Some graduating classes leave a legacy of athletic achievement, celebrated as champions on the field. Some are remembered more for their pranks and antics.
But very few elevate an entire district’s academic reputation with their work.
Through sweat in summer school, years spent taking double classes to catch up on failed subjects, and dogged determination, 65 percent of the Schenectady High School Class of 2013 graduated on time, the most in seven years.
The final members of the class earned their diplomas Tuesday after retaking Regents exams this summer.
“Thank you so much for representing Schenectady High School to the fullest,” said high school Principal Diane Wilkinson, who told them they had the best record in seven years. “That is outstanding. The work and effort you put forth has made that difference.
“I am so happy and so proud. What a phenomenal year.”
Marching with the 44 newest graduates were 17 members of other earlier classes who finally finished their high school work.
“Some of them had dropped out and come back,” said Superintendent Laurence Spring. “It’s a major accomplishment.”
Now the challenge is put forth to the Class of 2014: Can they beat the Class of 2013?
“We only hope to go up from here,” Spring said, adding that fewer members of the next class have dropped out, and more have caught up with their classmates after repeating a grade.
They “could definitely improve on this number,” he said.
For the final members of the Class of 2013, Tuesday was the fulfillment of not just 13 years of work but also a vow they had taken.
“Last September in the auditorium, you and your classmates promised each other you would all be members of the graduating class of 2013,” class Principal Peter Parisi said. “Well, you made good on your promise.”
The parents watching nearby shouted and cheered.
Spring added that by finishing their high school education in summer school, they had proven something.
“It’s not some people ‘get’ math and some don’t. It’s about effort,” he said. “Albert Einstein was, in his early years, thought to be too slow to graduate from high school. Michael Jordan was cut from his first high school basketball team.”
Sticking to it, through all the hot days of summer, was the key, he said.
“It tells us an awful lot about how successful you will be in the remainder of your life,” he said.
The graduates studied all summer, but some learned more than just facts. Arthur Henriques, Jr., 19, spent the hottest days kicking himself for giving up during his senior year.
“I had thought I was failing other classes so I kind of gave up on it,” he said of his English class. “I thought I’d do it all in summer school. Then I ended up passing everything else.”
He hammered out his essays this summer with two friends. They agreed to work together to keep each other focused.
Now he’s heading into the Marine Corps, following in the footsteps of many family members.
DaiQuan Garlic, 17, came to summer school after thinking he would march with his class in June. He had transferred to Maywood School, a BOCES school for special education students, after struggling his freshman year. But he completed all the requirements for a diploma — or so he thought.
The day before graduation, school officials called to break the news that he had missed one item: He took biology labs at Maywood, but didn’t take the class.
“He was very upset,” said his mother, Tanya Thomas, “but he held it. ‘OK.’ I told him, ‘just get through this. Twenty days.’ ”
Garlic came to summer school expecting hard work, but he found he remembered most of his biology lessons.
“It was easy,” he said.
He plans to major in business at Schenectady County Community College. His uncle, professional basketball player James Thomas, has promised to help him start a business, he said.
His family gathered to cheer when he got his diploma Tuesday and said they were always certain he would graduate.
“He was going to do it. You have to expect it of yourself,” said his grandmother, Rachel Thomas.
His mother added that he was the last of her children to graduate from high school.
“I have three graduates. Oh my gosh, I am a proud mom. Super mom,” she said. “Not that I ever gave up on him. But I knew he would struggle. And there’s my baby, graduating.”