September 17, 2004
Her name was synonymous with the success of the University of Maine NCAA Division I women's basketball program just a few years ago, and now Tracy Guerrette, a graduate of the state's flagship campus, is following her heart, leaving behind U-Maine Black Bear blue and white for University of Maine at Fort Kent Bengal green and gold.
A 2003 graduate of U-Maine's bachelor of science in biology program, Guerrette, had intended on using her outstanding academic career at the Orono campus to continue her education, and ultimately pursue a career in medicine, but a deep faith and ever-present desire to work with children has drawn her back home to her native St. John Valley and to the teacher certification program at UMFK.
Guerrette, 24, who is among the students in the largest-ever incoming class on the Fort Kent campus, is perhaps the most recognized member of the UMFK student body. Many fellow students, as well as UMFK faculty and staff members, have done a double-take as the basketball star passes them in the halls or turns up in their class.
"I'm a bit uncomfortable about being recognized. At Orono I was just a number. People recognized me as a basketball player, but it was no big deal," said Guerrette. "The great part about being back here and at UMFK is that it gives me an opportunity to be a good role model for kids. I think kids need a good role model today."
The former U-Maine women's basketball stand-out, whose name ranks alongside other well-known stars of the program like Cindy Blodget and Rachel Bouchard, played for the Black Bears from 1998-2002, following a very successful basketball record at Wisdom High School in St. Agatha.
During her time playing at Orono, Guerrette served as captain of the team for two years, earned the coach's award and senior award, was among the most active team members participating in community service activities, and served on the athletic advisory board, all the while becoming a highly recognized figure in the Maine sports world.
It was Guerrette's love for basketball, combined with her strong Christian faith, which led her to postpone attending medical school upon her graduation from U-Maine in 2003, and instead sign up as a basketball missionary with a group called Campus Crusade for Christian Athletes.
In August of 2003, her team spent a month in Nigeria, competing against professional and college teams, and spreading their faith as part of the missionary work.
Upon her return to this country, Guerrette was asked to play on another faith-based exhibition team "Athletes in Action". She spent the next three months traveling to colleges and universities throughout the United States, playing and sharing her faith with basketball players.
It was after that second basketball tour, around Thanksgiving, that Guerrette returned home to St. Agatha.
Considering what to do next, she applied for an opening at Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville for an educational technician to work with children with special needs, and began working shortly thereafter.
"Before my senior year at U-Maine I was beginning to have a change of heart in what I wanted to do with my life. I was coming to realize that I really loved working with kids," said Guerrette. "After spending time working at Dr. Levesque, I knew working with children was what I wanted to do. It was something my mother had seen in me earlier, but I kind of bucked it at first."
Her mother, Therese Guerrette, a 1980 graduate of UMFK, was certainly capable of recognizing a teacher in the making. She is a long-time educator in the SAD 33 school district, where she teaches middle school special needs students.
"I heard Fort Kent had a great education program. My mother certainly spoke very highly of it," said Guerrette. "I thought it would be perfect for me."
During her first week on campus, Guerrette has confirmed that belief.
"My experience has been just wonderful. I love being in school. I really missed it," said Guerrette.
The basketball star didn't waste a moment getting acquainted with athletics at UMFK. She inquired about possibly playing on the university's soccer team, but was informed her four years of intercollegiate play at U-Maine made her ineligible.
Guerrette is, however, planning a unique return to the basketball court that she once dominated at Wisdom High School. She was recently named varsity women's basketball head coach at her former high school.
"I love being up here. I love the Valley and I love the people," said Guerrette. "I feel I've been so blessed. My faith is very strong. All I want to do is give back to my community using the gifts God has given me."