She’s one of America’s smartest high school students
Senior Athena Chacon also
spends time tutoring her peers
ATHENA Chacon prefers to talk about the peer-to-peer mentoring she’s involved with at Alamosa High School – more so than the eye-popping 1510 SAT score she posted, which puts her among the top 1 percent of high school students in America.
She’s a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship, which honors the most academically talented high school students in the United States, and will learn in February if she’s a National Merit Scholarship finalist. Alamosa School Board President Michael Mumper thinks she’s a shoe-in to be a finalist given her 1510 SAT score and the work she does helping her fellow classmates through the high school’s peer-to-peer mentoring program.
“Nobody sits down and scores 1510 on the SAT without considerable preparation,” said Mumper, who leads Adams State University’s Public Administration Master’s Degree program.
Chacon credits the school and Principal Andy Lavier’s approach to preparing students early on to take the PSAT (SAT practice exam) test over and over, which she said got her ready to take the SAT her junior year and score as high as she did.
“It really is all those years of practice,” she said. “And then I do think it really comes down to that day of, that mental energy. You gotta be hyped for it. You gotta be excited to go in and do your best, and just feel confident that it’s going to be OK either way.”
Having Chacon in the school is a benefit for other students, who gain their own academic confidence through the peer-to-peer mentoring she and other students at Alamosa High are leading.
“I’ve always done that kind of tutoring with my peers,” she said. “I’ve always explained homework to my friends, to my classmates in class because I just get it easier. So it’s always been my instinct to explain it to others.”
If you’re the school principal, you wonder how other students can be like Athena Chacon. Lavier and his staff at Alamosa High may have figured it out with the peer-to-peer mentoring program they started, where students like Athena can teach others who may not connect as well to the teacher in the classroom.
“We don’t always have all the answers,” Lavier said of the staff and teachers at Alamosa High. Watching the impact Chacon and fellow students involved in tutoring peers have had is a signal that student-to-student mentoring can be highly impactful.
“I’m super grateful to have Athena at our school,” Lavier said at Thursday’s school board meeting, where Chacon was recognized.
Her next steps: Of course every college in America would love to land Athena Chacon on their campus and she has those opportunities because of her incredibly high SAT score. Right now she said she’s planning to attend the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“I want to go into the health field and I’m really interested in science,” she said. “I want to be a medical laboratory scientist, in the lab of hospitals running samples, and maybe before that being a medical research assistant.
“I want to go into that kind of field so that I’m using my smartness to help others, and actually apply that in the real world.”
In her world, it’s her mother and her grandmother who serve as role models. They’ve both attended college, and through them and her dad, she sees and understands the generational advancements that occur when college is in the sightline.
“My family has always motivated me and wanted me to do good,” she said. “It’s that legacy of, they want me to do good so we can continue to better ourselves as a family.”
Her parents, Andrea DeHerrera Chacon and Albert Chacon, are beaming with pride.