Cheers to the George F. Baker Class of 2018
TUXEDO — It’s always a festive and intimate graduation gathering for students at George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo and this year was no exception.
The 28-member Class of 2018 donned red and white caps and gowns, many also wearing artistic mortarboards and honor cords, for their last official assembly honoring them for their achievements as the newest chapter in their lives was launched.
Parents, family and friends watched with tremendous pride and tears as the names of their children were called to receive their diplomas.
On Thursday evening, June 21, it was a safe bet many parents had been recalling the day their children were born or their first day of kindergarten.
It seemed just like yesterday these momentous rites of passage happened.
Where has the time gone?
What happens next?
Sitting among the Baker graduates was Nathan Cooper of Monroe, who has his next pathway in place.
Cooper is among a handful of students who don’t live within the school district’s borders. Tuxedo, the area’s smallest district, offers non-resident students the opportunity to enroll in both its schools on tuition basis. The district’s K-12 program offers a fully integrated STEM program, which some out-of-district parents and students find appealing.
“I was thinking about the past four years and closing the book on that chapter and moving on,” said Cooper. “I had a rough two years in high school due to illness and had homebound education for the first year.”
Cooper will attend SUNY Albany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity this fall. This program is one of the first nationwide dedicated to training students to in this field.
He already has some experience in emergency management as an intern with the Orange County Office of Emergency Management. Plus, he’s a member of the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, Rockland County squadron, where he received certification in search and rescue as well as in emergency management through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Cooper is not sure what his future career will be, but added “maybe it’s working for FEMA, the government or state or county preparing for disasters, working with the different emergency subspecialties. I’ve always felt a great drive to help people the community and country and I enjoy the planning and theorizing about (emergency) scenarios.”
Cooper praised Baker for the education given to him.
“It was good for me because it’s a very small school with small classes,” he said. “Everyone knows everybody and you know the teachers well. I came here from being sick for a very long time, and summer school before that. I hadn’t been in a room with people for a long time and it was good to start small.”
At Baker, Cooper was a member of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and was its “supreme chancellor.” He chaired the school’s blood drive and public relations committees.
Cooper was also involved in the school’s theater program, playing key roles in two Disney musicals and the school’s annual “Haunted Hallways.”
“Everyone there is friendly and mostly around my age,” Cooper said. “It was very welcoming even though it seemed daunting. I was able to learn with ropes without being judged or disparaged.”
He, too, has a list of people to thank.
“They (teachers) were all great all very approachable,” Cooper said. “I was close with Ms. Marash, I used to sit in her classroom and talk about literature. I write as a hobby. As she was an English teacher, we bonded over that. The faculty and staff are always helpful. Our principal, Mr. Schrammel, is always ready and willing to talk to you even though he has a busy schedule.”
He also wanted to acknowledge his parents Sybil and David Cooper.
“My mom, she’s very excited,” Cooper said.”Thanks for driving me around for whenever I had a show or to do anything with the school. Sometimes it was four, five or six times a day. Thanks for being supportive and for allowing me to do what I can to be who I want to be.”
Cooper knows living outside of the Tuxedo district means his family pays tuition for him to attend Baker plus school taxes to Monroe-Woodbury, their school district of residence.
“To my dad, thanks for keeping a good job and allowing me to go to Baker,” he added.
Cooper acknowledged the evening was filled with mixed feelings.
“It was a little bit emotional,” he added. “These are probably the most people I’ve met to any good degree. But, I’ve seen how much I’ve developed and grown through difficulties and challenges.