FORT MOHAVE — Academy of Building Industries (AOBI) woodshop students recently built a solid foundation for a fired-up future.

On Wednesday, the students delivered a custom mahogany conference table to Fort Mohave Mesa Fire Department Station 91.

“It’s beautiful,” said Catherine Lopez-Rajaniemi, FMMFD board director. “You could call it a family heirloom, the fire department’s family heirloom, that will be handed down from generation to generation. It’s amazing.”

AOBI is a public charter high school, founded by Mohave Valley Contractors Association, focused on vocational trades; students can earn a trade certificate while they earn their high school diploma. The school collaborated with FMM Fire Chief Chris Pardi on the project, which offered an opportunity for woodshop and metal shop students to learn many new skills, said Jean Thomas, AOBI superintendent.

“The ideas that the fire department brought to Paula DeShaw, our shop teacher, enabled the students to do a lot of research and to actually learn even more skills,” she said. “I’m so glad that Catherine thought about us because this is what we do — this is what we’re all about.”

Lopez-Rajaniemi suggested Pardi contact the school after his search for a fire-department centered conference table proved prohibitively expensive.

“I’m so proud,” she said. “I’ve been a part of AOBI since it began and I am very proud of this school.”

After researching the project, the students selected mahogany to create the tabletop and were involved in every step from design to construction to the finishing details.

“We wanted to use a different wood than we’ve used before,” said Paula DeShaw, AOBI vocational director and woodshop teacher. “I think we had 12 different pieces in the top — they used almost all the tools in the shop to do this, and they got to decide where the details went and then, of course, they did all the finish work.”

As part of FMMFD’s vision for the table, two fire hydrants were incorporated into the design. AOBI metal shop students fabricated the parts to attach the hydrants to the table.

“It’s even more special because it has meaning in it,” Pardi said. “The two fire hydrants represent a fire captain, which has a red bonnet, and a battalion chief, which has a white bonnet on it, who will meet at this table and discuss department issues and solve problems.”

The students included the script “Respect and Kindness” on each of the bonnets as a reminder to those gathered at the table.

Dana Raynor, a woodshop student involved in the project, is also enrolled in the Western Arizona Vocational Education program for future firefighters.

“I love AOBI because Jean gave me a purpose to live up to my dreams,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for me.”

Pardi said he hoped to be at Raynor’s graduation.

“Maybe someday when she promotes, she’ll be a FMMFD chief officer discussing district problems around this table,” he said. “This whole thing has just been exciting for everybody and I’m amazed at all these students who put a lot of love and effort into this table. I can’t tell them enough that this fire department really appreciates their hard work and dedication.”

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