The New York principal who went all in when a student wanted to pose with his cat in the school yearbook by joining him in the laser-background photo with her own pet Chihuahua says she too didn't want to see another one of her boring headshots in the school yearbook.
"My traditional headshot is just a boring headshot," Schenectady High School principal Diane Wilkinson told ABC News. "I wanted to take Draven's lead."
Draven Rodriguez is the 16-year-old Schenectady High senior who convinced his principal not only to allow a photo of him with his beloved feline, Mr. Bigglesworth, in the high school yearbook, but to join him and use their photo together as her principal portrait.
“It’s more than I even bargained for because the whole thing turned out to be a lot of fun,” Rodriguez told ABC News.
The evolution of the unlikely photo, taken last week, began a few weeks ago when Rodriguez decided he wanted to “leave a legacy” at his high school, and that his legacy would be a senior portrait with him holding his rescue cat, accented by laser beams in the photo’s background.
“I really wanted to be remembered and this is kind of my last chance in the area before I move on to college and hopefully do great things with my life,” Rodriguez said. “I want people to remember my personality and not just my face.”
Rodriguez started a preemptive petition, featuring his photo with Mr. Bigglesworth, so that if the school administration denied his request, he would have support already in place.
That petition garnered more than 7,000 signatures but Rodriguez never needed to use it because Wilkinson was on board.
“I think when it went viral, it kind of came to me that it was such an amazing, awesome picture I wanted to find a way to support Draven,” said Wilkinson, who requested that her photo with Rodriguez and their pets also include lasers.
“He’s an amazing kid and I wanted to support him even more,” said Wilkinson, who enlisted her own pet Chihuahua, Vivian, to raise the stakes.
Once the yearbook is published, Rodriguez and Mr. Bigglesworth will be featured in three places. In his senior year photo, Rodriguez is wearing a button with Mr. Bigglesworth’s photo on it on his lapel.
The original photo of Rodriguez and Mr. Bigglesworth will be included on a senior class page and the photo of Rodriguez and Wilkinson will be used on Wilkinson’s principal page.
That photo will also include a note on a cause near and dear to both Wilkinson and Rodriguez, rescue animals.
With all the publicity, people have been sending checks to the high school, to Mr. Bigglesworth’s attention, and all of that money will be donated to a local animal shelter.
Both principal and student say they have heard “nothing negative” about the photos. Wilkinson, in particular, says she has heard a lot from people applauding the two of them working together to find a solution.
“I’ve seen a number of emails not only in support of what we’re doing to help the animals but in support of thinking outside the box and working together with students, not against each other,” Wilkinson said. “We’re a team.”
People interested in donating to the cause can send checks payable to Schenectady High School and mail to Schenectady High School, 1445 The Plaza, Schenectady, NY 12308. Attn: Mr. Bigglesworth.