Avisai “Avi” Sanchez has been influenced by some key figures along his path into a construction career. From his father to his high school instructor to his work supervisors, his success is a reflection of their investment in his education and development. Of course, Avi has done his part too, demonstrating a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. The result of these collaborative efforts? Less than a year out of high school, Avi has a steady job and a bright future with Augusta’s RW Allen Construction.
“I talked to his boss, Scott Clark, recently,” says Monte Ward, who was Avi’s construction teacher at Augusta’s Marion E. Barnes Career Center. “I said, ‘How’s Avi doing?’ He said, ‘He’s doing great! I expect him in five years to be a superintendent. He’s that good.’”
Avi figures he started tagging along on jobs for his father’s residential siding company when he was about 10 years old. He credits his dad, Obet Sanchez, for some early lessons, including teaching him to read a tape measure, a foundational skill he brought with him when he joined Ward’s class his junior year.
While he was still relatively green at that point, Avi signed up to compete in AGC Georgia’s 2021 East Georgia Skills Challenge in Augusta. He would have finished first in carpentry, but he lost points for a helmet-related safety violation and ultimately ended up sixth.
Ward explains: “His hard hat wouldn’t stay on, because he had too much hair. So I asked Avi, ‘What do you think you need to do?’ And he said, ‘I think I need to get a haircut.’ I said, ‘Exactly. You need to go get a haircut and keep your hair cut short.’”
Avi complied, and with his hard hat now firmly in place, he was ready for more lessons he would learn from competition. He finished second at his SkillsUSA Regional contest in January 2022, which qualified him for the SkillsUSA State Championships in Atlanta – where he stumbled again.
“I lost badly,” Avi recalls. “The plans were made in a very different way than I had ever seen them. I had built with several different plans, but those were different, so I was unprepared. I was down for a while. But the next year, thank God I had another chance to prove myself.”
As a senior, Avi returned to the AGC Skills Challenge in August, where RW Allen is one of the main sponsors and company superintendents serve as contest judges.
“When we got there, I said, ‘Avi’s gonna win,’” Ward remembers telling the judges. “And they were like, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ I said, ‘I know he’s gonna win.’ And sure enough, he did.”
At the ensuing SkillsUSA Regional competition, Avi again qualified for the State Championships – and again he went home disappointed. But this time, he knew he had been prepared, and Ward thinks his work was good enough that he should have won.
“He actually completed more of the project than anybody else did, but they gave first place to the person who did it a different way,” Ward says. “When you build a house, you have to put all the walls up first. Well the students who won, he put the rafters up, but he didn’t finish the metal wall. And so Avi came in second that year, even though he really should have come in first.
Avi was understandably disappointed, but his instructor was able to point him toward the much brighter side: “I said, ‘Avi, listen here, you need to understand something. You’re going to make 10 times more than that other boy ever thought about making. You’re going to be rolling in money.’”
Indeed, Avi was able to start work with RW Allen immediately upon graduating from high school in May of 2023. He had first connected with Clark, the company’s president and CEO, at the AGC Skills Challenge in 2021.
“Avi’s father had done some work on my house,” Clark says. “I didn’t know he had kids, but I noticed everybody on his team worked really hard. Then two years ago, when Avi was competing, I saw his father sitting in the stands, and I said, ‘Which one’s your boy?’ That kind of started [the relationship]. He didn’t win that event, but I’ve got a lot of my staff out there as judges, and I’m always asking them which ones we should stay in touch with, and they all pointed to Avi.”
“Scott Clark was always looking after me,” Avi says appreciatively. “We grew into a connection that was more than just work or more than just competing. He would call the school, asking how my grades were, making sure I going to my classes. He was keeping track of me.”
With a job waiting for him, Avi finished strong his senior year, graduating third in his class. Ward attended his graduation ceremony, where the two shared an emotional moment. “He didn’t know I was there,” Ward remembers, “and he turned around in his cap and gown, and he was like, ‘Mr. Ward, you came!’ I said, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.’ After the ceremony I was walking back to my truck and he stopped me to get pictures. He made my day, I’ll put it that way.”
Avi started work with RW Allen the following Monday. He is currently working under Superintendent Pat McManus on a school project, West Augusta Middle School, that will take him into late summer or fall of 2024.
“He’s been a bright light on the job he’s working at,” Clark says. “He’s been put with a superintendent who wants to train him, and that is key. He’s getting a great experience commercially from the ground up. He’s in a great spot right now. I have high aspirations for Avi.”