Graduate earns reputation among staff, fellow students as talented tradesman
WOOD RIVER JCT. — Why just be a jack of all trades when you could master them? For Chariho Career and Technical Center senior Paul Erdos, the goal right now is to do just that and develop as many skills as possible to open the door for future opportunities.
At just 18 years old, the Class of 2021 graduate has earned a reputation among staff and fellow students as a talented artist and tradesman, developing stunning welded sculptures and other artwork while simultaneously using his training in four separate disciplines to establish himself and begin providing commercial services in the region.
And that’s just what he’s done in his senior year.
“In the industry, when an employer has someone they feel they can go to with any challenging problem, they would call this person their ‘ace’ or their ‘go-to guy,’” said Jacob Guilbert, Erdos’ marine technology instructor. “Paul became this person in my class after only a couple of weeks. And on top of that, his infectious positivity just makes you want to hang around him.”
For Erdos, the second of five siblings born to Paul and Tina Erdos, his senior year at Chariho was by the far the most enjoyable of his education career. The six-year resident of Wood River Junction admits he certainly didn’t have a whole lot of free time, even despite COVID-19 restrictions, given a schedule with demanding projects in CTE programs including marine technology, welding and automotive manufacturing and repair, but he said Wednesday that given the opportunity to do it again, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
When asked if it felt more like a work schedule than school, Erdos defined it instead as a passion and said he wouldn’t compare it to either.
“It might be work, but it’s the kind of work I really love,” he said. “This is what I want to do, to have that real hands-on experience and to take on new challenges.”
A career in the trades seemed like a natural path for Erdos, who said he found his passion over the last two summers while working with his father, a carpenter and ordained Baptist pastor, as an employee of his father’s company, Home At Last.
Born in Baltimore, Erdos spent the early part of his life in several different states as his father moved for work and goodwill efforts. He said at less than a year old, his family moved to South Dakota and spent about 8 years there before moving to Michigan in an effort to aid in an initiative to help the homeless in Detroit. They moved back to South Dakota a few years later before eventually moving to Rhode Island to aid an extended family member who was diagnosed with cancer.
Erdos began his career at Chariho in the agriculture CTE program, which he remained a part of during his freshman and sophomore years, while simultaneously focusing on getting ahead in his academics. By junior year, after his first summer working carpentry, Erdos said he knew he wanted to get into the trades and began to refocus by shifting to the welding program at Chariho Tech.
It wasn’t until senior year that he really had the opportunity to expand his trade experience, using an open schedule that only required he take English and Physical Education to get his foot in the door, joining the marine technology and automotive CTE programs as he sought to gain experience across multiple disciplines. Typically, students at Chariho focus on a more singular program over their four-year high school career.
“In being able to get hands-on experience in four CTE programs, I kind of broke the system,” he joked. “It was something that I wanted. These were skills that can be used across each program and I wanted to get a chance to enjoy and practice skills I hadn’t learned yet.”
Chariho Principal Craig MacKenzie praised Erdos’ work ethic and said Erdos was able to make connections between the CTE programs and the school’s College Prep curriculum that will give him advantages following graduation.
“Paul embodies, both in his attitude towards learning and his ability to see connections between disciplines, all we hope for in the student experience,” MacKenzie said. “He has taken great advantage of his time here, and our school is better for his investment in this journey.”
His talent isn’t just in the trades alone, however. While the courses have helped prepare him for a career, his teachers also praised his work as an artist, which includes welded artwork that would have those who don’t know him wondering if he was trained as a steampunk artist, and several signs and other commercial projects dedicated to former Superintendent Barry Ricci and to welcome Superintendent Gina Picard.
Arts teachers Stacy Wilbur, Donna Caster and Rebecca Peabody said that Erdos has also displayed a wide range of other artistic abilities at Chariho, including the ability to draw with significant detail, work with various materials in sculpture and ceramics and to take calculated risks and remain confident that he could produce something of value, even if things don’t go according to plan.
Welding and shipfitting instructor Tom Spadoni said Erdos also had a certain level of maturity that not only helped to motivate himself, but to positively push and challenge other students as well.
“Paul has and always will be willing to help and assist fellow students in the shop,” Spadoni said. “His pleasant personality and giving nature makes him easily approachable by his peers and underclassmen. Paul’s outstanding artistic ability and his tenacity to master all that is offered within the program speaks volumes to his character and his work ethic.”
As he looks toward the future, Erdos said he is planning to immediately join the work force and is moving toward a job with General Dynamics Electric Boat at Quonset Point. He said he would hope to be able to serve the company for at least five years and to take part in a program in which the company will pay for employees who have worked with EB for at least a year to receive post-secondary education at the University of Rhode Island.
Erdos said he then plans to dabble in several disciplines, even if it’s part-time, and has ambitions of possibly opening his own trade school toward the end of his career.
“The trades are important, viable careers and I hope that someday I can help others receive the training they need to find a job that they’ll be passionate about,” he said.