AOBI celebrates graduation, pays respects to lost classmate
FORT MOHAVE — Lovely parting gifts are usually a consolation prize, say for a game-show contestant who didn’t do as well as he hoped to.
But for new graduates of the Academy of Building Industries, the parting gifts were much more meaningful.
Those who earned vocational certificates left the Mojave Crossing Events Center on Friday night with equipment they’ll need in their careers — drafting books, drills and welding helmets were among gifts the graduates received.
Forty-three students participated in the ceremony, with about a dozen graduating a year early, and one graduating two years early.
Ashlynn Martin said the self-paced curriculum is part of what makes AOBI a great school. She said her older brother’s experience there convinced her to attend. She went to the academy directly from junior high and finished in three years.
“I couldn’t have graduated early anywhere else,” Martin said.
“It’s amazing how quickly they can go through classes,” Principal Jean Thomas said. “There are so many opportunities.”
Thomas had hugs and handshakes for the students as they climbed the stage to receive their diplomas. She also had a message — “I’m so proud of you.”
“For some of these kids, it’s a very long and hard journey,” Thomas said after the ceremony. “I know their stories. It’s a very hard win when they get up there.”
Guest speaker Gina Covert, career and technical education director for the Colorado River Union High School District, said she sees great things in store for the Class of 2019.
“You are going to be the generation that works smart AND hard,” Covert told the graduates. “The generation that evolves as quickly as the technology does; and you’re not going to be afraid.”
Covert said the graduates could look to Mike Rowe, host of TV’s “Dirty Jobs,” for inspiration, and be prepared to switch careers if they find themselves in unsatisfying work. Rowe, she said, started as an opera singer.
She said some career changes will be out of necessity.
“That McDonald’s job you’re working now? Robots are now flipping burgers,” Covert said. “What will your generation do? Program and monitor the robots.”
Covert also discussed college opportunities, service groups and the importance of networking.
This is the first year AOBI held its graduation at the events center. Thomas said the move enables the school to allow graduates to invite their entire families; in the past, graduates were given a limited number of tickets due to space restrictions at the Suddenlink Community Center.
The evening included a somber moment — Taylor Young, who completed her classwork in March, was recognized along with her classmates. Young was fatally struck by a car later that month.
Her name being last alphabetically, Young would have sat in the back row. But a chair bearing her photo was placed right under the stage; Thomas said her classmates wanted it that way.
Highlights of this school year, Thomas said, include completing the campus greenhouse in a converted school bus, which grows vegetables that students eat in salads. AOBI also was named Green Business of the Year at the Community Achievement Awards and launched a student drag-racing team.
Graduates received certificates in marketing, framing, auto shop and other disciplines.
Thomas said the school has made connections with Dot Foods, Golden Vertex Corp. and at least three local contractors who are providing job opportunities.
“(They) want our kids immediately,” Thomas said.
Several graduates said that AOBI being different from a traditional high school helped them, citing the different programs, the self-paced curriculum and school having just 125 students.
Chris Dennis said the academy was a fit because it offered classes that his previous school didn’t. He said he is working at the Edgewater, but is now looking for a job in construction.
Austin Petitt said AOBI offered a small-school experience he could not get at Mohave High School.
“It was great,” he said of his time at the academy. “I loved it. Everybody worked together.”
Petitt said the skills he learned at AOBI helped him land a position at Mason Glass.
Class valedictorian Larry Wiegele said the graduates’ future will depend on their reaction to setbacks — give up or bounce back — and on their confidence.
“We hold the keys to our future,” Wiegele said. “We are trained for it, and we can achieve it. You just have to believe in yourself.”