Utica Community Schools senior recognized by the state for woodwork

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published May 13, 2021

 Henry Ford II High School senior Alyssa Fiantaco has been recognized by the state of Michigan for breaking barriers through her work as part of the school’s woodworking program.

Henry Ford II High School senior Alyssa Fiantaco has been recognized by the state of Michigan for breaking barriers through her work as part of the school’s woodworking program.

Photo provided by Chris Davis

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STERLING HEIGHTS — A Henry Ford II High School senior has been recognized by the state of Michigan for her hard work and dedication to the school’s woodworking program.

Henry Ford II senior Alyssa Fiantaco has been selected to receive the Michigan 2021 Breaking Traditions Merit Award, which is presented by the Michigan Department of Education to students who overcome obstacles and stereotypes to succeed in career and technical education programs.

Fiantaco’s woodworking teacher, Chris Davis, who nominated her for the award, said he could not be more proud of the work that Fiantaco has put into her projects over the years.

“Alyssa has been a superstar in my class for the last three years. She has not only designed and built amazing, beautiful projects, but she also has shown other girls what they are capable of. She is deserving of this award, and I could not be more proud of her,” he said in a press release.

He said Alyssa has accomplished many things by challenging herself each year. The woodworking class has gained international attention by making paddleboards for celebrities including billionaire Richard Branson.

“In her first year she made the paddleboard. She has helped with many of our designs that have gained so much attention. This year she played a major role in the paddleboard for Spanx founder Sara Blakely. Alyssa has helped teach other girls in my classes, as well as helped promote our class Instagram account @henryfordiiwoodworking so the community can see what we are doing. She has been a huge asset to the CTE woodworking program at Henry Ford II High School,” he said in an email interview.

Fiantaco hopes to be able to say she reached her goal as the future owner of her own business one day.

“It’s different and it’s really something I love to do. I like the opportunity to learn new things. I like all the problem-solving that goes along with woodworking. I like the uniqueness of the projects we make and the feeling of accomplishment when they are done,” she said in an email interview.

Fiantaco has worked on projects with her dad and credits Bemis Junior High School’s program with getting her going in woodworking.

“I used walk to Bemis before school and head into the shop to work on my projects,” she said in a press release. “It just sort of sparked something in me.”

At Henry Ford II, her interest in woodworking grew even more when she learned that students would be building paddleboards in class.

“The first thing Mr. Davis said was who wants to build a stand-up paddle board, and it was like — we can do something like that? It went forward from there,” she stated.

Besides Branson, the program has built paddleboards for country music star Kenny Chesney and home-improvement celebrities Kristy Petrillo and Ty Pennington.

After graduation, Fiantaco plans to partner with her father to create her own woodworking business that will create desks and chairs for businesses.

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