Saturday, February 21, 2015

Upstate NY teen who petitioned laser-cat yearbook photo commits suicide

Draven Rodriguez, a senior at Schenectady High School who proposed to have a yearbook photo of him and his cat against a backdrop of lasers, died on Thursday.
The Times Union  reports the cause of death was suicide. He was 17.
Rodriguez made national news last fall when he started a petition to get his unique photo featured in the yearbook as his senior portrait. The petition was a precaution, while the school did not decline the photo just yet.
"This is my pre-emptive strike just in case such a thing were to happen," Rodriguez explained in his petition. "I wanted as many backers as possible before the deadline of September 15th."
However, even after reaching more than 7,000 signatures, Rodriguez was not allowed to use the photo in the yearbook. Instead,Principle Diane Wilkinson and her Chihuahua Vivienne, joined Rodriguez for a new laser cat yearbook photo.
Buzzfeed says the new photo will appear in the yearbook in order to raise awareness for American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and rescue animals.
Rodriguez's father, Jonathan Stewart, tells the Times Union that his son "made friends wherever he went" and "had friends all over the country."
Rodriguez is survived by Stewart; his mother, Melissa Petersen-Stewart; his 11-year-old sister, Lily Stewart; his biological father, Eric Rodriguez, and the Rodriguez family; among many others.
In a Facebook post from Jan. 29, Rodriguez quoted Reza Zand as saying, "We are all people, and we should help each other out," the Times Union says.
"He had an empathy for the world and for other people that I think is rare in kids his age," Stewart adds. "It was wonderful to see."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vigil to Honor Transgender Ohio Teen After Suicide

STEVENS POINT — Local organizations are offering community members the chance to discuss the impact of a transgender Ohio teen’s recent suicide.
The Stevens Point Area Senior High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance is partnering with the Central Wisconsin Pride Resource Network to sponsor a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Leelah Alcorn, whose Dec. 28 death after being hit by a semi-trailer was ruled a suicide. She left a post on her Tumblr account in which she said that she was unhappy with her life and that she wanted her death to mean something and be counted among the other transgender suicides that year.
GSA Adviser Denny Rosenthal said the group wanted to host the vigil to offer people a place where they can discuss the impacts this suicide has on people, as the issue can hit home in Wisconsin even though it took place in Ohio.
“It’s very heartbreaking for all of us when we hear about something like this,” she said. “The kids are very close to this situation, so they wanted to do something in remembrance of her.”
She said SPASH has several transgender students and that a lack of support during a transgender transition can make the situation even harder for transgender youth.
“It’s not an easy transition for these kids, especially at that age,” she said. “When you don’t have support, it makes it even more difficult, and that’s what we want to get out in this community.
Rosenthal said she is also organizing a 5K walk/run for April to raise funds for a transgender organization.
Anyone with questions can contact Rosenthal for more information at