Louisiana Student Makes Long Trip To Go To School


BREAUX BRIDGE, La. (AP) — Lake Charles high school senior Robert Papion travels 150 miles round-trip each day to go to school.

Papion attends T.M. Landry College Prep in Breaux Bridge, a year-round private school that the academically gifted student said offers an educational experience unlike any other.

"It still blows my mind," said Papion, recounting elements that make the school unique like its lack of textbooks and free schedule.

"We want our students to become phenomenal," said Michael Landry, executive director and co-founder of T.M. Landry. "Meeting the status quo is terrible for us, especially with the state of education in the country but more so in Louisiana."

Landry said the school boasts a 100 percent graduation rate with all its recent graduates being accepted into one of the top 100 universities in the U.S.

He said 45 percent were accepted into either an Ivy League school, Stanford University or MIT.

The halls of the school are filled with posters from top universities, and students sport Ivy League spirit apparel to help them "keep the goal in mind," Papion said.

"When I came here I was setting the bar really low for myself," Papion said. "I didn't have much confidence … but over time when I started hearing people say higher-level universities as their goal and when I understood the history of the school's results, I kind of felt like the odd one in the pack … so I had to step up my game."

Landry said the Ivy League reputation is not indicative of a student population filled with wealthy families.

"The median income might be $32,000," Landry said. "You must be successful here because there is no safety net," he said when referring to the school's ineligibility for TOPS funding.

Though the school produces students eligible for high-ranking universities, it does not cater exclusively to academically gifted students.

Landry said the school's culture and expectations start with building up student self-esteem.

Gifted students learn side by side with students with social and learning disabilities and "on average kids come in two to three levels below grade level," Landry said.

Classes are grouped by academic ability, are "constantly changing and there's no 'science' or 'math' class."

There is simply learning, he said.

"When you learn something, you want to learn it on mastery level," Papion said. "You don't want to learn it halfway. Like a doctor, you don't want a physician that passed college halfway. You want the best of the best. So, here we stress mastery level and truly knowing your material."

Papion said he is confident he will reach his goal of studying mathematics and computer science at New York University.

"I think the fact that you see all the things that have happened, it's proof that the system works. You've seen all the people go to these wonderful universities and you think, 'Man, what if I did this?' So, you come in, put forth a little bit of effort and you see how far a little bit of effort can go," he said. "Then you're like, 'What if I went all in and dedicated all my effort? I work with this group of people to the best of my abilities every day, how far would we get?' And that's just how it works."

– by Marlisa Harding, AP reporter

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