BULLHEAD CITY — Angel Jimenez, Academy of Building Industries valedictorian, noted the special nature of his classmates’ accomplishments during his speech.
“We were all in such a hurry to graduate but what will each of us do?” he asked. “Go to college, go into the military — the answer is, we can do anything. We did it. We’re here and we’re ready.”
The vocational public charter high school, founded by the Mohave Valley Contractors Association 14 years ago, graduated 50 students, several of them underclassmen and 30 of them with two-year trade certificates.
“This year is a banner year for us,” said AOBI Principal Jean Thomas. “This is our largest graduating class and we have awarded 30 two-year certificates, when we normally give out three or four.”
A certificate is a two-year course of study in a student’s chosen trade that is in addition to their diploma. Karissa Frederick is the first woman at AOBI to earn a trade certificate in woodworking.
Some of the AOBI students already are working in their chosen trades, Thomas said. An example is Gaspar Romero, who has been employed as a framer by Fairway Constructors.
“One of our students who is now framing — he struggles getting to and from work,” Thomas told the crowd. “So Gaspar, we got you a truck.”
Fairway Constructors Vice President Mehdi Azarmi and Mid Valley Auto worked together with the school to make the graduation gift possible, Thomas said.
Rewards for the students’ hard work came in many forms.
The ceremonies included the announcement that Brandon Rivera was awarded the Elks Auxiliary Technical College scholarship; Rivera and two of his classmates, Adian Magana and Scott Foster, have been accepted to Snow College in Ephraim, Utah.
Their instructor, Coy O’Kelly, presented each of the three young men with welding helmets and gloves, a new welder, a complete set of tools and a roll of duct tape.
“Just like you send your kids off to kindergarten with their lunchboxes,” O’Kelly said.
Another graduate, Jordan McGarry, who participated in wilderness skills classes at the school, secured a job at Yellowstone National Park and received a wilderness backpack from Thomas.
“I appreciate you,” Thomas told McGarry. “Go get some wilderness in your blood.”
The ceremonies including a performance by graduating senior Trinity Metler, who sang “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, and a rose ceremony, so each student could thank the people who most supported them in their journey.
“There is no word to say how proud I am,” said Brandon Dean, brother to graduating senior Codi Pigeon. “He’s faced many hardships and he’s here to show us that he can do whatever he puts his mind to.”
Pigeon said he’s ready to take on the next challenge.
“This is where my life starts and I’m going to keep moving,” Pigeon said. “This is where we begin and wherever we want to go is where we’re going to be.”