EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 2, 2013

Pinkerton student finally earns diploma

Pinkerton student finally earns diploma

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — DERRY — Brandon Paquette conquered cancer.

Now he’s conquered geometry, too.

Weeks after Pinkerton Academy refused to let him walk at graduation with his fellow seniors because he had failed to pass geometry, Brandon this week got his diploma in the mail.

“It’s about time,” Brandon said he told himself when it arrived.

His mother was happy, too.

“Oh, my gosh, it was so exciting,” Kristine Paquette said, “the best feeling.”

The diploma came in a red, leatherette-style case.

“Right now, it’s on the counter,” his mother said.

Brandon completed the course early, successfully passing computer tests measuring his knowledge of geometry, she said.

“I finished everything,” Brandon said.

He wasn’t sure of his final grade, but said he thought it was a B-plus or A-minus.

Brandon, 18, has spent this summer working with his mother at their new home in Boscawen, where they are converting a motel into a sober house for young men trying to beat addictions.

His mother said Brandon is handling Web design and other information technology projects for the future Homestead Inn.

“I’m the only one around who can do it,” he said.

His mother is still a nursing supervisor with Hampstead Hospital.

In June, Brandon said he was very disappointed and thought it unfair Pinkerton wouldn’t let him walk at graduation with his classmates.

Pinkerton headmaster Mary Anderson said at the time the decision came down to what graduation represents.

“Graduation is meaningful; it recognizes students who have met the requirements for a high school diploma,” Anderson said.

Brandon wasn’t expecting a diploma that night in June. He knew he would have to earn that later. He just wanted the experience of being with his pals.

“He was let down, not being with his friends,” his mother said.

They went to dinner and shopping, and stayed away from graduation night at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.

“He didn’t go,” she said. “That would have been too painful.”

She is proud of son for what he has accomplished.

“I told him, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’” she said.

Brandon knows this. His public struggle with cancer gained him statewide attention.

The Children’s Miracle Network selected him as New Hampshire’s Champion Child in 2008.

He suffered from a rare form of cancer that caused a pseudopapillary tumor of the pancreas. Complications cost him his spleen.

Brandon and his mother said concerns over a relapse led to more doctor visits last school year and affected his studies.

“I could never catch up,” Brandon said in June.

His future remains uncertain.

His mother said she expects Brandon to make a decision next year about whether to pursue a career in the U.S. Air Force or go to college.

“I’m not totally locked in,” he said.

Despite his disagreement with Pinkerton, Brandon bears no ill will toward his alma mater.

“It’s one of the better schools around here,” he said. “I made a lot of friends.”