That’s so Raven

Cloquet student gets an audience with federal agencies

Mike Creger

Pine Knot News

Cloquet High School student Raven Sevilleja was one of 20 students from across the country invited to a three-day seminar in the Washington, D.C. area last month. The listening session was designed to give federal government agencies a sense of how teens and young adults make decisions.

Ann Parish, a coordinator with the local mentoring program REACH, nominated Sevilleja.

“She’s extremely bright,” Parish said. “She’s an abstract thinker. Raven thinks bigger and broader.”

Sevilleja was bemused by the nomination process at first, thinking there was little chance she’d be chosen for the all-expenses-paid trip.

“It was a longshot,” Sevilleja said. “It was definitely something I wasn’t expecting.”

She was chosen out of a pool of 170 candidates across the country. She joined 19 other students from communities large and small, some older and attending Ivy League colleges.

“That stepped up the game,” Parish said. She accompanied Sevilleja on the Oct. 27-29 trip.

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs is a group within the executive branch of the federal government, with membership from 12 agencies, including Education, Agriculture, Housing and Labor. In essence, the group seeks to best serve youth by listening to them.

It has developed a website that offers a variety of tools at youth.gov.

The question for the seminar Sevilleja attended was: “How do young people make important decisions?”

She ended up in a small group that presented to the adults its take on identity, how teens define themselves and the acceptance level in their communities. Sevilleja said the topic “resonated’ with her. “How are youth accepted in schools, by adults,” she said. “How we can help people develop their own identity?”

Sevilleja’s group talked about “feeling comfortable as yourself and in your community,” she said. The elements included ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation and identity.

It was a heady experience, Sevilleja said. It took her to a whole new level, she said, beyond the work she has done with REACH and its recent offshoot, the peer group Students Offering Support.

“It was more about the future, careers, education, health care,” she said. “Kids need guidance” as they enter into the adult realm, she said.

Sevilleja is herself multicultural with Filipino and Native American ethnicities. Parish said she provides a “unique perspective” that was helpful to adults at the conference.

Sevilleja and Parish had an extremely tight schedule. They had four hours on the first day, Saturday, to tour the sights in D.C. Sevilleja said the highlights were riding the Metro, a few Smithsonian museums, the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial.

“It was so gorgeous,” she said of the memorial. “I look up to Abraham Lincoln. He’s an interesting dude.”

After the tour, it was all business into Monday at the seminar in nearby Chevy Chase, Md. “It was a whirlwind,” Sevilleja said.