Being willing to help others and take on any task — no matter how big or small — is something that will pay off in many ways. Just ask Statesboro High School student Isaiah Budgett.
Isaiah, a rising sophomore, is a Construction Technology student who worked with former CT teacher Matthew White this past year. Isaiah earned the Building for Success Award as a first-year student in the class, an award which White says isn’t given every year.
“It’s only given when there’s a student who showcases the type of skills and qualifications that warrant giving that out. It’s named that because whoever the student is, is doing everything that they come across. It’s not a problem or a challenge, it’s just a new opportunity. And that’s how they look at everything,” White said.
For Isaiah, who is the son of Tracy and Grady Budgett, it was just about being willing to lend a hand.
“I was helping people, and I was helping him out. Anything he wanted me to do, I would do,” he said.
The award is made even more special because of the challenges that Isaiah faces. At 16 years old, he is probably on the second grade level, his mom says. But his learning disability hasn’t slowed him down at all. His family and his teachers noticed early on that he was really good at working with his hands.
“They said, oh my goodness, he can get in there and get it. But he can’t really read. That’s one of the things that, you know, made it outstanding for him,” Tracy said.
Isaiah was adopted by the Budgetts as a toddler, and his new parents always encouraged him to use his natural capabilities. Tracy’s brother has a farm, and he spent time there. Her husband loves to cut grass, so as he grew, Isaiah found interest there as well.
“So I would let him do it, and it just sparked from there. He’s been doing it ever since. He is actually really good with his hands, like, he can remember. If they tell him what it is that he needs to do, they probably don’t have to tell him again, because he can remember how to do it,” she said.
She adds that she and her husband have encouraged him in his endeavors because they want him to be able to make his own way in life after he finishes school.
“And it looks like it’s going to be farming. That’s what he’s been wanting to do since he was 5,” she said.
White says that Isaiah spending time on his uncle’s farm has helped to develop his natural talents. Isaiah says he wants to be a farmer in Bulloch County when he finishes high school.
“Ever since I was 5 years old, I just liked farming,” he said, adding that he wants to grow cotton, clover and corn, and have chickens and cows as well. “That’s where the money’s at, right there.”
White recalled an uncle of his own who was a farmer, who had talked about so many of his generation dropping out of school when they were old enough to work on the farm full-time. White said that while these men may not have had formal educations, they were certainly intelligent in their own way.
“I think that’s part of what’s helped Isaiah, growing up on the farm. He has that same kind of ability that says I may not be able to look at the piece of paper and read what the instructions say to do, but if you’ll give me an idea of what this is supposed to be, I’ll figure out the rest,” White said. “That’s the kind of quality he has. If there is a task to be done, or if he needs to lean a new task or trade or skills, he was more than willing to. We might see (not reading) as a detriment, but he has turned it into an advantage.”
White says that Isaiah is the kind of kid that can look at the picture on the box and put something together.
“I’d trade 30 kids that could read and test well for one of him, because he’s got the skills to say if you’ll just give me an idea of how to do it, I’ll put the work in for you,” he added.
Isaiah showed such skill and desire to learn in class, that White decided to give him the opportunity to compete on the state level. When White received word from SkillsUSA that competitors were needed for a Career Technical Service Organization event in Atlanta, he immediately thought of Isaiah. The competition was specifically in need of students to enter in the Building Maintenance event. Statesboro High doesn’t have a program that focuses on that.
White arranged for Isaiah to spend some time with local people who could teach him the skills he would need to compete. And he got glowing reports afterward.
“I got one of the highest compliments I’ve ever gotten for a student. They said he was the most engaging young man and everything (they) told him, he asked more questions about it,” he said, adding that this is significant because sometimes when students are around other people, they “act up and don’t deliver.”
“But he was one that always delivered,” White said.
Tracy was thrilled that her son would have the opportunity to compete.
“I was so excited, first of all, that they chose him to go. Then when he got there, he actually placed, and they sent me all these pictures of him, doing what he does, and I was very, very excited. I told everybody in our family and made a big deal out of it because I was so excited,” she said.
Isaiah had to learn his newfound competition skills in two weeks.
“If there was anybody who was willing to step up to the challenge and learn something in two weeks and go try to compete at it, it would be him. He just had the mindset that he’d take anything on, and enjoy it the entire time. The outcome wasn’t a big focus for him,” White said.
More than 8,000 people attended the competition held at the Georgia International Convention Center. Isaiah had the opportunity to walk around and observe all the competitions going on, and White said he just seemed to take it all in.
“I think it inspired him more. His mom and dad have done a great job of supporting him,” White said. “Isaiah ended up getting second place, which I think is phenomenal. Most of the guys are juniors and seniors, and he was a freshman. It just shows his skill set, and that’s only after two weeks of learning the stuff.”
It should be noted as well, White said, that the student who won first place is one that studies Building Maintenance every day in the program at his school.
White says that he doesn’t believe that Isaiah has a learning disability — he just simply processes information differently before putting it into use. He commended Isaiah on his performance in class, and on how he grew throughout the year.
“He became one of the students I could rely on. I could give him tasks that I couldn’t send other students on, because I could count on him. I knew I could put him with other students and he could show them. I turned to him quite a bit to be a leader among his peers,” White said.
Being in the class and successfully competing on the state level have already benefitted Isaiah, White said, but it goes beyond that.
“The skills he’s learned in construction, to be able to take on new challenges, new problems, and be able to do the menial and mundane tasks to the best of your ability, this will benefit him as a farmer someday,” he said of Isaiah. “To me, if someone is out there and they pick him up, he will be a phenomenal employee for them one day. He just has those kinds of qualities.”