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NFA senior pushes herself and her sister to succeed

Norwich – When Marvelouse Guerrier was a sophomore at Norwich Free Academy and ready to “spread out” from the familiarity of French Club and Haitian Club, the tall, slender formerly shy Haitian immigrant wanted to try sports.

“I kind of needed a spring sport,” Guerrier said. “I'm not very good with sticks, so lacrosse was out.”

She settled on track and competed in the triple jump, the high jump and the 100-meter race. “My first year, I was mediocre,” she said.

Everyone who knows Marvelouse Deborah Nursie Guerrier, also knows that “mediocre” was not acceptable. At 6 feet, 1 inch tall, the senior Guerrier placed second in the Eastern Connecticut Conference in the long jump and third in the triple jump.

The bronze medal she earned for oration in past years' Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics also wasn't good enough. In April, Guerrier, who had immigrated to the United States knowing no English in fourth grade, won the gold medal for oration in the regional ACT-SO competition and now will compete in the national ACT-SO championships in Cincinnati in July.

“I kept saying 'next year, I'll go to nationals,'” Guerrier said. “I finally made it.”

As she prepares to graduate from NFA on June 10, awards and accolades have been piling up. On May 27, she was one of two NFA seniors honored as “the 100 Future Leaders of Color” in Connecticut at the Bushnell in Hartford. The award came with a scholarship to cover college textbooks.

Last Thursday, Guerrier was presented with the $2,000 St. Anthony Chapel Foundation Scholarship, a Norwich entity funded by the Edward and Mary Lord Foundation. St. Anthony Foundation board President Roberta Vincent also presented her with a crystal globe imprinted with what she described as Guerrier’s attributes: “Excellence, Be the Best and You’re a Star.”

Guerrier, who also received the 2015 Norwich NAACP Martin Luther King Scholarship in January, will enter the School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington D.C. in fall. She said GW offered her a “very generous” scholarship package. She plans to major in international economics and French, and in five years hopes to be doing humanitarian work “maybe in the United Nations,” she said.

Guerrier, 17, of Norwich – mostly called by her middle name “Debbie” at school – credited NFA, the Norwich public school system and her family for turning a quiet, shy girl into a confident, engaged, college-bound senior.

Guerrier is the daughter of Lamarre and Nancy Guerrier. Her younger sister, Guercie, 15, is a sophomore at NFA this year. Debbie Guerrier learned independence and the value of family early in life, when her parents moved from Haiti to the United States in 1999 when she was just a baby. She lived with aunts and cousins in a rural area. Guerrier loved her early years in Haiti, she said.

Her parents retrieved her when she was 8 years old. She arrived at their Taftville home a bit lost in the new culture and language. She even needed to get to know her younger sister.

Debbie entered the bilingual class of teacher Dawn Davis at the John M. Moriarty School. At home, her father, an intervention specialist in the diversity office at NFA, would use flash cards to boost her English. The following year, he pulled her out of the ELL program and she entered regular classes as Wequonnoc School in Taftville. Guerrier credited Davis, who also speaks French Creole, for her quick progress in learning English.

“The transition was easy because of her,” Guerrier said of Davis. “I think I was ready.”

Guerrier embraced school and her sister. Looking at their resumes, a sibling competition seems to be in play. Guercie, called “GG” wanted to join all the same clubs as her older sister at NFA, and compete in ACT-SO. She wanted to play sports too. They differed a bit in that department, as GG -- apparently good with sticks -- chose lacrosse, along with volleyball and basketball. Debbie Guerrier said she has tried to push her sister to find her own way.

“She's basically like me, only better,” Debbie Guerrier said. “I want her to learn from the mistakes I made. I push her a lot. 'Grades before sports.'”

And like her sister before her, Guercie Guerrier won the bronze medal this year in oration in ACT-SO.


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