Amajla Tricic, Staff Writer
Thomas. R Proctor High School, located in East Utica, was shaken after a school bus was hit by gunfire on Oct. 25, stirring concern if the school is a safe place.
The incident occurred after the school released its students at the end of the school day. The bus that was struck was the last to leave the school and students on the bus were unharmed.
The issue raises questions about the safety of the school and whether the procedures in place keep the students safe or if they are even capable of stopping violent students. Many on the Utica College campus who graduated from Proctor feel frustrated that their alma mater is being attacked over a situation that can happen anywhere.
Womyn’s Resource Center President Hermina Garic graduated from Proctor in 2015 and says that negative comments directed at the institution are coming from misguided information. She feels that the school is often negatively reflected in the news.
“We live in a city that is predominately low income and with that, comes its own stereotypes,” said Garic, a junior. “People place labels on an area and it just sticks. I think the more we tell people about what Proctor and Utica are really like, the less we see them set a negative light on Proctor.”
Garic credits the school for giving her the avenue to be the social activist she is today.
“I was really close with many of the teachers and they helped me realize my ambitions,” Garic said. “They were actually my biggest motivators.”
Junior Brittany Arensman thinks the stigma around the school is ridiculous and that hearing rumors about Proctor from other schools in predominately white areas was shocking, because they came from thin air.
“They always assumed there were gang members running around and that every day someone brought in a gun,” Arensman said. “ Now with the shooting, Proctor has an even worse reputation. It’s sad because that school was far from being the way people who never stepped foot in the school said it was.”
Proctor and UC alum Michael Convertino noted that his experience in a multicultural school was a good one and that people outside of the district should understand that it is not a scary place.
“At no time did I feel unsafe and I walked to and from school almost everyday. I enjoyed my time there and would send my children there,” Convertino said.
Like Garic, Convertino believes the negative outlook on the school has to do with race, which he finds unfortunate.
“The school has a large African American and Hispanic population, and unfortunately people associate them with violence,” Garic said. “The sad thing is that areas like Whitesboro and New Hartford have the same issues and problems as Utica, but because those are known as more wealthy areas, they do not get as much press.”
UC senior and Proctor graduate Dominica Witt said her experience was the same as any other except that the different backgrounds of the student body enriched her time and knowledge, making her more aware and broad-minded.
Senior Mindy Maryhugh said she attended Adirondack High School and heard from classmates that Proctor was dangerous because of the students.
“I come from a small town and there was definitely a negative view of Proctor,” Maryhugh said. “They were very scared of them and they were scared that the students were going to steal something or get into a fight. There was no actual reason behind it from what I can tell.”
Maryhugh’s experience visiting Proctor had been different from the rumors her classmates spread. She felt that it was like any other school.
“I had a good experience. Everyone stayed with their group and you were fine,” Maryhugh said. “It’s not as nearly as bad as they publicize it to be. It’s just school and if I was scared it was because of a test.”
The action at hand is not to target the school or the people in it, but to maintain a safe environment. The Utica School Board is determined to find a better approach for future procedures that will not resemble the misinformation spread during the school bus debacle.