny believed in me.”
When Trevor’s senior year began, he was already doing masonry side jobs for friends and family – fixing sidewalks, laying brick pavers, and repairing fireplaces. If there was a masonry job needed, Trevor became the go-to guy. And Lenny was always there to guide him. He tried to convince Trevor to join the masons union, local 3 straight out of high school, but Trevor wasn’t sure. He had his eye on continuing his education at Alfred State College. “I wanted to learn as much as I could.”
The day before Thanksgiving, senior year, Trevor got a call that changed everything. “It was a classmate buddy. He called to say that Lenny was gone.” Lenny Verrastro passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in his home. Trevor took it hard. “It kind of broke me. I didn’t know what to do after that.” Lenny was Trevor’s Mr. Opus, the kind of teacher that goes the extra mile and then some. Lenny’s family knew it. From his obituary – “In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to BOCES CTI Leadership/SkillsUSA.”
And now, Lenny was gone.
For Trevor the transition was unbearable. Lenny’s replacement at BTB was a former student of Lenny’s, named Kyle Vimislik. He had big shoes to fill, and in Trevor’s mind, he wasn’t doing it. Trevor and Kyle were like water and oil. One day they both had had enough. They sat down and sorted it all out. “We told each other what we didn’t like about the other. We got it all out and just went from there.” Once they got on the same page, things improved. Kyle saw in Trevor what Lenny had seen. That year, Trevor placed 1st at New York’s State SkillsUSA competition. Kyle told Trevor that Lenny would be proud.
After high school Trevor did go to Alfred State College, thanks in part to a mikeroweWORKS scholarship. But not before joining the Conklin, NY Volunteer Fire Department, fulfilling his childhood dream. On May 15, 2016 when he graduates, Trevor will check out Local 3 of the mason’s union like Lenny always wanted him too.
Although Lenny and grandpa are both gone, the stone wall Trevor helped build still stands, a solid reminder of the seed they planted in Trevor’s mind – to be the best mason he can be.
If you, or someone you know would like to learn a skilled trade, you may be eligible for a scholarship from Mike Rowe’s foundation. Our third Work Ethic Scholarship Program is going on now, and you too can #GetSkilledWithMRW.