WESTBROOK – At points along their difficult journeys to graduation, both Allison Labrecque and Hannah Jordan had doubts they’d make it to the finish line, as did many others.

But the once-troubled teens have turned their lives around.

“Sometimes it’s hard, it’s really hard,” said Jordan, 16, a former Long Creek Youth Development Center detainee.

“I have my son and I don’t want him to use me as an excuse not to graduate,” said Labrecque, 18, a new mother to 6-month-old Charlie.

With help and guidance, especially from the alternative education department at Westbrook High School, which they both credit with being the driving force toward graduation, the girls will be able to cross this milestone, put their past behind them and move on to fulfill their dreams of college and family.

They are among the school’s 175 seniors who will receive their high school diplomas during the graduation ceremony to be held Saturday, June 8, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

Both Jordan and Labrecque have had to deal with rumors and bullying. For Jordan, it was bullying from older kids about her home life, and for Labrecque, it was rumored she had made up her pregnancy. The struggles led the girls to the alternative education building, or the white building, as it’s known among staff and students.

“I don’t think that I would have been able to handle the seven-hour days [at school] being pregnant or having a kid,” said Lebrecque. “Socially, too, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable. Here [in the alternative education building] there are less students and two really cool teachers. There’s less judgment here. I don’t think I would have been able to keep my sanity at the high school, it would have been way too much,” Labrecque said.

Jordan said she’s been in alternative education classes since she was in middle school, because the looser structure is more tailored to her learning style.

In those classes, students get binders that hold all the reading material and paper work for a one-credit class. They work at their own speeds, and teachers Shannon Belt and Kelly Townsend answer questions and help direct the students as they learn.

Jordan is on track to graduate two years early, at the age of 16, and is looking forward to college and meeting new people, while many of her peers are just excited for another three-month-long summer vacation.

Jordan has applied to two schools and is waiting to hear whether she has been accepted. She plans on becoming a veterinary technician.

Jordan will pay for school herself, with money she earns working her full-time job at the Baker’s Bench in Westbrook. She also pays her own bills, including housing. She had been sharing an apartment with her boyfriend, but recently moved back to her parents’ home temporarily.

Jordan said her parents had their own problems, which made her home life difficult.

“I got emancipated two months after I turned 16,” she said. “The process went really fast. Neither of my parents was against it and no one came to court, so it was easy for me. My grandmother has been there a lot, she’s a mother figure for me.”

Once Jordan finishes her schoolwork before graduation, she hopes she’ll have more time to look for an apartment. Every day she goes to school for about three hours and then heads over to the Baker’s Bench, where she works until 5 or 6 each night, six days a week.

“I know I can’t work at the bakery for the rest of my life, and I love animals, dogs, I really love dogs,” Jordan said.

At 13, Jordan was sent to Long Creek Youth Development Center, a correctional facility for troubled juveniles, after a fight. She spent 18 months there. For many, that would have been the beginning of a life littered with arrests and problems, but for Jordan, it was a turning point.

“I’m so happy that I went to Long Creek. I was a serious punk. I was terrible. Now, I have a little sister who is exactly how I was but she’s going to be 15, she didn’t get out of the house, didn’t get out of the environment. I changed so much in that year and a half. I got to see everything in a whole new point of view. I met healthy people, and had so many opportunities for when I was released. It helped so much, I’m so different,” Jordan said.

While in Long Creek, Jordan was able to get ahead in high school, earning extra credits that transferred toward her diploma. Since she’s been out of the correctional facility, Jordan has focused on continuing her commitment to education and that commitment gave her the ability to graduate two years early.

Labrecque also has her priorities straight. She’s a full-time mom and part-time student.

“It was pretty surprising and a little bit unreal [when I found out I was pregnant],” she said. “A lot of thoughts flashed in my head, like will I graduate and what am I going to do. After a while the thoughts started kicking in that I’m going to bring a baby into this world and I’ve got to start working harder at school or else I’m not going to graduate,” Labrecque said. “A lot of it is I’m trying to prove to everyone that you can do it. You can have a baby in high school and overcome that obstacle and still graduate. I do want to set that example for my son that his father graduated and I’m graduating. It’s really important to myself and my family to graduate.”

Labrecque said she has a strong, supportive family to help her overcome the challenges of being pregnant, and now raising a child, while going to school.

While she and her boyfriend live together with the baby, Labrecque receives support from her grandmother, who watches the baby for the two hours she’s at school.

It may not seem like a lot of time spent in the classroom, but Labrecque said it can be daunting to come to school each day, leaving her baby behind.

“I wake up at 4 every morning, that’s when he likes to wake up, and I immediately start snuggling with my baby. I love every snuggle he gives me. I can’t wait until I get to see him. I try to stay focused and do my homework here and when I get home, honestly I don’t do that much homework. It’s very hard with a baby,” Labrecque said.

She said she knows her childhood ended early when she had Charlie, but being a parent, for her, is worth it.

“Yes, life has changed. I have less of a social life but I’m still pretty social. I get a lot less sleep but of course it’s worth it. There’s always me and the baby that I have to consider and take care of, but it’s worth the price,” Labrecque said.

Belt said he was proud of how far the two young woman have come in life.

“Having a kid really changed her perspective,” said Belt about Labrecque. “I think her perspective on getting a high school diploma become more important to show her kid she did it.”

“Hannah is a pretty remarkable kid when you think about where she’s come from, she’s matured and, in general, has her priorities in the right place. She’s the poster child for how youth detention should work.”

Townsend agreed that the two have come far since she first met them.

“I am so proud of this young lady [Hannah]. She has worked so hard to get where she is. She has turned her life around completely. With all of the adversity in her life, she forces herself to push through,” said Townsend. “I am also going to miss Allie. It’s not easy being a parent. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a teenage mom. She pushed herself to get her work done. Allie didn’t give up.”

With days before the Westbrook High School class of 2013 graduation, Allison Labreque, left, and Hannah Jordan finish up some work.

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