Gold medal construction tech student is building a promising future

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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Think about the house in which you live. Or the places where you work or study or shop or play. Talented craftspeople put up those buildings -- skilled artists with their tools -- every bit as creative as painters, sculptors and other visual artists. This week's Fox 4 Young Achiever is making his mark as one of them.

It may not look like it, but a large building under construction in southeast St. Joseph is a classroom. High school and post-secondary students in the Construction Technology program at Hillyard Technology Center in St. Joseph are building a large storage facility on the grounds of a non-profit organization not far from the school. There's a whole lot of hands-on learning going on here. And it's where Plattsburg, Mo. High School senior Chris Moran shines -- and feels most at home.

"It's a lot more than just knowing how to hammer a nail, obviously," said Chris with a smile.

Chris has become the class of instructor George Hoeffner's program.

"Oh, he's just a natural at this," gushed Hoeffner. And it it's not just because of Chris's outstanding craftsmanship with the all the tools of the carpentry trade.

"It's his level of thought that goes into it," said Hoeffner. "He can really look into a project and self-adjust and self-evaluate that so he knows exactly what the next steps are."

"And being able to problem-solve if there's a challenge that the plan's wrong and you have to do it another way," said Chris about how he brings his intellect into his work and study. "That you have to talk to the plan makers and just kind of adapt with them."

Chris really nailed his first year in this program. And this past summer in Kansas City he took the gold medal as high school national champion in the SkillsUSA career and technical education competition.

"He's been able to pick this up just quick as, quicker than any student that I've ever had," said Hoeffner.

Chris comes by these hammer and saw skills pretty naturally. His family roots run very deep in construction technology.

"My dad built our first house and then after that we sold that house and bought another house and remolded it," said Chris. "So my dad taught me a lot of stuff."

Chris' grandfather and uncles also have worked in the construction industry. That early exposure got Chris captivated by how a building takes shape from a pile of lumber.

"I just love the way, how you feel after you finish a project and you see what you have completed," said Chris. "And you just see that accomplishment after you've done a project. And I just love that feeling."

He'll have that feeling a lot when he hits his career objective after college -- becoming a superintendent or project manager for a major construction firm.

"And you see a building that you built and you can say that you built that and people are going, 'Whoa, man, that's a big building.'" said Chris. One put up by a craftsman with a gold medal.

Hillyard Technical Center students have performed very well and been consistent medal winners in national SkillsUSA competition in recent years. And this past summer, in addition to Chris, four other students medaled. They included Logan Blake and Brian Juhl who won a high school team gold in Humanoid Robotics.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.