Schenectady

A new beginning awaits: Schenectady class of 2022 graduates Friday

Graduates clap during the Schenectady High School Commencement for Class of 2022 at Schenectady High School in Schenectady on Friday, June 24, 2022.

Graduates clap during the Schenectady High School Commencement for Class of 2022 at Schenectady High School in Schenectady on Friday, June 24, 2022.

SCHENECTADY – As 587 graduating students from Schenectady High School sat on the turf Friday morning under bright sunny skies they were asked to reflect on the past few years, embrace the present, think about the future and not be afraid to fail along the way. 

“I am proud to stand in front of you today and say thank you for being amazing young people,” said Dennis Green, the Schenectady High School principal. “Always remember practice makes better and nobody is perfect. You have so much potential to be and do anything you choose.”

Both Green and high school Executive Principle Christopher Chank said the students, of whom 564 are from the same cohort, have been resilient over the past few years to make it to graduation day. 

The graduates were dressed in either blue or red caps and gowns, some with decorated caps that read “I did my best and God did the rest,” “Next step nursing school,” “Trust the magic of new beginnings” and “Google how to graduate SHS.”

Before they could move their tassels from right to left they heard from fellow classmates: salutatorian Emma Lindenfelser, co-valedictorian Tania Akter who was part of the SUNY Schenectady Smart Transfer Program and co-valedictorian Charles Barnett.

Lindenfelser, who came to Schenectady High as a freshman, shared reflections from two students who had grown up in the district. One of those testimonials was from Sarah Dukhi, who spoke about how diverse Schenectady is and how the school and district “provided a platform of diversity that is unmatched and can’t be found anywhere else.”

“You look over your shoulder at the hundreds of different faces and people and come to appreciate all these walks of life for what they are,” Lindenfelser said reading Dukhi’s words. 

Akter, a Muslim woman and first-generation immigrant who came to the U.S. in 2016 with her family and didn’t know English, spoke about the challenges she faced to become one of the top 10 students in the high school and how she realized high school was about so much more than being in the top 10. 

“Rather. It’s for us to grow academically and socially so that we are prepared to begin our next chapter,” Akter said. 

Akter also told students to believe in themselves as they explore the next chapter of their lives. 

It was a similar sentiment that guest speaker Aneesa Waheed, a chef, entrepreneur, proprietor of Tara’s Kitchen and alumna of the class of 1994, shared in her speech. Waheed walked the audience through three pivotal moments in her life that at the time she felt were horrible moments that she later realized were blessings. 

“Today I ask you what do you want to accomplish in the next three years and I challenge you to take a step in that direction even if it’s a small tiny step,” she said. 

Before students crossed the stage Co-valedictorian Charles Barnett spoke about how failure can change your perspective and pushes you to succeed and gave a little bit more advice to his fellow classmates.

“Failure is not the opposite of success, but rather it’s simply a step along the way,” he said. 

In the audience, graduate Devierra Beckles waited as her peers continued to cross the stage. 

“It doesn’t really feel real yet,” the 17-year-old said. 

She said trying to come back to school after the pandemic caused students to go virtual had been hard, but she was glad she stuck it out. Now, she said she’ll miss seeing her friends every day at school and bothering Cohort Principal Jonathan Goyette. 

Beckles is moving to Buffalo and plans to study at Buffalo State where she will get a degree to become a neonatal nurse. 

“When I was younger I just always wanted to work with babies,” she said. 

A few rows back Andre Byrd also watched as his counterparts proceeded to the stage to get their diploma. 

“It feels good,” he said. “I know there’s a lot more to come.” 

He too said the commitment to school over the years had been hard but thanked his family for pushing him along the way. 

“It was all family,” he said. 

He plans to attend SUNY Delhi to study business administration and get a realtor’s license. He said he will come back to Schenectady eventually.

Categories: News, Schenectady

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