On a night where the top student at each of St. Charles Parish’s public schools were honored, three major achievers earned the school district’s top accolade.
Thanuja Parasuraman of St. Rose Elementary School, Isabella LeBlanc of R.K. Smith Middle School and Sean Baltazar of Destrehan High School were named the 2023 St. Charles Parish Students of the Year, one representative each chosen for elementary, middle and high school levels.
Each student will move on to compete in the regional contest. The students were recognized with an acrylic movie poster plaque, and the parish level winners also received star awards. To be selected as a student of the year, a student must earn a cumulative 3.1 GPA and be in grade 5, 8, or 12. All students of the year must compile a portfolio, write a biographical sketch, and be interviewed by a Student Achievement Committee.
Baltazar has achieved a cumulative GPA of 4.3774 and a score of 34 on the ACT. He is a team captain of the Wildcats highly successful Robotics team and helped the program reach the World Championships. He’s been a part of numerous clubs at Destrehan and is also a regularly volunteer in the community.
“Winning district high school Student of the Year was honestly surreal,” he said. “I was already ecstatic to be just Destrehan’s. Winning district was an amazing feeling, and I’m so proud to represent St. Charles Parish.”
It was a message from Baltazar’s grandfather that shapes much of his current philosophy.
“He told me that when you have talent and abilities, you need to share them with others,” he said. “I’ve really held on to that belief. And even though he’s not here anymore, he always had clear goals in life and he achieved them. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is.”
He fondly remembers the first big road trip he and his teammates went on for regional competition in robotics. He’d ultimately help spur the team to be a division semifinalist at the world championship competition and an undefeated Magnolia regional champion. His mentorship of Norco Elementary robotics team members might just lead to a few more victories for local squads in future competition.
“I think a leader can only be measured by how much they bring others along with them,” he said. “When you have knowledge, I think it’s incumbent upon you to share that with those who don’t have it already.”
LeBlanc earned the Junior Leader award with the St. Charles Parish 4-H club and takes part in numerous endeavors around R.K. Smith, including its newspaper club, robotics team and theatre. She’s also earned a first-place finish at the school’s science fair and a second-place finish at the school district’s science fair and has several first-place finishes across multiple levels of the Young Authors competition. LeBlanc volunteers regularly as well.
Her passion is writing.
“I love to read. I’m a huge book nerd,” LeBlanc said. “We break down and analyze what we’re reading and the authors and making that connection of ‘Oh, that’s what they meant.’ It’s one of the best feelings I’ve had in my life. All of that allows me to have better understanding and to be a better writer.”
LeBlanc’s mother is her inspiration, someone she says has given her strength.”
I think the main thing that allowed me to succeed is the never-ending love and support from my family. I want them to see me as a great kid who makes them proud every day,” she said.
LeBlanc said the announcement that she was a district Student of the Year winner came as a shock.
“When they first announced me as the district winner, it didn’t feel real. The day after the award ceremony I walked into school and saw my name on a banner and everyone was clapping for me and I was overcome with pride. I was extremely happy that I was able to represent my school so well,” LeBlanc said.
Parasuraman has earned numerous certificates of excellence, of competition and of achievement in her time at St. Rose Elementary thus far. Her artwork was selected for the Alligator Festival and she placed second at the St. Rose science fair. She is a member of her school band, choir and talented art.
She said her parents inspire her every day to strive for improvement.
‘“Both came to the USA to find a better job for themselves and create a more suitable life for their children,” Parasuraman said. “They went away from their families to make a new home in this country.”
She said knowing others could look up to her drives her to be a leader.
“I like to encourage people,” she said.
One day she aspires to be a cardiologist, a natural fit for someone who counts science as her favorite subject.
“Science is literally everywhere,” she said. “There’s unlimited knowledge that you can get. I was always a very curious child and I like to learn new things. Science gives me that. I feel like life is an expedition that never really ends.”
Each school in St. Charles Parish saw a representative honored as its Student of the Year.
Ryleigh Adams – Ethel Schoeffner Elementary School
Amelie Fuselier – Lakewood Elementary School
Alice Barrett – Luling Elementary School
Patia Jones – Norco Elementary School
Katie Babin – R.J. Vial Elementary School
Aaron Zhang – Hahnville High School
Juliana Santos – Albert Cammon Middle School
Violet Bordes – Harry Hurst Middle School
Jackson Porter – J.B. Martin Middle School