These days, there isn't much James Cawley can't fix. Looking to capitalize on his love of "hands on" work, Cawley is heading to the Horan Building Co. for a full-time job with benefits after graduating Middletown High in June. #CareerReady #MiddletownRI
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CONTACT: Matt Sheley at (401) 842-6543 or email@example.com
READY FOR THE “REAL WORLD”
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (MAY 13, 2022) – As recently as seven or eight years ago, the thinking at most secondary schools was everyone needed to go to college to have the best chance to “succeed.”
Nationwide, billions of dollars and entire curriculums were geared towards getting students ready for the rigors of advanced education, whether that’s what they wanted ultimately or not.
Not so for James Cawley. From the time he was in sixth grade, Cawley said he’s known he “wasn’t college material,” something he’s absolutely fine with.
That’s because upon graduation. Cawley has a full-time job paying a living wage with benefits at Horan Building Co., constructing and remodeling high-end homes across Aquidneck Island.
“There’s nothing better than seeing what you accomplished at the end of a day,” the Middletown High School senior said. “I’ve always known I wanted to do something a little different. There will always be people who tell you it’s not a good idea, but if you believe in yourself and are willing to work hard, you can make almost anything happen.”
The son of Jim and Toni Cawley, the 18-year-old is a product of the Middletown school system, first Forest Avenue Elementary School, Gaudet Middle School and now Middletown High.
A “hands on” person, Cawley said he remembers times spent as a young boy with his grandfather Jim — a retired plumber — tackling projects. The more the two worked together, the more Cawley said he enjoyed building and fixing things, no matter how big or small the problem.
In his free time, Cawley said he was never a beach guy and he didn’t go to the arcade or movies much like his buddies. He had another destination always in mind, one with more of a purpose.
“When I was younger, my parents just knew,” Cawley said. “They’d drop me off at Home Depot and I’d walk around the store for an hour, checking out all the different tools. That’s what I liked to do in my free time.”
As he got older and more experienced, Cawley said the size and scope of the jobs expanded. Last summer, he and his grandfather tackled a complete makeover of a bathroom at his family’s home.
“It needed to be done,” Cawley said. “With everything so expensive these days, I knew I had the skills we needed and with my grandfather knowing the plumbing, we did the whole bathroom over. The peel and stick tiles, tub shower and a handle that fell out had to go and it looks so much better now.”
To free up his schedule enough during his senior year for an internship with Horan Building, Cawley took an aggressive course load his first three years at the Valley Road high school. Cawley also had classes at Rogers High School and the Newport Area Career & Technical Center, where College & Career Coordinator Kerry Clarke connected him with Horan Building.
Behind the scenes, Cawley said his parents advocated strongly on his behalf so he could clear hurdles and get the education he needed without getting snagged in too much red tape.
Now, minus required English and mathematics courses, Cawley works weekdays as an intern for Horan Building. From the moment he met Mark Horan, the founder and president of Horan Building, Cawley said he knew he was teamed with the right person. In recent days, Cawley has been on a job in Newport on Gibbs Avenue.
“I’ve worked for a lot of people and there were definitely days before on those jobs when I didn’t want to go to work,” Cawley said. “Mark isn’t like that. He’s the boss, but he doesn’t act like he’s the boss. I think that’s part of the reason he’s so successful. I feel so, so lucky to be working for him and can’t say ‘Thank you’ enough for the chance he took on me.”
Horan said he was impressed with what he’s seen from Cawley too.
“We are excited to have James Cawley join our team,” Horan said. “Over the last several months he’s had an opportunity to work with some of our best carpenters and has shown a strong work ethic, desire to learn and enthusiasm towards the craft. He has earned the opportunity to join our team. We look forward to a long relationship.”
Cawley’s mother Toni — a beloved third grade teacher at Forest Avenue School — said she and her husband — a physical education teacher and former athletic director at Rogers — are extremely proud of all their son has accomplished.
“As James was growing up, we were pretty sure that his path would involve carpentry,” Toni Cawley said. “He was always up for a trip to Home Depot, especially when it was the first Saturday of the month, that meant it was the Kids Workshop.”
Over the years, she said James’ work has evolved.
“He started building night stands for a teacher at Gaudet and quickly moved onto paid projects for teachers and friends,” Cawley said. “Watching James make educational choices based around his interest and still catching glimpses of the three year old at Home Depot has paid off for James immensely and we love the smile these opportunities have put on his face.”
Asked what his friends thought about his decision and whether he felt he was missing out on anything, Cawley said far from it.
A member of the Middletown High golf team as well as the Unified Rogers-Middletown-Rocky Hill hockey squad, Cawley’s GPA would put most scholars to shame. He also finds time to run his own business — JPC Lawncare and Landscaping — work as a youth hockey referee and other jobs and volunteer opportunities.
“At first, some of my friends were wondering if I just worked all the time and I can understand why they’d think that, but I really enjoy what I do. Now, they’ll ask me if I can fix things for them,” Cawley said, chuckling.
Moving forward, Cawley said he’d like to see the process for students like him who know they’re ready for a career to be streamlined. That way, it’s easier and there aren’t so many hoops to jump through and students can focus on learning, not rules.
As for where he saw himself in five years, Cawley said he envisioned a bright future, using the skills he’s picked up to grow as a carpenter — and a person.
“I knew I wasn’t going to college in sixth grade after I went to an open house at NACTC with my (older) sister,” Cawley said. “I just knew and knew I was going to like it and nothing that’s happened since has me feeling any differently. This is what I want to do."
Document Link: https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/4739/NYCU-Cawley