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
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."