BY REBECCA ISENHART
For a senior in high school, Noah Rohde is just about as intense as they come.
Unflinchingly formal and respectful, he talks as if he’s at a high-stakes job interview, relaxing only after he has sized up the conversation.
His measured words make him the perfect successor to Student Forums founder and 2015 alumnus Matt Mizbani.
Student Forums is a new club at Niskayuna High School, begun last year to open a dialogue between the then-interim superintendent and the student body. Rohde was in the club last year and often talked with John Yagielski, who served as superintendent until June, when Cosimo Tangorra was permanently appointed to the position.
Rohde felt it was important to keep that dialogue open, so this year he picked up where Mizbani left off to lead the group.
“I developed an interest in governance,” Rohde said, citing the club as the spark that first fascinated him. At the same time, his United States history course his junior year caused him to read a number of court cases, which furthered his interest in participating in government.
There was something close to home that he realized he could have an effect on: the Niskayuna High School Code of Conduct. He started by reading it, then, realizing it could use an update, wrote an opinion article for the school newspaper, The Warrior.
“The biggest thing, for me at least, was the dress code,” Rohde said.
He worried that the wording, which suggested a student in a short or transparent outfit could disrupt others’ learning, made the school vulnerable to accusations of sexism.
Rohde said he was also troubled to find one specific section of the Code of Conduct that students widely ignored, without repercussion. Technically, cellphones were prohibited during instructional hours.
“That was not being followed at all,” he said.
If people ignore this part of the Code of Conduct, what else will they ignore? he wondered.
After the op-ed ran in the student newspaper, Rohde had his shot at making a change when he was invited to work with Niskayuna High School Principal John Rickert to adjust the code. In the end, Rohde was proud of the changes.
For the dress code, specific examples were removed and the wording was changed to suggest that a student’s attire would be his or her own concern, not anyone else’s.
Cellphone policy was changed to allow students to use phones between classes, and for teachers to permit cellphone use if it benefits their lesson plans.
“It’s better to be proactive and set up guidelines for the usage rather than restrict it,” Rohde said.
In just a couple short years, Rohde has caught the politics bug. He spent time in Washington over the summer, shadowing an old family friend who invited him to a congressional hearing on natural resources.
“That was truly inspiring,” he said.
Rohde has been thinking about his future for a long time. His mom works at Siena College, and her work with college students translated into early college visits for her son. His first tour was the summer after his freshman year.
But his fascination with how laws are made has been solidified, recently, by his extracurricular activities.
“I’m very interested in law and policy,” he said. “I’d like to be helping those who are treated unfairly.”
Having fun as a coach
There are a couple of topics that break Rohde out of his businesslike attitude. The first is the running club at Iroquois Middle School, where he coaches second- through sixth-graders during spring and fall.
“I really like to work with kids, in general,” he said. “They really start to love you. It’s so fun to see them having fun and doing well.”
The kids practice, then compete in local races, like an upcoming run Oct. 25 at River Road Park in Niskayuna.
Rohde said he probably owes his talent for working with kids, at least in part, to his siblings, Ethan and Grace. They’re both in middle school, a bit older than the students Rohde coaches.
He’s also an athlete himself, having run track and cross country from freshman to junior year. Freshman, sophomore and senior year, he swam for Niskayuna, too. But he likes coaching better than being an athlete himself.
“It’s more rewarding,” he said.
Fan of all types of music
And then there’s music. Rohde loves all kinds: jazz, salsa, classic rock, pop. His guilty pleasures are glitter-encrusted types like Lady Gaga and Ke$ha.
He also loves hip-hop and rap, with all their subgenres. Unsurprisingly, he loves how political such music can be.
“I’m very interested in the social and political conscience of certain artists,” he said, staying true to his laser focus.
Rohde said he hopes to become an elected representative someday. But first, he’ll conquer senior year.
“There’s a lot of work to it, but a lot of enjoyment out of it,” he said.