SCHENECTADY -- During a hard day in middle school, Taty Anna Pearson’s teacher asked her to write a note to her future self. The teacher held on to that note until Friday, after Pearson graduated high school.
Pearson, now 20, said it wasn’t easy along the way. She lived apart from her mother, who joined her Friday overcome by tears, and spent time in a homeless shelter. All that time, the letter she wrote herself in seventh grade hung from her former teacher’s bulletin board. That former teacher hand-delivered the letter to Pearson on Friday. She planned to read it once she had a private moment to herself.
The letter waited as Pearson took a couple extra years to finish high school, extra years she said were well worth the work and the wait.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, don’t give up,” she said of pressing toward graduation, even when it felt years away. “I was gonna go until I was 200 if I had to.”
Pearson, who works and lives on her own, said she is excited for what comes next in her life.
“I have a really bright future ahead of me, I don’t really have any limits,” Pearson said.
She offered a nugget of wisdom for the many students struggling though high school: There’s more out there for you.
“It may seem like this is the only picture, but there is such a bigger picture,” Pearson said. “Never give up on yourself. Push through. It’s hard but it’s worth everything.”
Pearson’s struggle and persistence is the norm at Schenectady High School’s annual August graduation ceremony; one final push in the summer is enough to get another group of students across the stage.
Around 30 students Friday joined the class of 2019, lifting the school’s highest graduation rate in over a decade just over 70 percent, according to district Superintendent Larry Spring.
The students finished final tests and credit requirements; some students who had fallen years behind during their time in high school ticked off their final graduation requirements.
“What you accomplished was not easy,” Christopher Chank, class of 2019 principal, told the group of new graduates as they gathered for a ceremony at the high school auditorium. “There are no shortcuts, no cheat codes, no easier path to this day.”
Chank reminded the students that everyone fails and urged them to embrace the failures they will surely face in the years ahead. “Don’t fear it, don’t run from it,” he said. He said they have already proved they can overcome failure and struggle and achieve the goals they set themselves to, that’s why he had a stack of diplomas waiting for them.
Brothers Jayden and Jordan Martin also earned their diplomas after refusing to stop working for them.
“School and home was enough,” said Jayden, who starts taking classes at SUNY Schenectady in the coming weeks and plans to play basketball on the school team. “Now that I’m done, it feels great, a lot of weight off my shoulders.”
Jordan also said finishing high school was a “weight off my shoulders.” He fell over a year behind in school but attended night school and stuck with school until he finished requirements and learned a lesson about himself.
“There’s no limit to what I can do,” Jordan said.