DHS salutatorian Ashlyn Frahm is headed to Harvard

Frahm wants to continue working in robotics

Ashlyn Frahm is this year’s salutatorian for Destrehan High School (DHS).

Although Frahm’s success is marked by lots of late nights and homework, this pragmatic teen maintained it’s a distinction anyone can earn – whether salutatorian or valedictorian – that can be had with hard work.

“It’s an honor,” she said of her own recognition as a 4.0 GPA student. “Going into high school, I didn’t think this is where I’d be, but I can definitely say I worked very hard to be where I am now and am very lucky to be in the situation I am in.”

Already wearing a Harvard T-shirt, Frahm is gearing up to attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., to pursue a degree in computer science and electrical engineering. She also will take classes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, which she described as “the best outcome I could have hoped for.”

Frahm’s major achievements include being named a National Merit Finalist, a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, selected for MITES (Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science) program at MIT and the Cornell Women In Engineering program, receiving the Cox Inspirational Hero Award, becoming the 2015 champions of the FIRST Robotics Bayou Regional and being in the Gifted Program for English and Math from grades 3 to 12.

“I found my niche in the robotics team here,” she said, a member of Wildcast Robotics. “It feels like I’m at home and contribute in large part.”

It’s also been an incredible winning year.The Wildcats Robotics team placed first in the Bayou Regional against highly financed teams from the U.S. and then finished in the top 5 percent in the world in national competition.

“It’s some place that we never thought – ever, but my team has worked incredibly hard this season and I’m sure this year set a precedent for the Wildcat robotics,” Frahm said. “The competition is growing in incredible numbers and the world competition is getting larger.”

Far more important than asking about how a girl is doing on a male-dominated team is how it has opened doors for her.“If it weren’t for robotics involvement, I would not be going to Harvard or be salutatorian,” Frahm said. “It teaches you all the skills you need or expect from education – problem solving, team work and leadership. It has really allowed me to be where I am right now.”

The work has been challenging, but she said it motivated her to pursue a career in electrical engineering and computer science.

She will continue to pursue robotics by joining the Harvard Robotics Team.

For Frahm, robotics emphasized creativity and innovation, and utilized skills from a wide array of disciplines, including electrical, mechanical and computer engineering, along with the liberal arts.

“Robotics allows students to learn by doing and to find new solutions to the world’s problems,” she said. “The field of robotics reflects these principles, and as a long time student in the Gifted program here in St. Charles Parish, robotics allows me to express the creativity I was taught to celebrate and nurture throughout my education. Robotics is a crossroad between science and application and allows me to explore my curiosity for a number of different fields of engineering.”

Frahm’s determination to keep her sights on moving forward has kept her from looking back at life altering events like being adopted at a few weeks old to overcoming serious health issues from her birth mother having used drugs and alcohol while she was pregnant with Frahm. She was born paralyzed on the left side of body, which required years of physical and speech therapy to overcome. She has not met her birth parents, maintaining her parents are the people who raised her.

“I say that being adopted has been both a blessing and sort of an obstacle,” Frahm said. “It’s not really been something that has challenged me or has directly influenced me. Being adopted has had me thinking about appreciating what I have and the situation I’ve been placed in.”

Despite people typically assuming adoption is a negative thing, she has viewed it as a positive development in her life in that her adoptive family gave her opportunities she needed to succeed.

Frahm is making her way and in a typically male-dominated field.

“It’s really a mental obstacle more than a physical one,” she said. “I chose to live in the present and look towards the future, to make my future better rather than staying in the past. The path ahead is yours to define.”

About Anna Thibodeaux 1959 Articles
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