Senior Spotlight: Keila Cortes Mera
Senior Spotlight: Keila Cortes Mera
Posted on 06/02/2017

The Senior Spotlight series features interviews with Sibley seniors who have shown commitment to academic excellence and personal achievement. The series will highlight two seniors each week until graduation.

Keila Cortes Mera Senior PictureKEILA CORTES MERA
Daughter of Ismael Cortes and Melinda Mera of West St. Paul

Throughout her fours years of high school, Keila Cortes Mera has been determined not to waste one moment. Whether or not she has had previous experience in an activity or sport, she doesn’t let it stop her from joining and trying her best. And though Keila (pronounced Kay-la) enjoys competing and winning, sometimes her best reward is having fun, learning something new or spending time with friends. 

It was this approach to life that led Keila to join the Key Club, ballroom dance club, tennis team, track team and Nordic ski team while at Henry Sibley. In fact, when she joined the Nordic ski team as a freshman, she had never even been on skis.

“After the first day [of practice], I wasn’t sure what I had signed up for,” said Keila. “So I started out just going for fun and I ended up really liking Nordic. As I kept with [the training], I got better and ended up on the Varsity team.”

This past winter Keila was part of the Henry Sibley Girls’ Nordic Ski Team that claimed their third-consecutive Metro East Conference Championship. She ended her season as an alternate for the Warriors in the Nordic ski state meet and with an all-conference honorable mention for her efforts. She had come a long way in just four years.

“I would encourage other students to go out for things. Even if they don’t think they can do it,” says Keila. “Just stick with it. Eventually, you might be good at it. And if you aren’t, just go out and have fun.”

Sports have allowed Keila to develop her physical strength, mental toughness and focus on the social side of high school, however, she says her coaches stress that her and her teammates are ‘student athletes’, meaning that academics come first.

This has been important because Keila has taken several challenging courses at Henry Sibley such as Advanced Placement (AP) Biology, AP Language and Composition, AP U.S. History, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC and AP Physics Mechanics C. She also completed College in the Schools (CIS) French 4 and French 5, for which she will earn college credits through the University of Minnesota. Keila has a cumulative 3.88 GPA.

Keila’s other activities at Henry Sibley have included the National Honor Society and LINK Crew. Outside of school, Keila is involved in her church’s youth group and she is an active volunteer. Last summer she completed 50 volunteer hours at the Children’s Museum in St. Paul. Keila was a member of the Play Team, which is made up of high school students from across the Twin Cities. Their job is to interact with the children who visit the museum and lead creative arts programs. 

This fall, Keila will attend the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities to major in engineering, with a possible minor in French. She says she is currently leaning toward studying aerospace engineering because of her interest in airplanes and commercial air travel.

The other schools Keila attended in District 197 are Garlough Environmental Magnet School and Friendly Hills Middle School.

District 197: How has Sibley prepared you to succeed after graduation?
Keila: Through my AP and CIS classes I have learned to work through tough and complicated problems. I have learned what ways of studying work for me and how to best manage my time.

Who is your favorite teacher or what is your favorite subject?
Mrs. Howatt is one of my favorite teachers in Sibley. Science has always been one of my favorite subjects. Mrs. Howatt teaches my AP Physics C class and even though it is only her second year teaching, she has done an amazing job. It was obvious that she put in a lot of work to make sure we were ready for the AP test. She went out of her way to help all of us.

What’s a memory from your time at Sibley that will always stay with you?
A memory that I will remember is my senior homecoming game. It was pouring but the student section was still full. We were all cheering on our Football Warriors, who ended the night by winning the game. Everybody ran into the field of mud because of how happy we were. I could really feel the connection of our Warrior family.

What advice do you have for younger students about high school?
The best advice I could give is to take a risk. More specifically, sign up for classes that you know will challenge you because it is through these classes that you will truly be prepared for life after high school. Also, be involved as much as you can, but make sure to manage your time, you will have to choose what you want to prioritize.

Anything else you'd like to share about your time at Sibley?
Overall, it was an amazing experience and I will miss this place.

Read about other achievements by students in the class of 2017: