MOHAVE VALLEY — Not many high schools have students show off how to grind head valves, but the Academy of Building Industries made it part of its open house presentation on Wednesday night.

“Today we showed the crowd what magnafluxing a cylinder head was, which is an easy way to find a crack in your cylinder head,” said automotive shop student Isaiah Jackson. “The second demonstration we had over there was seating valves and grinding them. We showed the crowd how to put the valves and the springs with the keepers and retainers onto the cylinder head, and how to prep them before putting them onto a cylinder head.”

Jackson, a sophomore, said he initially had no interest in auto mechanics when he entered the high school as a freshman.

“When I came into this classroom, it felt like home,” he said. “It was a comforting feeling and just something I wanted to do after a while.”

His classmate and open house presenter, Ricky Stoos emphasized the importance of the skills they’ve learned through the class.

“In the future, we’re always going to need these,” he said. “Valves are what makes our vehicles run, and without that, we wouldn’t have proper vehicles today.”

Unlike many of the local public and charter school districts, who host open houses early in the school year to welcome parents and students onto their campuses, AOBI makes it a point to host its open house in October — when students have a number of crafts and skills to show off.

AOBI is a public charter high school focusing on preparing students for vocational trades, offering a wide variety of trade skill electives to students with the option of graduating with a certificate in their chosen specifications.

“I started (at AOBI) in my junior year. I came from River Valley High School because I wasn’t doing too good there. But then I came here and everything changed,” Stoos said. “I started getting really good grades. I found automotive and it really tuned my life around.”

Although students were able to show off their technical projects to visiting parents, some showed off their skills in more traditional classes like math, science, English and history.

“I love when you get to see these kids through our eyes here at AOBI, what we get to see every day,” said AOBI Superintendent Jean Thomas. “English is last (on the tour), but believe me, it’s worth it. Stay and see these kids because they’ve worked very hard on their presentation.”

During a meal provided by the school before the tour, a recorded performance of instructor John DelQuafro’s guitar class entertained students, parents and faculty as they dined.

“I’d like to tell you why we have guitars and music classes in this kind of school,” DelQuadro said. “One of the things you have to learn (in music) is persistence. People who are persistent become performances, people who quit become the audience. If you don’t persist, you don’t think well.”

After the dinner, Thomas talked with attendees about the school’s purpose, motivations and progress made by the school, such as in partnerships with trade employers and Mohave Community College, and in the growing sports offerings.

Thomas also addressed parent concerns, such as educational gaps because of COVID-era distance learning and the new state testing requirements, which mandate all high school students take the ACT.

“In the government’s infinite wisdom, they decided vocational kids should take a university entrance exam,” Thomas said. “I don’t know why, but that’s what we have to do. So, because that’s what we have to do, we’re going to do it. We’re going to do it to the best of our ability. We’re going to jump right in and do our best.”

Part of Thomas’ speech was a call to action to fundraise for a new building, intended to serve as a lunchroom and kitchen capable incorporating a culinary arts program into the curriculum.

“These guys have really worked hard to keep their eyes on the prize,” Thomas said. “We found out that the building we want to build isn’t going to be $600,000, now it’s going to be $1.2 million. These kids are working on a project they may never see themselves. It takes a noble person to work so hard to plant trees when they know they’ll never be the ones to enjoy their shade.”

The planned building also would have four additional classrooms.

So far, the school’s student-run fundraisers have raised just under $40,000 for the project.

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