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June 14, 2013

Pinkerton cancer survivor barred from commencement

Student beats cancer, but math failure keeps him from commencement

DERRY — Brandon Paquette overcame cancer, but geometry proved a tougher foe.

The Hampstead resident’s failure to pass that high school class — amid renewed health worries — is preventing him from walking with his Pinkerton Academy classmates at graduation Monday.

Pinkerton administrators are standing by school policy that will keep Brandon, 18, out of a cap and gown at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.

“I’m very disappointed,” Brandon said yesterday. “I just think it is pretty unfair. I want to be able to walk with my classmates.”

Brandon blames his academic trouble, in part, on absences as doctors tested for a possible cancer relapse. That proved unfounded.

He said he missed instructional days, however, falling behind.

“I could never catch up,” he said.

Brandon and his family understand school officials refusing him a diploma. He intends to take a summer class in geometry to fulfill his requirements and get his diploma in hopes of serving in the U.S. Air Force.

They are confident he will pass geometry this summer. They point to the time the Children’s Miracle Network recognized Brandon for his perseverance.

They just don’t understand why school officials can’t see that Brandon’s health issues ought to get some consideration and let the young man participate with his classmates.

“Unfortunately for Brandon, he’s been very sick over the years, he had cancer, and he’s gone through a lot,” his mother Kristine Paquette said. “I just wanted them to let him walk and participate at graduation. I thought that was a reasonable request.”

For Pinkerton officials, the decision came down to what graduation represents.

“Graduation is meaningful; it recognizes students who have met the requirements for a high school diploma,” headmaster Mary Anderson said in a written statement. “Pinkerton admires the hard work of all students, especially under trying circumstances, but participation in the graduation ceremony is for students who are graduating.”

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