FORT MOHAVE — The Academy of Building Industries held its 2022 graduation ceremony on Friday.

Bullhead City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bo Hellams took the stage to address the 34 graduates.DD

“There will often be times where you will question where you belong, what you are doing and what you are most passionate about,” Hellams said. “I’m going to give you some advice, never stop questioning these things.”

Hellams told of his own journey from young adulthood to where he is now, and emphasized that AOBI’s graduates should never stop questioning where they belong.

Salutatorian Makenzie Garcia talked to her classmates and reflected on the difficult and often confusing high school journey which they underwent during the past few years.

“Growing up we thought high school was going to be full of singing and dancing, parties — all these epic moments they show on TV,” Garcia said. “But for the class of 2022, that wasn’t our reality. Every year of high school for us was learning how to adapt to change. We went from being able to sit in a classroom with our friends and a teacher, to having to do school work at home, alone.”

Garcia also mentioned the challenges of learning to use new technology, something that has become all too familiar to AOBI students and folks in general amid the pandemic — and shared gratitude to AOBI staff for their helpfulness.

“The staff was working tirelessly to teach us how to build new relationships and stay mentally and emotionally healthy,” Garcia said. “To say this year was difficult would be an understatement. But we made it.”

Garcia spoke about how AOBI not only helped her and her peers learn skills applicable to their desired careers, but also how AOBI helped them build bonds and better themselves.

AOBI is a vocational charter school that teaches students through industry-specific, career-oriented coursework and offers vocational degrees.

“AOBI helped us learn what it meant to come together and be a part of a community” Garcia said. “We learned how to work with our hands to learn a trade that helped us earn jobs in the community already having experience. AOBI became our home away from home, getting us ready for the real world. But most importantly, having the opportunity to graduate at our own pace.”

Garcia closed her message by expressing gratitude to AOBI for being a safe and constructive space throughout difficult times.

“With all the changes in the world these last years, plus the stress of just being a teenager, some of us having to work, and staying healthy and sane, thank goodness for a school like AOBI,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without each other.”

Before the end of the ceremony, Mohave Community College representatives awarded more than $15,000 worth of scholarships to AOBI graduates, including Garcia, who received the Dean’s Honors scholarship.

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