Madison Guilbeau’s transformation from Nederland malcontent to “shining star” graduate celebrated

Published 12:34 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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NEDERLAND — Madison Guilbeau’s journey is what screenwriters call a hero’s journey; rise and fall and then redemption, Justice of the Peace Brad Burnett told a crowded courtroom Wednesday.

Guilbeau, this year’s Shining Star Award recipient, was a “kind of a mess” when she entered her freshman year at Nederland High School, said Brandy Roy, assistant principal.

Guilbeau was disrespectful, her behavior was defiant, there was fighting, class disruption, gestures and profanity, excessive tardiness and misconduct.

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Roy said Guilbeau took responsibility for her behavior and made a positive change.

The Shining Star recipient said the turning point was when she was classified as a freshman in what was supposed to be her sophomore year.

“I didn’t want to not be with my class and graduate with them,” Guilbeau said. “So I just kept pushing and pushing and busting my butt to get where I am today.”

Judge Burnett has presented the Shining Star Award to a high school student from Nederland or Port Neches-Groves high schools annually since 2003.

The student is one who overcame challenges and takes advantages of opportunities with a major turnaround, according to information from Burnett’s office.

“I have seen many students make big transformations in the last few years. Many “Shining Star” success stories really help motivate others to stay in school and reach their potential,” Burnett said. “They all make us proud, from receiving a heroic certificate of commendation by the U.S. Marines to moving on and excelling in college or their job. Each accomplishment is just as significant. Nederland recipient Madison Guilbeau has triumphed over hardships and will be very successful, you just watch and see.”

Guilbeau aspires to become a registered nurse and was presented with a basket of items she would need in the future from Heather Breaux, Upward Mobility Instructor at Lamar State College Port Arthur.

She also has an invitation to visit the department and see what it’s really like and shadow the instructor.

Marlisa Lopez, an RN at Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, offered support and advice for Guilbeau’s future.

Jefferson County District Attorney Keith Giblin and Family Court Judge Gordon Friesz were also among the well wishers.

Friesz said part of his job duties is as juvenile court judge.

“Congratulations. I don’t see your story. I see the other end, kids going the other way,” Friesz said. “So for you to do what you’ve done, I have a ton of admiration and respect for you.”

The family court judge plans to reach out to Guilbeau in the next few weeks to work with a mentorship program and some of the youth from the juvenile court.