Lamarre, who graduated cum laude with a degree in political science in May, moved from Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, to an area of Miami, Fla., known as "Little Haiti" at the age of nine. Growing up, Lamarre found refuge in athletics, but his mother always emphasized that it was education that would allow him to escape the rampant poverty, crime and drug abuse present in Little Haiti. Lamarre attended public school until his junior year of high school before accepting a scholarship based on financial need to Belen Jesuit High School.
His plan was to run collegiate track at a "big school," but he changed course the day he was scheduled to take the ACT. That morning, an electrical fire started in his room while he was sleeping. After he and his family escaped - in possession of nothing but the clothes they were wearing - he decided to wrap up his college decision-making process quickly to focus on the unsettled aspects of his personal life.
"I was moving constantly, and I decided that it would be better to attend one of the smaller schools I had already applied for during football, then transfer after the fall when my family settled down," Lamarre said. "Because I expected to be at Wittenberg for only a semester, I picked the school that had the strongest academic record and the most attractive Web site.
"I had no plans to stay at Witt for more than a semester. I never visited, I knew no one at the school, and I had never been to Ohio, except for a wrestling camp as a high school freshmen."
Lamarre credits the generosity of members of the Belen Jesuit community, saying he probably would have postponed the start of his college career if not for the guidance and unwavering support of his coaches, teachers and counselors. They led him on a path to Wittenberg, and the rest took care of itself.
"The smaller community at Wittenberg away from Miami has allowed me to mature as a student and as a citizen of the world," he said. "I felt like everything moved at a much slower and meaningful pace at Wittenberg. As a result, I've learned a lot about myself, others and the world through various class discussions and assignments."
He can now even joke that "my house burning down was the best thing that happened to me because it led me to Wittenberg."
He describes interactions with Wittenberg community members as "life changing." In particular, Lamarre noted a Witt Sem class taught by Professor of English Bob Davis that included a bonfire experience that made him feel like part of the community, guidance from Director of Multicultural Student Programs Forest Wortham that caused him to re-think his decision to transfer after the first semester, and professional advice from Associate Professor of Philosophy/Associate Provost for the First-Year Experience Miguel Martinez-Saenz, who persuaded him to continue to pursue his plan to work with Teach for America even after he didn't get his first choice of assignments.
That's just the beginning.
"I had a strong support network outside class," said Lamarre, who will work with Teach for America in the same Miami neighborhood where he grew up. "The Braziel family welcomed me in their home every Thanksgiving, and the Shoemakers have been a second mom and dad to me since my very first track meet.
"It is funny how just four years ago, I knew nothing about those individuals. Four years later, however, I don't know how I will manage without seeing them on a daily basis."
He knows he is well positioned to succeed after college. His Wittenberg achievements include numerous academic awards, membership in honoraries and leadership positions in the Pre-Law Association, Concerned Black Students and Wittenberg's track and field team. In addition, Lamarre was the 2008 recipient of the Alma Lux, the highest honor awarded each year to a male Wittenberg student, and editor-in-chief of Levitas, Wittenberg's Journal of Political Science, during the 2008-09 school year.
He continues to aim high, hoping to earn a law degree and eventually run for mayor of Miami or become the ambassador to Haiti.
"Wittenberg has helped me understand the importance of community involvement," said Lamarre, who earned three varsity letters in track and also participated on the football team for two years. "I will continue to live with the values of service and learning emphasized on Wittenberg's campus.
"Wittenberg has helped prepare me for this path by providing me with a structure and a positive environment to gain a lot of leadership experience through various clubs and internships, while also building my critical thinking skills and my writing skills through engaging courses.
- Written by Ryan Maurer
- Photo By: Erin Pence