Draven Rodriguez, the teenage boy who made news after his yearbook portrait featuring lasers and a cat went viral, has died at 17.

Draven Rodriguez Dead At 17

Rodriguez, a senior at Schenectady High School, died of an apparent suicide on Thursday, Feb. 19, reported the local Times Union. Rodriguez was a good student and athlete, but he got global attention when he decided to think outside the box for his senior yearbook portrait last year.

For his senior portrait, Rodriguez posed with his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, and chose a laser backdrop, creating a one-of-a-kind photo. “I don’t want to go in the yearbook with the generic ‘I look like everyone else’ photo. I wanted a ‘He looks great. Only he would try that’ photo,” Rodriguez explained in September.

 

Rodrigues, who called the photo by Vincent Giordano “so outlandish and ridiculous,” put the photo on Instagram, where it received widely positive responses, and launched an online campaign to ensure the photo would be approved by the yearbook. At first, school district spokeswoman Karen Corona said that the photo would not be allowed in the yearbook as a senior portrait, but could be displayed in another section. But, the widespread support of the photo and viral nature of the story got the school to change their tune. Schenectady High principal Diane Wilkinson posed with her rescue Chihuahua and Rodriguez and his rescue cat for a similar photo that will have its own page in the yearbook to promote pet adoption.

 

Rodriguez said he was fine with the school’s decision to publish his photo elsewhere in the yearbook, saying he had no intention of fighting the school district: “I’m not trying to make any statement other than my photo is ridiculous and this is how I am.”

Rodriguez’s father, Jonathan Stewart, backed up his son, saying, “He honestly just wanted a silly photo because he had a great sense of humor.”

Stewart described Rodriguez, who worked with the How to UnMake a Bully campaign, as friendly, saying, “He had an empathy for the world and for other people that I think is rare in kids his age. It was wonderful to see.”

Rodriguez’s family has not released any other information about his death, and private funeral services will be held on Friday.