Cody Prescott was raised by his mother and his grandparents, who lived nearby. From an early age, his grandfather taught him the skills needed on a farm: operating heavy machinery, welding, wiring, roofing, carpentry and nearly every conceivable repair.
Prior to his senior year in high school, Prescott's grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, and soon died.
"I think the loss of his grandfather made him tougher," says Derwin Bass, his masonry instructor. "Though Cody has always been a hard-working kid, he lost someone he admired and loved dearly. After that, he pushed himself harder and was surely more dedicated to school."
Prescott graduated in May 2010 from Suwannee – Hamilton Technical Center and Suwannee High School in Live Oak, Fla. As a sophomore, he studied auto mechanics, but transferred to masonry after just one year.
"The stuff they were teaching, I already knew," Prescott says.
Bass says Prescott joined his class as a junior. "He entered our 'exit option' program to help catch up on credits needed to graduate," he says. "He was spending just 90 minutes a day in my class, but beginning to excel. He served as our tender at our regional and state SkillsUSA competitions."
During his senior, year Prescott excelled in the exit option program and was able to spend the better part of each school day in Bass' masonry class. Bass encouraged him to enter regional and state competitions.
"I think it was the encouragement he needed," says Bass. "His confidence soared. He practiced hard, and he helped me teach new students."
In addition, Prescott took a leadership role in the building of a modular home at his school that was then auctioned, with the proceeds benefiting the school's industrial programs.
Prescott was recognized during graduation for having a high grade point average. He was recognized as the "Most Outstanding Student" in the masonry program and chosen for the "Eyes on You" award, which recognizes the most improved student. In masonry, Prescott won the regional and state SkillUSA masonry contests, and competed in the national masonry contest held in Kansas City, Mo., part of the SkillsUSA National Skills and Leadership Conference.
"I can't say enough about Cody and his accomplishments, especially considering the hardships he endured," says Bass. "He is a fine young man, and I am very proud to have been his instructor, to be his friend and to be part of his life. It is so rewarding to have students like Cody who can touch our lives in some of the same ways we touch theirs."
Prescott currently is working as a masonry tender for Advanced Masonry Systems in Bradenton, Fla.
"In just a few months, Cody has already earned three pay increases," says Dennis Neal, safety and training director at Advanced Masonry Systems. "He is a very good employee, professionally completing any task he's asked to do. He's always on the job on time, in spite of traveling more than 100 miles a day from his home to our jobsites."
Prescott hopes the work picks up enough that his company sponsors him in an apprenticeship program. If not, he says, he'll find a way to pay for it himself!