Sixteen students graduated from the Sewhanaka High School on Tuesday.
While they all had to wait a little while longer than their peers, one had to wait longer than all of them.
A few months ago, Bernadette Rodriguez called the district looking for a copy of the high school diploma she thought she had received in 1979 only to find out that she never graduated.
“To find out after 37 years you never had a high school diploma when it first came into question, most people would have walked away,” Rodriguez said. “I took it on as a challenge and I got a lot of help along the way.”
Rodriguez and her friends and family repeatedly called district Superintendent Ralph Ferrie’s office to find out what she needed to do to finally finish her high school career.
“I got calls from her or her friends every week, all asking the same thing,” administrative assistant Fred Raulli said. “It turned out that she just needed to take the American History regents.”
Rodriguez, now working in a salon in Syosset, had to go through the same registration process that any other student living outside the district would go through.
Eventually she was able to reenroll and began to prepare for the regents.
“I went to the library every day and watched every movie I could possibly watch,” Rodriguez said. “The Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, all the presidents in order and then I had to hit the Constitution.”
Rodriguez got an 85.
Ferrie suggested that Rodriguez tell her story to students at the district’s high schools who are also struggling to graduate. Rodriguez said she would be in favor of doing so. She said it is never too late to finish something that was left unfinished.
“At 53 years old as I stand here with a hot flash, I can tell you right now this is best hot flash I’ve ever had,” Rodriguez said. “This is the best thing I ever did in my life.”