From cross-country to academics to languages to violin, 17-year-old Héloïse Hedlund is a Renaissance woman.
“She defines well-rounded,” said Sue Colbert, a guidance counselor at Hough High.
Of all the things she does and loves, Héloïse (pronounced Eloise) has the strongest affinity for languages. She’s fluent in four: French, German, English and Spanish. Her mother is French, and Héloïse was born in Pau, France. Her father is German.
The Hedlunds moved to the United States when Héloïse was an infant, and moved from New Jersey to Charleston to Kentucky, and they’ve been in Cornelius for the past seven years.
Héloïse learned English growing up in the States, and she has taken Spanish in school – she’s currently in Advanced Placement Spanish, which is at the college-freshman level. She’d like to learn Arabic next.
“I really like the idea of being able to communicate with people in different cultures,” Héloïse said, adding that she feels better connected with the history of a place by knowing the area’s language.
Héloïse is a history lover: She helped start the school chapter of the national history honors society Rho Kappa at Hough last year. “I just have a thing for history.”
“She has been instrumental in getting it launched and off to a fast start,” said Alan Vitale, who taught Héloïse AP U.S. history last year. He said the chapter was one of the first in the state, and with about 130 kids, is Hough’s largest subject-area honors society.
Héloïse is also a member of the National Honor Society, the math honors society and DECA. She runs indoor and outdoor track and recently reached black-belt status in taekwondo. In the school orchestra, Héloïse is second chair for violin, which she’s played since she was 4. She sings in the chorus, too.
Last year, she and three friends formed a quartet and played for a handful of wedding ceremonies. Héloïse said she’s looking forward to “marriage season” this spring for more opportunities.
Her cultural identity, she said, is unique: She feels French in America and American in France, where she visits in the summers.
Vitale said Héloïse brought a fresh perspective and strong work ethic to his history class. “She just had such insightful observations about America,” he said. “She is one of the hardest-working students I’ve ever taught.”
As for languages, she loves the funny expressions of English and the stories behind them (“raining cats and dogs,” “needle in a haystack”), but, she says, “I do love the sound of French.”
She’s a big reader – tackling J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” now – and also tries to keep up with French classics, like “Le Rouge et le Noir.”
Héloïse is in the college decision process, and she knows she’d like to study languages. After college, she’s considering joining the Peace Corps.
She first heard about it from her grandmother, who told her about how the Peace Corps helped her in North Africa. A mock United Nations session also piqued her interest in the organization.
“It’s helping people in another country – it’s everything I want to do.”
Colbert said Héloïse is naturally motivated to work hard and succeed.
“I don’t know when she finds time to sleep,” she joked. “She’s constantly trying something new.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens
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