by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Zora "Zoe" Raglow-DeFranco isn't an overachieving bookworm, but she certainly prides herself in succeeding at what she puts her mind to.
The 16-year-old Niagara-Wheafield senior – she turns 17 next month – is a member of a number of clubs and organizations, including a few she leads. She's a music and theater participant and avid community volunteer, a self-described well-rounded individual.
After her performance on the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test last year, she can add "commended student" by the National Merit Scholarship program to her growing resume.
Raglow-DeFranco scored in the top 5 percent of students in the United States this past year on the practice SAT, a test many of her peers likely blew off or undervalued. But not her. She recorded a near-perfect score in the test's writing section to earn the recognition.
"I was just determined to stay awake," she said, recalling her morning heading into the test last year.
Her performance will be recognized by principal Timothy Carter and the district's School Board when it meets at 7 p.m. tonight in the Adult Learning Center of the high school, 2292 Saunders Settlement Road, Wheatfield.
Scoring high on any test is about preparation and knowledge. For Raglow-DeFranco, though, preparation began at the oddest time. She was taking SAT practice tests when she was in elementary school, she said.
She credits her mother, Carolyn, and father, Stephen, for having her do it. Her older sister and brother went through the same preparation, while her three younger siblings are in various stages of the same practice.
She said she thinks her parents are trying to raise a child who scores a perfect score on the standardized test.
"If it weren't for them, I wouldn't have done this," she said. "I always wondered why my parents put so much focus on the SAT, but they do."
She scored more than 1400 on her own test.
There's no rest for her in the future, either. Next week, she'll take the subject-specific SAT examinations as she further prepares for college application season. She has plans to go into the pre-law program at Tufts University in Boston.
From there, she intends on working her way up to become a child welfare judge, a career she has pursued for a while.
She chose Tufts because of its closeness to Brown University, about an hour outside the east coast metropolis.
"My sister's about an hour away," she said. "And I love cities."
Those around her have nothing but great things to add about her involvement and preparedness. Lisa Lindamer, her counselor at Niagara-Wheatfield High School and the person who told her she earned the commendation.
Though she won't receive any financial award from the recognition, Lindamer said she was happy for her student.
"I was excited for her," she said. "I'm really happy for her because she worked so hard for it. But I wasn't shocked she was getting it. Her grades and her SAT scores will hopefully get her money anyway."