Garrett LaFrance was a sophomore heading into his junior year at Massabesic High School in Waterboro when he noticed a pattern.

“Kids coming into the high school weren’t getting the best support,” said LaFrance, who lives in Alfred. “I noticed a bit of a divide between upperclassmen and (underclassmen). Freshmen, especially, are somewhat isolated because they take their core classes in a separate building.”

So LaFrance set out to break down barriers and establish connections between older and younger students, especially those who might need a little encouragement and guidance in establishing good attendance and study habits, joining clubs or teams and generally meeting people and fitting in.

Throughout his junior year, LaFrance developed and proposed a protocol for a Peer Advisory Program that would pair upperclassmen with freshmen and sophomores. During his senior year, LaFrance helped the guidance department implement the program, inviting upperclassmen to apply and assisting in the selection of eight peer advisers for the inaugural year.

By the end of January, each peer adviser was paired with a freshman or sophomore advisee. The students met only a few times, so it’s difficult to gauge the program’s success. Still, LaFrance sees potential for the fledgling effort, especially as his sister, Joanna, a sophomore, is poised to take his place in promoting the program.

“The results will be easier to see in the future,” LaFrance said. “There’s a need to help new students establish a good foundation that sticks with them for the rest of high school. I think both the underclassmen and their student advisers can benefit from it. It comes down to being good role models.”

The oldest of four children, LaFrance said his parents, Jim and Brenda, raised him to help people in need and take action when something could be improved. In addition to playing tennis and serving on the student council, he works at his grandmother’s sandwich shop, Papa’s Place, in Sanford and he’ll be a lifeguard this summer at Camp Laughing Loon in Waterboro.

In the fall, LaFrance will attend the University of Maine to study nursing, and he may continue on to become a nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist.

“I’m a really compassionate person,” LaFrance said. “I always have been, ever since I was a little kid. Going under and having surgery is such a stressful situation. I want to help people feel better and get well.”

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