FORT MOHAVE — Now showing: Diplomas for the 2020 class of Academy of Building Industries.
The public charter high school honored its seniors Friday morning, drive-in theater style, in Fort Mohave.
Out of 35 graduates, 32 attended the spectacle at AOBI, where vocational trades take precedence. This graduating class was the 16th for AOBI.
The academy’s packed parking lot was restricted to graduates and their families, many of whom gathered to reminisce and snap photos of one another.
Principal Jean Thomas appeared joyous and energetic upon stepping up to the podium on a makeshift stage, which was constructed by AOBI’s welding and auto shop teachers plus valedictorian Braidyn Johnson. Math teachers handled the event’s sound system and video production.
Among Thomas’ opening remarks: “You may choose to social distance, just decide for yourselves. If kids want to hug us and shake our hands, please do.”
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reiterated theme of her speech was resiliency.
“Today shows we never give up,” Thomas said, emphasizing the students’ ability to bounce back.
Before Friday’s affair, she pointed out: “This class will have the unique memory of having their school closed down due to a pandemic, and having to finish their credit from home.”
Thomas said she conjured up the drive-in concept with coronavirus safety directives in mind.
“This has been a team effort by the whole staff,” she added.
Johnson, who carried a 4.0 grade-point average throughout the year, had said Thursday he was impressed with the ceremony’s depiction of a drive-in.
“It brings back some nostalgic memories,” he said, adding that he will work with AOBI for a few weeks and apply at Dot Foods in Bullhead City.
When asked what he will miss the most about attending school, Johnson replied, “All the hands-on learning and amazing projects that I was a part of.”
Come Friday morning, the lone valedictorian admitted to being “a little bit nervous” prior to joining Thomas and Coy O’Kelley on stage.
Johnson’s knee-jerk reaction while grabbing the microphone and gazing at the full parking lot: “Holy crap!”
Rainee Hanson, the school’s vice principal and counselor, said via email that Johnson was an exemplary role model. He served as “pit crew chief” for the academy’s drag racing class, which traveled to multiple states last year.
During his commencement speech, Johnson said he is striving to drive that car he helped build.
Along those lines, he imparted these words of wisdom to his classmates: “Do not be afraid to take a step forward.”