UCS seniors honored by College Board, earn $3,000 in scholarships

By: Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published January 12, 2021

 Karen Dela Cruz

Karen Dela Cruz

 Maryan Yousef

Maryan Yousef


STERLING HEIGHTS — Two Utica Community Schools seniors have been honored for their commitment to the college application process by the College Board.

The College Board is a nonprofit organization that yearly serves more than 7 million students as they prepare for the transition to college through programs and services in college readiness, including the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program.

Karen Dela Cruz and Maryan Yousef, of Stevenson High School, have earned a combine $3,000 in scholarships from the College Board.

The College Board Opportunity Scholarships identify six simple steps that all students can take to plan, prepare and pay for college. For each step in the program that a student completes, the student earns a chance at a scholarship. When a student completes all six, the student can earn the chance at $40,000 for a college education.

UCS interim Superintendent Robert Monroe commented on the achievements of Dela Cruz and Yousef.

“Karen and Maryan’s national recognition reflects their commitment to the future and the guidance and support they received from their school community,” he said in a prepared statement.

Dela Cruz earned a $1,000 College Board Opportunity Scholarship from the College Board for practicing for the SAT using Khan Academy, and Yousef earned a $2,000 College Board Opportunity Scholarship for improving her SAT score by more than 100 points.

Yousef, of Sterling Heights, plans to pursue pre-dental studies at the University of Detroit Mercy. Dela Cruz, of Sterling Heights, plans to study political science and economics at either Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University or the University of Detroit Mercy.

Yousef said that, on Dec. 7, she got an email saying that she’d won the scholarship.

“(The) College board sent me a lot of emails about scholarship opportunities, and I’d gotten an email saying that there were ways to win scholarships from College Board through SAT practice/SAT score improvement and applying to colleges, and since those were things I’d already done, I decided to apply,” she said in an email.

She said the requirements were pretty simple and didn’t take long.

“When I applied, I’d already done all the work, so it only took a second to fill out the information. Though, of course, it took a lot of time when I was using Khan Academy to practice for the SAT and when I was using the SAT practice tests from College Board. It also took some time to complete all my college applications. The scholarship opportunities were all grouped together, so I filled out information about SAT practice at the same time I filled out information on what colleges I’m applying to, since that was another way to get a scholarship and I wanted to apply to as much as possible,” said Yousef.

She said she was grateful for having been recognized for all her hard work in planning for college.

“I’m very grateful for it. The most I could hope for when putting in all the work is that it would help me in the future, so it’s really nice to see it help me in such a literal way,” she said.

She said she looks forward to the independence that she will get in college.

Dela Cruz said she heard about the opportunity for the scholarships on the board website.

“During the summer of last year, I was preparing for the October SAT. As I was looking around the College Board website, I came across ‘Opportunity Scholarships sponsored by the College Board.’ They gave me this whole list of scholarships I was eligible to apply for, such as the SAT Practice scholarship, a scholarship for the college application process and much more,” she said.

She agreed that the requirements for the scholarships were simple and something that she would already be doing.

“For the scholarship I was awarded, all that I was required to do was to link my College Board account to my Khan Academy account and then start practicing for the SAT. The requirement was to practice for six or more hours, and since I was already doing a lot in preparation for the October SAT last year, it did not take me long to meet the requirement,” she said.

Dela Cruz said she was thankful for the scholarship.

“It is an amazing feeling to be recognized for my hard work to plan for college. Despite the pandemic and the continuous problems our society is facing today, I was able to stay grounded and motivated as a student because of the guidance I received from the wonderful teachers I had at Utica Community Schools, the support I received from my parents and most importantly the spiritual foundation I received from God,” she said.

She said she plans to use the scholarship that she has been awarded to not only purchase books, but to pay a portion of it toward her college tuition to become a lawyer.

“I look forward to continuing my education and making my family proud, but what I am most excited about is pursuing my dreams to become a lawyer. Ever since I was a child, I have always had a passion to serve justice and to help those in need. As a lawyer, I want to be able to give a voice to those unheard and ultimately make a difference in the world, especially in times such as the current social standing we are in,” she said.