Like many students, Evan Smith began his freshman year of high school with no real idea of what career path he might pursue. He had an interest in music, but beyond that, nothing – and construction wasn’t even on his radar.
Fast-forward to the spring of 2023, when he graduated from Statesboro High. He was now a seasoned veteran of instructor Josh Hall’s construction program, a SkillsUSA state champion, and a work-based learning (WBL) student with a reputation for diligence and dependability. It’s all testament to the power of a learning environment in which students have the freedom to try new things and discover what they enjoy and are good at.
“I had no clue I want to pursue construction,” Evan says. “When I joined the class in ninth grade, it wasn’t even on the table. I was just like, ‘Well, let’s try this out.’ I didn’t really think about it becoming a career until my first year of experiencing that pathway with Coach Hall. It was just a whole lot of fun for me, and I was like, ‘I wouldn’t mind doing this for the rest of my life.’ I learned you can actually have a career in this, and I found a passion for it, fell in love with it.”
Hall remembers Evan’s eagerness to learn and be involved, often asking, “What’s next?” or “How can I help?” He was so far ahead in the curriculum, Hall eventually put him to work supervising and assisting other students who weren’t as current on assignments. Evan also helped his teacher with real-world jobs in the local community, such as renovating a porch on one home and replacing the flooring in another.
“It opened my eyes,” Evan says. “Coach Hall definitely took me under his wing and drove me to be more passionate about the industry.”
Evan competed in SkillsUSA contests, finishing second in blueprint reading at the SkillsUSA State Championships his junior year, and winning the state TeamWorks contest as a senior, an experience he describes as “surreal.” He also competed in AGC regional competitions in TeamWorks and Masonry. The latter wasn’t his area of expertise, but Evan likes to challenge himself, and while he didn’t win, he says, “It was a good experience. I’m glad I did it.”
That kind of motivation served Evan well when he accepted a WBL opportunity with Bulloch County Schools’ Facilities department during his senior year. He shadowed various technicians and tradesmen – electrical, plumbing, HVAC, locksmithing – and made the most of any opportunity to contribute.
One such job was wiring a group of modular buildings, including one that had been damaged in an electrical storm. “It was a really tough job,” he recalls. “Even though it was 80 percent electricians, 20 percent me, I still take pride in that job.”
Ryan Macy, director of facilities for Bulloch County Schools, recalls his staff being initially unsure about a high schooler tagging along on jobs. But Evan quickly won them over.
“He earned the respect of everybody he worked with,” Macy says. “You realize right away there’s something unique about this kid. He is exceptionally mature. He has a tremendous work ethic. He follows instructions well, he anticipates and goes the extra mile, he is completely trustworthy and reliable.”
As Evan was finishing his senior year, he sought career advice from Hall, who recommended the highly regarded construction management program at Kennesaw State University. Evan applied and was accepted, and shortly thereafter he applied for and was awarded a $2,500 scholarship from SkillsUSA.
As a KSU freshman, Evan already is eyeing the future, both the short-term – he has plans for a summer internship – and a more distant time, when he anticipates a career in either commercial or residential construction management.
“I have a general idea of what I want to do,” Evan says. “I want to be over multiple sites and I want to be the guy that’s calling everybody trying to get the sites organized, scheduling, just basically over everything. I kfnow it will take a few years for me to get my name out there and get known enough for the subcontractors to be able to trust me and trust my judgment. I just want to be that guy.”
That’s the voice of a natural leader talking, like a quarterback who wants the ball when the game is on the line. Macy confirms Evan has that “it” quality.
“Anyone who meets him,” Macy says, “recognizes, ‘This guy’s going to be successful.’”
Statesboro High instructor Josh Hall (far left), Evan (second from left), and the rest of the SHS team pose with the finished assembly that won them first place in the Teamworks contest at the 2023 SkillsUSA State Championships. Hall has been a mentor and key influence in Evan’s life and career path.