By John Marinelli, @anactualjohn
Yuma’s newest sign commissioned by the city’s Clean and Beautiful Commission and constructed by Yuma High School students was unveiled Thursday.
Welding students from the school had been working on the “mini-beautification project” for several months, and finally got to see their handiwork on display at the sign’s new location at the corner of 1st Street and 4th Avenue during a ceremony that brought out Yuma Union High School District administration, city staff, Yuma High School Principal Bob Chouinard, Mayor Doug Nicholls and others.
The design of the sign displays the City of Yuma’s bright orange, teal and purple logo and reads “Welcome to Yuma” next to brown metal cattails nearby. The body of the sign is designed to reflect Yuma Territorial Prison and is built out of metal rods and filled with rocks, with a cell door swung open.
The project is the fourth of its kind, and welding students at San Luis, Kofa and Gila Ridge High Schools have all created their own since 2016.
According to Yuma High welding teacher Gonzalo Huerta, his class was approached by city officials, and after students came up with designs and pitched them to the Clean and Beautiful Commission, they settled on the prison theme.
Welding student Norbert Saldana said that the process of creating the sign was “both difficult and easy” at times, and took him applying everything that he had learned. He said that he dedicated a lot of time to the project, making sure that everything was going smoothly.
“I was one of the ones that worked on it every day, even during spring break,” he said.
Huerta said that a project like this, where students have a hard deadline and a customer that they’re building for, prepares them for a career outside school in a way that practicing welds in class doesn’t.
“This is something that’s more fabricated. We have to hit a timeline, we have to propose a cost and coordinate with several different departments within the city to make sure that it’s done by its reveal date,” he said. “...(it’s) the best way to have (students) truly see the beginning and see it all the way through to the end, where it would be like the city was our customer.”
Seeing the sign finally go up is a great feeling for Huerta. He said it’s great that the sign is in North Yuma, because his students will be able to see it often.
“I take a lot of pride in it, because I am a Yuma High graduate. I’ve lived my whole life on the north side of town here,” he said. “The kids, they’re all from this area, this district, so they’re going to be able to see it every time they drive by it.
“And hopefully someday they’re stopping to show the welds to their grandkids.”
Saldana said that seeing the sign go up made him “really, really happy.”
“I (go through) that area a lot,” he said. “It’s something that really makes me happy seeing there. I mean, being in any other place would have been good, but in that area where I transit and I pass a lot, it’s been a big joy.”