The 2016 St. Labre salutatorian, Patrick, is an old-timer at St. Labre, having gone to school here since his pre-school days. In addition, both his grandparents have worked at St. Labre for many years so it’s no wonder that Patrick says, “It feels like home.”
Among his favorite teachers is Mr. Cameron, who “brings history to life.” Patrick likes learning about past events, but, with his teacher, tries to find out why things happen as they did. He is also fond of his physical education teacher, Miss Jilka, who has provided challenges for him in the weight room. “I think her conditioning program helped our basketball team make it into the divisional tournament this year,” he says.
In addition to basketball, Patrick enjoys the out-of-doors, especially when he can participate with his grandfather and namesake, Patrick Sr.
“He’s taught me a lot about hunting and fishing, how to make a good camp…all those things that go into a great outdoor experience,” observes Patrick. “I’m lucky to have someone like that in my family.”
As for future plans, they go hand in hand with Patrick’s love of the outdoors. He will be entering the forestry program at the University
of Montana this fall with emphasis on fire suppression and management. This also hits close to home since for many years Granddad Patrick
was the safety director and fire chief for St. Labre prior to his recent retirement.
Since St. Labre is surrounded by the Custer National Forest where in recent years monumental forest fires have burned, he is hoping that one day he will be able to find a job in this area helping to protect his home territory. Before that happens, though, he has another goal in mind. “I really want to see if I can get into Smoke Jumpers School,” he says.
The regional school for that program is also in Missoula where the University of Montana is located. Patrick knows that this program presents a very demanding regimen. Only a handful of applicants are accepted into the school each year. The physical requirements are about as tough as one would find in some military careers. “My athletic training would come in handy in that program for sure,” Patrick observes.
His next project is to find a copy of Norman Maclean’s iconic book, Young Men and Fire, a true account of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire along the Missouri River north of Helena. There, thirteen smoke jumpers became trapped and died when the fire blew up.
“I hadn’t heard of that book, but it’s one I have to read before I get to school,” Patrick promises.
Other than that he says he will miss St. Labre and his family while he is nearly five hundred miles distant in Missoula. “But I’m ready to go. It’s time for me to see what the next phase of my life will be like.” We wish Patrick every success and safe passages as he reaches for his goals.