BH-BL, Ballston Spa kick off week of graduations

299 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake students graduated Wednesday during the school’s 95th commencement at
Brianna McKenna, right, pins a mortarboard on Caroline McFarlane's head while waiting in the processional line before the 95th annual commencement of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Wednesday after...
Brianna McKenna, right, pins a mortarboard on Caroline McFarlane's head while waiting in the processional line before the 95th annual commencement of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Wednesday after...

At a glance

A look at area high school graduations by county:

Saratoga County


Shenendehowa: 1:30 p.m. at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)


Saratoga Springs: 9 a.m. at SPAC


Schuylerville: 10 a.m. at Saratoga Springs City Center

Galway: 10 a.m. at Galway Junior-Senior High School

Waterford-Halfmoon: 10 a.m. at the main auditorium

Mechanicville: 10 a.m. at school auditorium

South Glens Falls: 10 a.m. at Glens Falls Civic Center

Stillwater: 3 p.m. at Saratoga Springs City Center

Schenectady County


Niskayuna: 7 p.m. at Proctors


Schenectady: 9 a.m. at Proctors

Duanesburg: 7 p.m. at high school gymnasium

Schalmont: 7 p.m. at Proctors


Scotia-Glenville: 9:30 a.m. at Proctors

Mohonasen: 2 p.m. at Proctors

Albany County


South Colonie (Colonie Central High School): 7:30 p.m. at Empire State Plaza


North Colonie (Shaker High School): 10 a.m. at University at Albany SEFCU Arena

Guilderland: 4 p.m. at SEFCU Arena


Albany: 2 p.m. at SEFCU Arena

Montgomery County


Canajoharie: 6:30 p.m. at Arkell Performing Arts Center


Amsterdam: 10 a.m. at Amsterdam High School gym

Fort Plain: 10 a.m. at Harry Hoag Elementary School

Fonda-Fultonville: 1 p.m. at high school auditorium

Fulton County


Northville: 7 p.m. at high school front lawn

Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville: 7 p.m. at the high school

Broadalbin-Perth: 7 p.m. at Patriot Field


Johnstown: 10 a.m. at Knox Field

Gloversville: 10 a.m. at the high school

Mayfield: 11 a.m. at high school athletic fields

Schoharie County


Sharon Springs: 7 p.m. at the high school

Middleburgh: 7 p.m. at the high school


Schoharie: 10 a.m. at high school gym

Cobleskill-Richmondville: 1 p.m. at the high school theater

In a month, Antonio Rodriguez will leave his hometown of Glenville for Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to start training for the Army.

But on Wednesday, as he prepared to walk across the Saratoga Performing Arts Center stage and receive his diploma, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake graduate was still in high school, enjoying one last hurrah with his classmates.

“Honestly, it hasn’t really hit me,” said Rodriguez, whose older brother graduated in 2012 and who also has two younger siblings. “Not really.”

Rodriguez, whose grandfather fought in Vietnam, said he will miss his classmates when he leaves for basic training at the end of July.

“I probably won’t see a lot of these guys, you know?” he said. “I’m gonna be doing my own thing.”

Rodriguez was one of 299 BH-BL students to graduate Wednesday during the school’s 95th commencement at noon — the first of many public school commencements taking place across the Capital Region this week. SPAC hosted a second ceremony Wednesday afternoon for the Ballston Spa High School class of 2014.

Ballston Spa

Adding drama to Ballston Spa’s graduation ceremony was the thunderous beating of rain on the roof of the SPAC amphitheater. Several of the commencement speakers referenced this meteorological event.

Jeanne Obermayer, president of the school district Board of Education, said she had to drop the line “it’s a glorious afternoon” from her planned speech, but instructed the crowd not to consider the ceremony any less glorious. Her last order to the class of 2014, perhaps.

In all, 306 Ballston Spa High School graduates received diplomas. Joining their classmates onstage were two students who had earned their GED and a foreign exchange student.

One recurring theme of the speeches was a quote by Sir Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

“We have three gifts for you,” graduating class president Jessica Leavitt told listening students from the class of 2015. First, their high school hallways would receive new water stations. Second, a $1,000 scholarship waited for one of next year’s senior students — someone who worked hard but stayed under the radar, said Leavitt. Finally, the class of 2014 made a $2,000 donation to the American Cancer Society.

The sun had come out by the time the graduates began lining up on the right side of the auditorium. After the last student — Magdalena Zink — walked across the stage, cheering parents redoubled their efforts. Someone threw up a blow-up soccer ball and a pink plastic ball, and the students kept the balls leapfrogging through the air above them as they moved their tassels from left to right.

Of the graduates, 129 plan on attending a two-year college, and 142 plan on a four-year college. One such student is Minh Duong, who’s headed to Rochester Institute of Technology to study software engineering in the fall. In the meantime, he’ll split his time between a summer job and online courses in computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

When asked what his reasoning behind summer classes was, Duong laughed. “I’ll get easy A’s in the fall.” But he’s not afraid to have fun with his computer smarts. “After college, I want to make video games,” he said.

Another graduate, Hannah Davis, said she’s moving to Colorado Mountain College in the fall. A degree in outdoor recreation will eventually authorize her to lead whitewater rafting trips and other outdoor activities.

But Davis has one more summer in Saratoga. Specifically, a summer at Saratoga Race Course, where she’ll be working as a mutual clerk — in her words, “helping people place bets.” She added, “I’ve never been to the Race Course before.”

She didn’t look worried.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake

Before the BH-BL graduates walked across the stage, they heard encouraging words from classmates and school leaders. Marley Bonacquist-Currin, the senior class vice president, took them back to kindergarten when their “major concerns for the country included recess and snack time” and to middle school when they “slammed into this wall called the awkward years.”

“And now we stand here, on a stage containing the sweat of many performers long past their own graduation dates, showing some of the best success stories that the world has to offer,” she said.

As the graduates were called up to the stage to receive their diplomas, Sue Gardy was looking forward to hearing her oldest son’s name. Ryan Gardy, the Spartans’ star pitcher who plans to play baseball at Schenectady County Community College next year, has brothers entering seventh and 11th grade at BH-BL.

“It’s a long time coming,” she said. “He’s the first one to graduate.”

Leah Trouwborst contributed to this article.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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