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For Albuquerque 11-year-old, ‘it’s father-son all the time’

June 18, 2018 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE — Lawrance Cordova has lived in a working-class neighborhood in northeast Albuquerque all 11 years of his life. His house is nondescript, save for a big sign in the front window featuring a picture of a loaded six-shooter and the ominous words: “Warning: Anyone Found Here At Night Will Be Found Here In The Morning.”

A few steps from the front door, a pair of black horns dries in the sun.

“It was a goat,” Lawrance says.

He is a shy kid, at least with strangers, but he lights up as he describes how he killed the animal. “I shot it in the head, and it just flopped down.”

The way he puts it sounds less macabre than matter-of-fact. For Lawrance, harvesting animals for food is a family bonding experience. The goat ended up as series of roasts, ribs and barbecue that helped feed his brothers, father and himself for many weeks.

Lawrance loves spending time with his dad, Antonio, on the shooting range and on hunting trips. The boy has a stocky build and is strong for his age, but Antonio says he isn’t quite old enough to shoot an elk.

In the meantime, he comes along to the family’s favorite hunting spot in Gallina, just north of Cuba, and helps set up the campsite and haul in the kill. He’s got his own hunting bow and is working on his aim.

Lawrance is into basketball, too, and spends time shooting hoops with his 16-year-old brother, Hector. “My younger brother’s just 3,” Lawrance says, so he’s no good on the family basketball team.

Antonio is raising his kids by himself; their mother hasn’t been around since Lawrance was 3. Antonio, who owns a pest control business, works hard to make sure his boys have what they need. Most Sundays, he takes them to Mass at St. Bernadette Shrine to hone their moral compass.

“For us, it’s father-son time all the time,” Antonio says, motioning to Lawrance. “I’m just working on teaching him to be respectful and teaching him family values.”

Some of that registers well with Lawrance. But at Chelwood Elementary School, where he just completed fifth grade, his teacher had concerns. Roawn Lee, the principal, said he could sometimes be a bully, pushing and shoving, playing aggressively with the other kids. That behavior landed him in “structured recess,” a separate, monitored space for youngsters to work on social skills while their classmates play outside.

Yet “bully” is too simplistic a label for Lawrance, who has a strong leadership streak, evidenced by his decision to run for student council president this past school year. In his application, he laid out his reason for seeking election:

“I think I could be a good person … I can also be a good role model. A new year a new Lawrance.”

The election ended in a tie between Lawrance and one of his classmates. Instead of holding a runoff, the students of Chelwood decided to make Lawrance and his opponent co-presidents.

When he grows up, he wants to be a police officer or a Navy SEAL — jobs that will allow him to help people, as he’s told Lou Luna, a volunteer mentor at Youth Development Inc. with whom he’s worked for the past two years.

Lawrance is a good kid, in Luna’s considered opinion. The mentor, who raised four children of his own, is also quick to add that he and the teachers at Chelwood have begun to see a change in Lawrance’s behavior.

“It’s not a behavior that’s ingrained and that he can’t work out of,” says Luna, who has arranged visits from city police officers, who occasionally drop in on their mentoring sessions to offer advice on leadership skills and résumé-building tips.

In a couple of months, Lawrance will be in middle school. He’s excited for the change, if a little nervous.

“He’s a smart kid,” Antonio says. “He just doesn’t use his brain right sometimes, and would rather goof off, so he gets a bad grade.”

If, after high school, Lawrance decides to join the U.S. Navy or enroll in the Albuquerque Police Academy, that would make his father proud. But he’ll also be happy if Lawrance takes over the family pest control business.

Searchlight New Mexico is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to investigative journalism.