Ileen Cuevas

SBVC student Ileen Cuevas was in disbelief when she saw an invitation from the White House in her inbox on November 1, 2023. Earlier that week, Cuevas was in Chicago for the annual Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Conference. At the conference, Dr. Ray Carlos asked Cuevas for her biography in order to nominate her to attend the White House event. Cuevas shared that she is a sophomore studying sociology at SBVC, and in 2018 launched the nonprofit Summit Leadership Program, which provides community service opportunities and mentoring to students, as well as clothing and toy drives for immigrants new to the Inland Empire.

Her impressive accomplishments resonated with the White House, and Cuevas was invited to attend the event held on November 8, 2023. She was accompanied by then Vice President of Student Services Dr. Scott W. Thayer. “It was a little intimidating since it was at the White House and there were so many Secret Service agents and checkpoints to go through,” said Cuevas of the event. Inside, Cuevas listened to a panel discussion on equity and inclusion laws alongside members of the White House and the Department of Education. “Everybody who spoke was first-generation, so that was pretty cool,” Cuevas shared.

The experience inspired Cuevas with fresh motivation to continue her work with local college-bound students and to share the benefits that higher education could bring. As a first-generation college student, Cuevas stressed the importance of building a strong support system amongst other first generation college students to stay focused on their higher education goals.

“It does get hard because your family doesn’t understand what you’re doing sometimes,” Cuevas admitted. “ But that’s OK, you know that what you’re doing is good and you can definitely reach out to other first-gen students. Use each other as crutches when it gets difficult and overwhelming.”

The Summit Leadership Program is always open to new members. For more information, contact Ileen Cuevas at