Destrehan High School Salutatorian: Helena Schuler

Helena Schuler volunteering at food bank.

Just one week ago, Helena Schuler earned the distinction of Destrehan High School salutatorian. Two years prior to that, however, she earned a different prize she takes pride in – her black belt.

On the surface, attending class at Destrehan and learning the ins and outs of taekwondo seem to be as comparable as night and day, but there were translatable skills between the activities that enabled Schuler to be accomplished in each: discipline and self-control.

She learned that she was in the running to be salutatorian from her father upon his return from a conference with her teachers.

“My English teacher told him I’d probably be the salutatorian if I kept my grades up. He told me and it was like, ‘Oh, nice!’ I wasn’t actively going for it and didn’t necessarily expect it when it happened, but I’m proud of it,” Schuler said.

She credited her teachers, friends and family for helping to make it a reality for her, but she also gave a nod to an unexpected source: just a bit of old-fashioned luck.

“I was lucky to go to a good school with good teachers. And my friends as well … I’m friends with a lot of really smart people, and any one of them could have been salutatorian and I’d feel they absolutely deserved it. That I got it was kind of random … we all help one another out.”

After Hurricane Ida, she was displaced from her home and was staying with her uncle in Arizona.

“I was fortunate to be in a good place, out of the range of the storm … my dad and I were able to figure out a way to stay up to date with my classes,” she said. “It was definitely a lot of hard work, but I was also lucky to have the right people and to be in the right place at the right time.”

Schuler is headed to LSU to study computer science, and is excited where that process could take her in the near future. She doesn’t have a particular job pursuit in mind – but that’s by design.

“I don’t want to lock into any one solid thing … I want to stay flexible,” she said. “I feel like with the tech industry, we’re in a moment of change with all of the A.I. coming out. When I graduate college, I want to see what kind of jobs are popping up and what’s available. It will probably be a totally different scene in even just a couple of years.

“I feel like we’re on the cusp of a new era, and I can be there at the start of it all.”

Schuler was in the Interact club where she and her fellow members would lend a hand in the community and around school. Outside of school, she has been a frequent volunteer at the Matthew 25:35 food pantry in Destrehan, helping to feed the hungry.

“In the late morning or early afternoon, there’s not a lot of people who can go help out, but (on the days her class schedule ended early) I could go,” Schuler said. “And I like to help.”

Her interest in taekwondo began about eight years ago, and her journey has led her to become an instructor at Tiger Rock Martial Arts of Destrehan.

“(Learning taekwondo) was, I think, the only new year’s resolution I’ve actually stuck with,” Schuler said.

It’s a different way to explore myself. You really have to work with your body and mind in tandem … now I’m a certified instructor and it’s pretty cool. I’ve had so many teachers help me throughout my life and now I get to do that for others.”


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