Seventeen-year-old Cameron Clark gained more than a little spending money as a summer intern at Paris Harley-Davidson, and the dealership gained more than a little extra help through the summer.

“Something quite remarkable happened,” Lamar County Chamber of Commerce President Paul Allen said about the result of a new program that placed more than 20 students at local businesses. “The connection made a change in a business, and in a young man’s life.”

During a visit to the motorcycle shop to speak with owner Cody Chapman a couple weeks ago, Allen said he was surprised to see the North Lamar senior athlete still on the job. After visiting briefly with Donna Chapman, the owner’s mother, Allen said he learned the reason why.

“‘You will never understand what he has done for us,’” Allen said, sharing her words.“‘These guys have adopted this young man, and have changed their whole outlook on life.’”

“This is the proudest moment I have had,” Allen said of a conversation with Cody Chapman. “When he started talking about Cameron, he got teary-eyed and I got teary-eyed, and his whole demeanor changed.”

“His personality is awesome; he is positive all the time, and he is inspiring,” Chapman said during an exclusive interview earlier this week. “He is always welcome to come back here and work. We will find a spot for him; I love him to death, I really do.”

Cameron also expressed respect for his boss.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from Mr. Cody is it doesn’t matter who you are, everybody is the same,” he said. “I really respect him a lot.”

Cameron’s first assignment was in the sales department, welcoming customers and directing them where they needed to go for sales or for service, Chapman said. “He did an amazing job, and after a few weeks we put him in the service department so he could get a feel for the whole dealership.”

Service manager Paul Golden said the young man fit right in.

“I saw he had a lot of drive and wanted to learn as much as he could about working on motorcycles,” Golden said. “He learns fast, does a good job and everybody likes having him back here. I told him I wanted him to continue working, so he gave me his school schedule and we worked it out so he can work as much as he wants to work.”

Cameron expressed gratitude for the opportunity afforded him through the internship program and to the dealership “for taking me in and treating me like family.”

“There are so many things I would not have gotten to do like being around all these cool motorcycles, driving a forklift and even flying over Pat Mayse in an airplane,” Cameron said.

About his experience in sales, Cameron said it was scary at first because he didn’t know a lot about motorcycles and didn’t know much of speaking to random strangers.

“It was a little weird with people coming in from California and Minnesota and all around the country with these huge motorcycles all padded up,” he said. “Motorcycle fans all have stories, and some of them have some tall tales, too.”

Cameron said he is still not sure why “people took to me here, but I’m glad they did.”

“Before I knew it, I was taken out to lunch by everyone in leadership,” he said.

When the conversation led to work ethic, Cameron said his grandmother, Billie Paskin, a retired North Lamar ISD teacher, is his role model.

“That’s all she does is help people and work,” Cameron said. “She has had a big influence on me.”

He also credits football coach Aaron Emeyabbi, track coach Katie Emeyabbi, and Skills USA instructor Jared Reaves for inspiration. From athletics, Cameron said he has learned there is somebody that can “one up you” and you “need to stay humble and work harder than anyone else.

“There’s always someone bigger, faster, stronger; but, it’s not the size of the dog, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” he said.

Because of Skills USA competition, Cameron said he has learned to work under pressure, having placed at regional in diesel competition and third at state in marine competition.

He hopes to take experienced gained at work and compete in motorcycle competition this year.

Upon graduation, Cameron will become a U.S. Marine, having signed up for service earlier this year.

“We want him to know he is always welcome to come back here and work,” Chapman said. And about the Chamber’s internship program, he said, “It’s a program we will always participate in without a doubt.”

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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