The following was read by SI Principal Patrick Ruff at the June 3 graduation:
This award is presented to a member of the senior class who demonstrates character, dedication, and enthusiasm, and one who sincerely strives for the betterment of the school community.
Our recipient this year is a young woman with a variety of gifts, talents, and interests. She reflects the ideals of Jesuit education and is an impressive example of our aspiration and hope for the future. She has a positive approach to all things and is recognized by teachers and peers alike for her leadership, generosity, and enthusiasm. Showcasing her variety of gifts, she represented SI athletically in Track and Field, Cross Country, and Volleyball, is a classically trained pianist, and was a member of the Robotics Club. She was an altar server, Eucharistic minister and Kairos Retreat leader; she was president of the Arrupe Solidarity Council and the Immigration Awareness Club; and she built homes in New Orleans as part of the Immersion last summer. She served on the Editorial Board and as a Production Editor for The Quill, our literary magazine and was a contributing editor the past two years for Inside SI, our newspaper. She has been on the Principal's Honor Roll each of the past four years, amassing an unweighted grade point average of 3.95 and still managed to complete over 250 hours of community service.
She is, in short, a young woman of character, compassion, and excellence. She is generous in sharing her gifts and talents with others and lives each day with remarkable optimism, openness to new experiences, belief in the goodness of others, and faith in God. In every activity, she enlivens all with dedication, hard work, and a spirit of good will. As a young woman, a leader, and a Catholic, no better role model can be found. She has left her mark on SI and we are grateful.
Fr. President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to present the 2017 Loyalty Award to Lauren Cueto.
The following story will appear in the summer issue of Genesis magazine.
At Yale this fall, Lauren Cueto '17 plans to dedicate her collegiate studies to issues surrounding race and immigration. She knows these issues first-hand, both from her own heritage — her father is Mexican-American and her mother Chinese-American — and from her travels to Mexico and the nation's capital, lobbying on behalf of immigrants.
She is also the first to argue that "open borders are unrealistic and can be unsafe. However, we need a compassionate immigration policy, as the current one is inhumane. We need to change policies by looking at this topic from new perspectives. Some Americans think that all immigrants are criminals, and if you grow up thinking that, you'll have a hard time changing."
As one of three presidents of SI's Arrupe Council, Cueto works to coordinate all the social justice efforts performed by the school's many clubs. She also serves as president of the Immigration Awareness Club, which she credits as helping her grow over the past four years. She and other club members work to raise money and awareness to support the Kino Border Initiative.
She visited that organization in Nogales, Mexico, last summer when she accompanied Jesuit high school students from around the country. "These are students who care about immigration issues as much as I do," she noted. "That's where the immigration issue hit me from a human perspective."
Cueto met one person who was deported from the U.S. who suffered infections to his legs crossing the desert to get to the border. "Those infections were so bad that his legs had to be amputated. He still hopes he might one day immigrate to the U.S. The conditions where he lives are hellish. He sees the U.S. as heaven and wonders why Americans don't want to welcome him. He's not a drug dealer. He just wants a better life for himself and his family."
Last November, she took her experiences to Washington, D.C., to the Ignatian Family Teach-In, where she was invited to be part of a simulation. "All of us were assigned profiles and told to attempt to enter the country legally. Only two of 100 students were able to do so."
She spent part of her time there meeting with members of Congress to push for immigration reform. "That was a practical moment for me where I had a chance to share what I learned and work for change."
At SI, she also worked for Inside SI for four years, ran track and cross country, played volleyball, worked with the Service Club and led a Kairos retreat "which was one of the best moments of my time at SI."
With a weighted GPA of 4.6, she also excelled in her classes enough to earn entry to Yale. "My teachers told me that when I toured colleges, I would know which one to choose by which felt right. I applied to Yale because, why not? When I toured there, I sensed how happy everyone was. The students I met love Yale with all their hearts. I loved the community feeling there. Despite being an Ivy League school, Yale has students who are more interested in helping each other than in competing. They aim to live a well-rounded life."