Some plan to change this world for the better. Others want to explore new worlds. Based on what they’ve already accomplished, they’re likely to do that and more.
Eighteen high school seniors in the Cherry Creek School District earned a perfect score of 36 on the ACT test in 2018. One of them, Changyuan Lin, also earned a perfect score of 1600 on the SAT test. These outstanding students were recognized during a luncheon in their honor on Feb. 13.
• Jarod Beights – Grandview High School
• Miranda Bonarrigo – Cherry Creek High School
• Brynn Butler – Overland High School
• Antonio Campos – Grandview High School
• Isabel Dinan – Cherry Creek High School
• Rafael Erdley – Cherry Creek High School
• Spencer Grimm – Cherry Creek High School
• Adam Honig-Frand – Cherry Creek High School
• Jack Landon – Cherry Creek High School
• Changyuan Lin – Cherry Creek High School
• Raaisa Moktader – Grandview High School
• Cooper Rockwell – Grandview High School
• Matthew Rusakevich – Cherry Creek High School
• Benjamin Sakiewicz – Cherry Creek High School
• Samantha Shellman – Overland High School
• Advaita Singh – Grandview High School
• Akshunna Vaishnav – Cherry Creek High School
• Marissa Zheng – Cherry Creek High School
“It is a rare and remarkable accomplishment to earn a perfect score on these rigorous college admissions tests,” said Dr. Scott Siegfried, superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools. “These students have demonstrated incredible dedication and commitment to academic excellence. It’s my pleasure to congratulate them, their parents and their teachers.”
Typically, just over 2 million students take the ACT each year, and fewer than 2,000 of them earn a perfect score. That’s less than one-tenth of one percent. Similarly, just a fraction of the 1.8 million students who took the SAT in 2018 earned a perfect score.
Clearly, the CCSD students are part of an elite group of scholars. While they all have a passion for academic excellence, they are a diverse group when it comes to other interests and activities. The group comprises athletes and actors, mathematicians and musicians, student council representatives and members of a myriad school clubs. The ways they prepared for the ACT and SAT were as varied as their interests.
“I did a little prep online, but not much,” said Miranda Bonarrigo, a senior at Cherry Creek High School. “The day before the ACT, I was sick so I stayed home, took a practice test and went to bed early. That was it. That was all I did.”
Jerod Beights and Samantha Shellman, on the other hand, did a lot of advance preparation.
“I did lots and lots of practice tests,” said Shellman, who is a senior at Overland High School. “I think practice makes perfect.”
“By the time I got to my junior year, I had already taken the test three or four times,” said Beights, who attends Grandview High School. “If you get used to what the questions are like and how to pace yourself, I think that helps.”
Overland High School senior Brynn Butler said it’s important to take the test seriously, but not stress out about it.
“Relax and do your best,” she advised. “Test anxiety is something that can really hurt people on tests, so figure out what coping things you can do to calm yourself down.”
Butler is planning to study applied mathematics at Colorado School of Mines, then build a career doing mathematical analysis in some yet-to-be determined field.
“I’m not sure what industry I want to go into, because I’m really interested in everything,” she said with a smile.
Antonio Campos, a senior at Grandview, planned to take the test several times, but got a perfect 36 on his first try.
“That was really exciting,” Campos recalled. “I had studied for standardized testing in general and my coursework prepared me for it. A lot of the test is common sense stuff; can you think your way through a situation?”
Campos plans to study environmental engineering and is considering several schools, including Duke, Gonzaga, Louisville, MIT, Villanova and Colorado School of Mines. Eventually, he wants to build clean water systems in third-world countries.
“It’s a staggering fact to me that 2.1 billion people in the world today do not have daily access to clean water,” Campos said. “That’s something I think can be solved with the technology we already have and with the help of dedicated people.”
Fellow Grandview senior, Advaita Singh, who also earned a perfect score on the ACT, wants to study biomedical engineering, perhaps at Duke, John Hopkins, MIT or Stanford, before going on to medical school. He wants to develop ways to deal with health problems caused by air pollution, a serious problem in India, where he was born.
“You can see why so many millions of people there have developed air and lung problems, chronic bronchitis or pneumonia,” Singh said. “It’s disheartening to see, especially with all the technology we have in the biomedical field.”
Creek’s Bonarrigo plans to pursue her childhood dream to become an astronaut.
“When I was three or four years old, I wanted to be an astronaut,” she said. “That desire came back full force in high school when I went to an aerospace conference. That really started me on the aerospace track and I’m willing to go wherever I have to in order to get there.”
So with their feet firmly planted on the ground, these scholars are reaching for the stars. Fueled by their exceptional academic prowess, dedication and determination, there is no doubt they’ll realize their dreams.