Carroll to represent MCCTC in state carpentry competition
MCCTC senior to compete in carpentry championships
By RYAN SHAFFER
Mahoning County Career and Technical Center senior Robert “Gump” Carroll spent his life defying odds.
On April 14 and 15, the West Branch native faces his next obstacle of competing for a state championship in carpentry at the SkillsUSA Ohio Championships.
For years, doctors believed that Carroll, 18, would have physical disabilities. The young man’s dedication and desire, however, continue to prove them wrong.
“I was a miracle baby,” Carroll said. “I am not even supposed to be here right now. When I was born, I had bad kidneys. I was not supposed to live, [but] I was the first baby to leave Akron Children’s Hospital alive in that condition.”
Carroll’s grandfather nicknamed him “Gump” because he made a habit of overcoming adversity, just as the movie character “Forrest Gump” did. For years, his doctor believed he would end up in a wheelchair. Instead, he chose to ride dirt
bikes. He spent most of his childhood on a farm — which includes five barns — where he actively learned about hard work and agriculture. That experience led Carroll to the West Branch vocational agriculture school program, where he worked on projects for other area schools.
“That’s where I got the passion for building,” Carroll noted. “[At school] and on the farm with my dad. [On the farm] we put up the walls … did some joists on our barns. I like just doing everything. I’m more of a hands-on person. I don’t go out and party or anything like most kids my age. I’d rather just help my dad.”
Unlike most high-school seniors, Carroll decided to make a plan for his future and pursue it. He enrolled at MCCTC and began making the hourlong, round-trip commute to Canfield each day. The aspiring carpenter described the school as “amazing,” and credited the high level of interaction as a key component of his success.
Last year, as part of a team, Carroll went to the state championship after finishing second in a regional competition for carpentry.
Next month, he will compete for another state title, only this time it will be a solo effort. He finished second in the skills competition at Auburn Career Center on Feb. 28 by the narrowest of margins — a half-inch.
“In the competition, you had to build three walls and a window, drywall it, put a common rafter in it, then put stairs on it,” Carroll explained. “It went over pretty well. I did goof up. You’re supposed to take 3 inches off. Instead, I took 21/2. I talked to the judge, and that’s what gave me second. If I would have been on with my measurement for the wall height, I would have [taken] first.”
Dave Smith, the building and construction teacher at MCCTC for the past 27 years, always has been impressed with Carroll’s demeanor and work ethic.
“He always wants to learn and accepts instruction,” Smith said. “Kids who come from these families that work on farms — they’re great kids. Even when he comes in here after working half the night, he comes in with the same demeanor. He’s very even-tempered.
“I’m proud of all of the things he overcame,” Smith added. “I always say, in this business, you need to be self-motivated. If he wins, that means he put the extra effort into it on his own, and I’d be that much more proud.”