2016 Sebastien Lannelongue

Sebastien Lannelongue

Southwest High School, Minneapolis, MN

Strength. Determination. Fortitude. These are the words Sebastien Lannelongue’s nominator uses to describe his character. Looking back to his early childhood, Sebastien wouldn’t have anticipated having to overcome tremendous challenges and needing to develop and rely so heavily on these traits

Sebastien and his fraternal twin, Paul, were born into a loving, stable, and economically secure family in Mexico City. But at six years old, Sebastien would say good-bye to his father when he passed away unexpectedly. Years later and struggling to raise two boys alone in Mexico City, his mother would move the family to the United States.

Though sad to leave home, Sebastien adapted to a new lifestyle, culture, and language in the U.S. He thanks his mother, who ensured her children were enrolled in a good school and helped them learn English. During his sophomore year, Sebastien learned he would have to say good-bye to his mother, too, when she was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

When many teenagers would be spending time with friends, Sebastien became busy shuttling his mother to her medical appointments and his brother to his extracurricular activities. With his mother too ill to work, Sebastien took on multiple jobs to help support his family: golf caddy at Minnetrista Golf Course, cashier at Great Harvest, and shift supervisor at Bruegger’s Bagels. His mother’s medicine was expensive, and the family struggled to make ends meet; they enrolled in general assistance. In the summer of 2015, Sebastien’s mother passed away.

Throughout high school, and despite difficulty at home, Sebastien continues to succeed academically. He maintains a 3.4 grade point average, speaks three languages fluently, played football and lacrosse for three years, and participated in STRIVE, a community mentorship program providing students with real-life career experience.

Sebastien now excels for the mother he lost: “After losing my mom, I told myself that the last thing I could do was ruin my future by failing at school. Being well educated and going to college was what my mother considered success. I knew how hard my mom had worked for me and how bad she wanted me to succeed,” he says. College is in Sebastien’s future, and he plans to pursue a career in business.

“There’s no way of changing the past… What’s ahead of you is what really matters, and you can change that and make it as positive and as successful as you want it to be,” Sebastien says. He is a living example.