Draven Rodriguez is the type of kid who thinks ahead.
When the Schenectady High School yearbook came out last spring, the then-junior vowed his senior portrait would be, well, different. That way, when classmates looked at it years later they would remember him.
“I don’t want to go in the yearbook with the generic ‘I-look-like-everyone-else’ photo,” he said. “I wanted a ‘He looks great. Only he would try that’ photo.”
“When people look at it,” the 16- turning 17-year-old added Wednesday, “they will know that was me.”
The slick one he wants to submit is just that. Part portrait, part performance art, it’s a bad 1970s album cover crossed with a “Hang in There, Baby” cat poster and a dash of Austin Powers (the feline is named Mr. Bigglesworth).
Amid the choreographed geek chic stands Rodriguez, in formal attire, nuzzling the cat. And there’s lasers! Lasers!
“I’m a little out there and a little tongue-in-cheek,” he said. “Cats and lasers . . . sarcastic. It’s so outlandish and ridiculous.”
Rodriguez put the photo up on Instagram, where it became a hit. Rodriguez even put up a pre-emptive petition urging support for the portrait to be approved for the yearbook.
“A professionally produced photo and the student is wearing formal attire,” one electronic signer wrote. “Perfectly appropriate for a yearbook photo and I support its publication.”
Rodriguez carefully noted the photo had not yet been denied. (Students have until next week to either have their senior portraits taken or submitted.) “I don’t see why there will be any opposition to it,” he said. “People really want to see it happen. They see it in a positive light. It’s funny.”
Seen in a positive light? Yes. Funny? Absolutely.
Opposition? About that . . .
When asked about the portrait by The Daily Gazette, school district spokeswoman Karen Corona said that, yes, it can go in the yearbook, but, no, it can’t appear in the senior portrait section.
“That will not appear in the portrait section,” she said, stating photos there must adhere to certain uniformity. “There are other places in the yearbook where those photos can be placed.
“It doesn’t mean the photo won’t be in the yearbook. It just means it won’t be in the section where the more professional photos are.”
Other school districts have similar codes regarding uniformity for the senior portrait section of yearbooks, even if they are not specified.
“There are no specific guidelines, but 99.9 percent of the time there are professional-type head shots,” said Matt Leon, spokesman for the Niskayuna Central School District. “You do need to consider the consistency and decorum of the section.”
Rodriguez created a mini-social media wave Wednesday, then went to crew practice. When told of the district’s apparent decision, he said simply, “I can work with that.” He is not looking to go to war with the district, or anybody.
“I’m not trying to make any statement,” he said, “other than my photo is ridiculous and this is how I am.”
Besides, he has a backup portrait, also professionally shot. He is again in a suit and tie. He is also wearing a lapel pin with Mr. Bigglesworth on it.
The cat stays in the picture.