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Guilford student’s ‘strange’ essay appeals to Yale

The reason why some students get into Ivy League schools and others don’t is often a mystery.  The grades, the extracurriculars, the excellent test scores—Guilford High School senior Conrad Cuevas had them all.

He thinks his application to Yale stood out for one thing. “They don’t just want students, they want people,” Cuevas said. So he steered his Yale essay away from academics and toward the places he finds inspiration. He wrote about the things he can get lost in doing, like playing guitar and baseball.

Cuevas called his essay “very real, very strange.”

It’s was a very real risk he’s glad he took. Last week the Rockford Public Schools student found out he was admitted to Yale. Recalling the essay he submitted, he said the first draft was scrapped by his English teacher Erik Czerwin. Czerwin would not be surprised that Cuevas kept at it.

Conrad Cuevas going to Yale“Conrad is a very motivated student who does all the tedious, difficult work to reach higher understandings,” Czerwin said.

Cuevas’ math teacher, Nathan Kirschmann, has noticed the same thing. “If one were to diagram an ideal student, he’d probably fit most molds. Conrad always works hard. He never backs down from a challenge…While Conrad does possess a tremendous intellect, it’s his willingness to face every obstacle head on that is the impetus of his success,” Kirschmann said.

Cuevas has been on the baseball, golf and the Quiz Bowl teams at Guilford. He’s as eager a spectator as a participant, though, and this year you’ll find him cheering in the bleachers as one of three student section leaders. “It’s something I love doing,” he said.

He wasn’t always a joiner. In fact, he’s quit his share of things–like the music lessons that gave him the foundation for learning the guitar. His mother, Maleeah Cuevas, said she tried to talk him out of quitting Boy Scouts. He left anyway and regretted it. After a year, he figured what he needed to do to be readmitted to the troop. He went on to achieve the Eagle Scout rank.  

“He needed to go full circle,” she said.

The things that define him are optimism and an abiding need to help others. He doesn’t know where the former comes from, but the latter definitely comes from his three siblings and his mom and dad, he said.  

His mother says she’s speechless about the service projects he decides to do on his own. The “Study Buddies” project Cuevas has designed with a classmate at Guilford pairs 20 high-achieving seniors with 20 at-risk freshmen. It will start after winter break and involve help with homework and other support.

After having decided he’s going to Yale, he’s free to enjoy the rest of his senior year. He jokingly referred to himself in the third person. “Conrad has never been less stressed than he is right now,” he said.    

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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