From a very young age it has been clear that Helena Lagos is driven.
As a 9-year-old girl, Lagos was given $15 that she could use toward a cellphone, but she would have to come up with the remaining $15 it would cost by herself. She diligently worked toward earning that money, selling bunnies, doughnuts and avocados.
“Within a week she had the money for her cellphone,” her mother said, laughing.
This is just one example of the many feats the Legacy High School junior has accomplished throughout her life despite, or perhaps because of, her diverse background.
You see, Lagos wasn’t born in the United States. She was born in Comayaguela, Honduras.
“Honduras is a beautiful country, but I often felt paranoid while being there,” she said. “It is ranked the No. 1 murder capital of the world.”
Her mother, Elena Pineda, described the current political situation: “They’re trying to install a dictatorship by making it look like socialism.”
When Lagos was 2 years old, her parents were divorced and it was just her grandmother, her mother and herself until she was 10.
“There were always absurd reasons as to why my father would constantly walk in and out of my life,” she said. “But I never really cared.”
Despite her spoken indifference, her mother said she believes the absence of her father has been an obstacle she’s had to overcome throughout her life.
When Lagos was 4, her mother and grandmother decided to enroll her in a bilingual school. They believed that in order to get ahead in life, she needed to learn English.
For six years, her grandmother, who she described as one of the biggest influences in her life, paid for her to attend this school. While there, she was enrolled in as many as 12 to 13 classes so she was able to learn about a lot of different subjects. Because of all of the deadlines she had to meet, her work ethic was greatly enhanced.
When Lagos was 10, her mother married Kash Christopher, whom she’d met when he was in the Air Force stationed in Honduras. His next station was Nellis Air Force Base, so to Las Vegas they moved. Leaving their family back in Honduras has been a challenge in Lagos’ life.
“I miss my family, friends and especially the Honduran food,” she said. “But I have taken advantage of every opportunity and situation I have been able to during my time here in Las Vegas.”
Now that Lagos is in high school, she has excelled. She is enrolled in several advanced placement classes and is maintaining a 3.8 grade-point average.
Lagos also does well outside the classroom. She participates in DECA, an organization that teaches youths across the nation about entrepreneurship. She is the Nevada DECA state secretary as well as an ambassador.
Every year, there is a state conference where members compete for awards. This past year Lagos took home several, including the president’s volunteer service award pin; the president’s letter of recognition; the DECA lifetime ambassador award; the tri-leadership letter of recognition; and first place in the international business plan event, a 30-page written event that qualified her to attend the International Career and Development Conference in Anaheim, Calif.
Lagos is also involved with student council where she serves as the Legacy High School junior class vice president. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, Legacy’s tennis team and varsity quiz.
Desperately desiring a varsity letter but never having been very athletic, Lagos used her tireless drive to earn a letter in tennis.
“She’s not even an athlete, she doesn’t play, she doesn’t run, she doesn’t even work out!” her mother joked. “But she wanted that varsity letter and she got it.”
“Whether it’s helping a DECA member with a question, or making student council posters, I love what I do,” Lagos said.
Lagos said that her parents and DECA motivate her. Her stepfather, whom she calls “Pops,” is stationed in Afghanistan and she wishes to earn a full-ride scholarship to college so he can come home.
DECA provides inspiration not just because she wants to become an entrepreneur, but because she feels that as an officer and ambassador she has learned many things.
“It’d be a waste if I let those lessons go and didn’t apply them to my daily life,” she said.
“Helena is a strong leader and a true team player. She is very eager to learn and very intelligent,” said Kim McCoy, her DECA adviser.
Now that high school is coming to an end and Lagos is beginning to think about her future, she sees herself becoming an entrepreneur, something she’s loved since a young age. “I always loved to find some way to make a few lempiras, Honduran currency,” she said.
She sees herself going to college. After graduation she wants to return to Honduras to start a business so she doesn’t have to take out loans. After she creates some revenue, she hopes to return to the United States.
“I have accomplished so many things, and my life is pretty awesome,” Lagos said.