LEWISTON — Sophomore year in high school, Dustin Carrier was pretty convinced he wanted to be a pharmacist. Then, he says, “I started hanging out with little old ladies.”

That changed everything.

Mowing eight to 10 lawns that summer, he said, he saved up $1,100 to buy his first car, a 1988 Toyota pickup, months before he even had his license. Throughout high school, he kept mowing. Throughout his years at the University of Maine, he kept mowing.

“By the time I graduated college, I had like 50 little old ladies,” Carrier told 300-plus eighth-graders at Lewiston Middle School on Monday afternoon.

He used the experience, and the clients, to launch a one-man business, Carrier Lawn and Landscape.

Carrier, a 2004 Lewiston high grad, was honored as the middle school’s START Star, part of its Steps to Accomplishing Real Life Transitions aspirations week. He talked about his own path, through sports and through school using pictures from his past.

Carrier started swimming as a sophomore and went on to a successful career that lasted into college. He told kids it was OK to laugh at a photo of him with his shaved head, wearing a Speedo. Last year, he came back to the sport as an assistant coach for the Lewiston swim team.

“He is a home-grown super star,” said Billie Jo Brito, Project START director.

The fourth annual START event, part transition to high school, part inspirational push, picks a Lewiston grad to celebrate every year.

Several speakers before Carrier encouraged the eighth-graders to try new things in high school, get involved in clubs and competitions and not to worry; the 1,300-student school isn’t as big and hard to navigate as they might fear.

High school aspirations coordinator JoAnne Dowd encouraged them to weigh decisions and make sure choices open more doors than close them. Those choices, she said, include things like trying your hardest and deciding to attend class everyday.

Carrier challenged the class of 2014 to try at least three activities in their next four years. He wouldn’t have tried swimming, he said, if a friend hadn’t asked.

“I had never swam a lap before in my life, I could barely doggie paddle in the pool,” Carrier said. “It turned out to be the best sport I ever got involved with.”

He said he switched his career aspirations when he decided he’d rather be outside than in. He graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in business.

“I come home completely filthy,” he said, and loves it.

[email protected]