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UCS Career and Tech senior honored for breaking stereotypes
UCS Career and Tech senior honored for breaking stereotypes
Posted on 04/30/2021
Alyssa with paddle Board

Alyssa Fiantaco is all about breaking down stereotypes as a female in woodworking – both as a student and as the future owner of her own business.

The Henry Ford II senior has been recognized by the State of Michigan for breaking barriers through her work at the school’s internationally-recognized woodworking program, which she said is a prelude to her starting her own business next year.

"Alyssa has been a superstar in my class for the last three years,” said Henry Ford II woodworking teacher Chris Davis, who nominated her for the award. “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."

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 overcame obstacles and stereotypes to succeed in career and technical education (CTE) programs.

While Fiantaco said she always enjoyed working with her dad with hands-on projects, it was at the Bemis Junior High School woodworking program where she first had an outlet for her interests.

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

At Henry Ford II, her interest in woodworking grew to the next level when she learned that students would be building paddle boards.

“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 said.

Over the past few years, the program has become a go to for international celebrities who order specially-built boards using the school’s environmentally friendly design, including billionaire Sir Richard Branson, country music star Kenny Chesney, Cabin Reno HGTV star Kristy Petrillo and Two-time Emmy winner Ty Pennington.

Fiantaco was involved in creating a paddle board for Spanx founder Sara Blakely .

After next year, the next barrier for Fiantaco will be partnering with her father to create her own woodworking business, building desks and chairs for businesses. She said they already have the start-up equipment.

“It’s different and it’s really something I love to do,” she said.