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ROTC helps student stay on right path

Intervention specialist Keith Jones, right, has been instrumental in helping Havermale High School student Cameron Labrecque get on track. (Dan Pelle)
Intervention specialist Keith Jones, right, has been instrumental in helping Havermale High School student Cameron Labrecque get on track. (Dan Pelle)

Havermale High School senior Cameron Labrecque is right back where he started some 16 years ago, but in his case that’s a good thing.

Labrecque, who is enrolled in The Community School component of the Havermale program, recently discovered that he attended the day care center there in the mid-1990s while his mother was a student at Havermale. All these years later, he’ll soon be a graduate.

Havermale, which formerly was mainly an alternative secondary program, is now a more traditional high school, although smaller and more personalized than the much-larger neighborhood schools. And that, along with his older sister’s positive experience there, was what drew Labrecque to Havermale.

“My sister had some problems as a freshman at her other high school,” he said, “and it really worked out for her here. She’s two years older than me, and before my freshman year she and my mom really recommended that I come here instead of Lewis and Clark. So I came here as a freshman.

“It was an adjustment at first, but not all that much. I still live in the same place, so I get to see my friends. I know that sometimes people say, ‘Only bad kids go there,’ but I think that must have been in the old days because when I heard that it really surprised me.

“I love this school. You can go there for one day and love it. The halls are packed at LC, and I wanted a smaller school. This feels like a community to me. People welcomed me here from my first day – I never felt scared or alone like a lot of freshmen do in big schools.”

Labrecque credits the junior ROTC program with helping him grow up and to form a set of “core values,” which he rattles off as easily as reciting his own name. He attended the program daily at Rogers High School for three semesters until class, credit and travel demands made it necessary for him to discontinue this spring.

“ROTC taught me how to be a leader and to be more responsible,” he said, “and the values I learned are part of me. They are integrity first, service before self, and strive for excellence in all we do.”

Labrecque intends to enlist in the Army Reserve after graduation, then attend community college and work in construction as a heavy-equipment operator.

His progress hasn’t been without some bumps. He failed an English course in each of his first three years at Havermale, so he’s been a regular in summer school to make up those credits. And he’s living with his older sister now after some issues at home, although he and his mother have reconciled and he sees her and his younger siblings frequently.

Havermale intervention specialist Keith Jones has known Labrecque all four years and credits the student’s sister and her boyfriend, an Army veteran, with helping him find direction.

“Cameron’s a kid who would probably have been under the radar at a bigger high school,” he said. “But here he has stayed the course. His sister’s boyfriend has been the big brother Cameron never had, and ROTC gave him a sense of where he wants to go.

“Even his experience in those English classes turned into a positive for him. What he’s learned in the last four years is not to give up on himself, and from that he has come to recognize his strengths.”

Labrecque isn’t sure about a long-term plan. “I don’t make promises about that,” he said. “All I know is that I’m going to work hard to make things happen.”

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