Snohomish student serves on national college panel

By ERIC STEVICK

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — Kat Cuevas doesn’t feel out of place as she scans the return e-mail addresses from the likes of the University of California, Stanford and Yale.

They belong to her peers on a prestigious national committee — the College Board’s Advisory Panel on Student Concerns.

Cuevas, a senior at Snohomish High School, is one of 16 members on the board, which will meet in New York City in January.

"It says a lot about the people, but it doesn’t intimidate me," Cuevas said. "You just know you are working with some high-quality people."

Each year, the board serves more than 3 million students and their parents, 22,000 high schools and 3,500 colleges through major programs and services in admissions, guidance, assessment and financial aid.

Its best-known programs are the high-stakes SAT exam and the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test along with the Advanced Placement program, which allows high school students to get college credit if they pass rigorous exams.

The student advisory board members provide a kind of reality check. They are the ones making the transition from high school to college, feeling the stress of taking make-or-break tests, filling out the applications and analyzing the financial aid packages.

"They are in the trenches," said Brooke Breslow, executive director of associational affairs for the board. "These are the students who are going through the experience, and they share it openly."

The board receives hundreds of applications each year for roughly a half-dozen vacancies on its advisory panel.

"We are not seeking valedictorians and salutatorians," Breslow said. "We are seeking dedicated students who can speak their minds and give us a candid assessment of how we can help students better."

Speaking her mind is no problem for Cuevas.

"I am deeply opinionated," she said with a laugh.

Opinionated and involved.

Cuevas served as freshman, sophomore and junior class president and is now the SHS Associated Student Body president. She was also a co-captain of the school’s swim team, which recently won its third-straight state championship.

Yet there is much she does behind the scenes that impresses her teachers.

She has tutored Spanish-speaking elementary school students in English, given swim lessons to disabled children and helped organize a senior citizens dinner hosted by SHS students.

Justin Fox-Bailey, an honors English teacher, believes the motivation is intrinsic.

"I have worked with many students who felt that their own involvement with school and community leadership was a way to advance their own college or career goals," he wrote in a letter of recommendation. "Kat is one of the rare few who really enjoys service and sees it as a way to better her community and not just pad her resume."

Cuevas doesn’t mention her association with the College Board much around campus. She does believe, however, that her position on a national committee reflects on the quality of her community and the education it has provided her.

It is an education that takes in much more than exams, she said.

"There is a good balance," she said. "It’s not just whether you can pass a test or not but what you learn along the way."

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