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Newest Schenectady High School graduates relieved, filled with pride

Newest Schenectady High School graduates relieved, filled with pride

With a limit of three tickets per graduate, some suggest holding commencement exercises in a larger venue to accommodate more family members
Newest Schenectady High School graduates relieved, filled with pride
Breanna Burns shows her excitement as she crosses the stage to receive her diploma.
Photographer: Marc Schultz / Gazette Photographer

Raina Shohatee, a new Schenectady High School graduate, didn’t start painting her graduation cap until 1 a.m. Wednesday, just hours before the ceremony. 

By 8 a.m., she lined up outside, waiting in anticipation with her friends outside the stage they would soon graduate on, sporting flames on the top of her head. Her head wasn’t on fire, but that would’ve garnered a similar response as her artsy cap, which featured Bob’s Burgers character Louise saying the words “It’s Done” as the character clutches her fists.

While Shohatee said she isn’t a die-hard fan of the show, her friends compare her to the character and she figured she’d represent herself and her relief a bit on her cap.

“[Louise] just kind of looks happy to be done with it,” she said. “And I am happy to be done with it, but I’m also sad that it’s going to be over.”

Shohatee, whose heading to Boston University in the fall to study anthropology, is proud that this year’s graduation rate of 67 percent is the school’s highest in over a decade, an accomplishment she hopes will help people see Schenectady High School in a more positive light.

“I’m really actually proud of us,” she said. “Adults talk down to us a lot and showing them that our school isn’t as bad as people think it is and that we can accomplish something if we really think it, it just [gives me] a sense of pride.”

Graduate Monica Rathbone was proud, too.

She will be heading to Columbia College in Chicago this fall to study musical theater. She said the high school’s music and theater program has been an outlet for her since her sister died of cancer at a young age. 

“I definitely had a lot of things in my life that dragged me down a little bit, but I definitely didn’t let it stop me,” she said. “I’m a very optimistic person, always look to the positive and keep pushing through.”

She said her sister’s death made her more independent, persistent and resilient, more committed to her schoolwork and her personal goals. In musical theater, she found an outlet to express herself.

“That definitely ended up being my outlet and something I looked for to express myself and to kind of help me get through everything. I fell in love with it and I’ve been doing it all through high school and I’m pursuing it as a career,” she said. 

Rathbone said she hadn’t planned on applying to schools outside of New York until a friend mentioned it at the last minute and she fell in love with it. Now, her plans will take her partway across the country.

“I definitely feel like work paid off, it’s been a very crazy journey and I’m excited that it’s finally at an end and new things are to come that are very exciting,” she said.

Natasha Wright, president of the Class of 2019, will be pursuing a science career. Wright will be a student at Union College next semester and plans to study biology on the premed track.

As the student body president, Wright said she was proud she and her classmates marked the best graduation rate in recent history.

“I was reading it before I came and I just thought it was so amazing,” she said. “To know that our class has the greatest percentage of kids graduating and all my friends are graduating, it’s just so great.”

More tickets, please

Katherine and Lorraine Robinson arrived at Proctors at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning to see Unique Henderson, their son and grandson, respectively, graduate high school.

They were the first in line outside Proctors, which was a big jump compared to where they waited during their last three graduations: outside of the venue.

This year, though, not everyone in Unique’s corner could attend his special day.

He had to wait to find out if his other grandmother could attend, as Schenectady only provided students with three tickets each instead of the usual four - the fourth ticket a casualty of the school's rising graduation rate and growing number of graduates.

“Naturally, there’s four important family members to any family,” Katherine said. “He was torn this morning because his dad’s mom is actually still home right now. But a young man just came up and gave me another ticket.” 

The Robinsons said next year’s graduation should be held in a larger venue to accommodate more family members, and many agreed. But their early arrival wasn’t totally necessary. The venue didn’t start filling up until around 30 minutes into the event. They just wanted to make sure they got a good glimpse of their son and grandson, a track and field star who is heading to Kansas for college, on his special day.

They did, along with a full theater of family and friends and 500 other graduates.

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