Schenectady County

Niskayuna, BH-BL among first public schools to say farewell

Niskayuna, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Ballston Spa high schools held the region’s first big public s
Niskayuna High School graduate Carolyn Connors, right, makes a face at her friend Ashley Clasen, prior to commencement Thursday at Proctors in Schenectady.
Niskayuna High School graduate Carolyn Connors, right, makes a face at her friend Ashley Clasen, prior to commencement Thursday at Proctors in Schenectady.

A sea of red and silver filled the first 10 rows of Proctors on Thursday night as the soon-to-be graduates of Niskayuna High School anxiously awaited their diplomas.

“They are a dynamic class,” Principal John Rickert said. “They are a well-accomplished group.”

Niskayuna was not the first public school to hold a graduation this year though. Earlier Thursday, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School held the region’s first public school graduation ceremony of the season.

More than 250 seniors and their relatives gathered at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs to send off the Spartans in style. The weather was picture perfect as the maroon and white colors filled the SPAC grounds.

Later that night, hundreds of seniors and their relatives gathered for the Niskayuna High School graduation. More than 350 seniors received their diplomas and bid adieu to their high school years. Ballston Spa High School also held graduation Thursday at SPAC.

The night at Proctors opened with the Niskayuna Symphonic Band playing several ensembles from “Les Miserables.” After the processional of graduates, Andrea Wade, 18, welcomed the audience and presented a speech.

Wade, the class of 2013 president, reflected on her years at Niskayuna and reminded her fellow graduates to always remember the foundation Niskayuna laid for them.

“The Niskayuna High School and the Niskayuna community provided us with a strong foundation for the rest of our lives,” she said. “We do not always realize how lucky we are to have grown up in an environment where we are safe, able to learn, and given opportunities to pursue various goals and talents.”

Wade, who will attend Le Moyne College in Syracuse in the fall to study accounting, said she will miss the feeling of community at Niskayuna the most.

“Just being able to walk down the hallways and say hi to everybody,” she said. “Just having the closeness.”

Raffi Moroukian, 18, said he will miss the friendships he made at Niskayuna and noted the class of 2013 was tight-knit.

“We are really fun,” he said. “Lively, smart.”

Kayleen Baignosche, 18, agreed.

“We are very sporadic, very fun, and go-getters,” she said. “You know your friends will always be there to help you out.”

Both Moroukian and Baignosche said the teachers at Niskayuna had a great impact on them.

“The teachers helped me grow,” Baignosche said.

In addition to honoring the class of 2013, alumnus Richard S. Hartunian was honored during the graduation ceremony. Hartunian, a graduate from the class of 1979, is the United States attorney for the Northern District of New York. During the ceremony he was inducted into the Niskayuna High School Hall of Fame. He said he was humbled when he found out he was going to be inducted.

“Niskayuna is where I grew up. It is a very strong part of my identity,” he said. “I have wonderful memories of my time at Niskayuna High School.”

During his speech, Hartunian said Niskayuna helped him find himself and gain the confidence to achieve his goals.

“It was just a wonderful, warm place to grow up,” he said.

A common theme throughout the night seemed to be remembering where you have come from as you head into the future.

“Now we are sending them on their way,” Rickert said. “I think they all have gotten a nice solid base from here.”

Wade reiterated this theme throughout her speech.

“Regardless of our future paths, they will always circle back to Niskayuna,” she said. “Niskayuna will always be home.”

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