Forty-four Nebraska students graduated high school this year with perfect scores on the ACT or SAT college entrance exam, matching last year’s record number.
Students — including one from Neligh-Oakdale High School — accomplished this rare feat despite the very imperfect finish to the 2019-20 school year caused by the pandemic.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt honored the students Tuesday in the rotunda at the State Capitol.
COVID-19 disrupted the final quarter of the year as schools statewide closed buildings and switched to distance learning.
But by that time, most of these students had logged their top score and were already sifting through scholarship offers.
Many said they will pursue studies in math and science, but also languages, music, economics, history and social sciences.
Four of the top-scoring students attended Elkhorn South High School in the Omaha metro area.
Joshua Oarhe, an Elkhorn South High graduate, wants to pursue a career in medicine.
He got his top ACT score in September 2018 and will study molecular biomedical biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He said he discovered in school that he excelled in the sciences, and he was inspired to study medicine by his parents, who are doctors. His dad is a pediatrician and his mom a neonatologist.
“I’ve always had a passion for research, experimentation, and I’ve always wanted to be able to use my scientific knowledge to help others because service is very important to me. So I came up with medicine because I’ll be able to use advanced knowledge of science in order to help people who are in need.”
Eric Seger-Pera of Omaha Central High School notched his perfect ACT score in the spring of his junior year.
He’s got a full-ride scholarship to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
He’s not sure about a career path yet. He plans to study chemistry, but he’s interested in architecture, too.
The Central High teachers are very good in the honors program, he said.
“They’re very willing to improve themselves and admit mistakes,” Seger-Pera said.
He was in the International Baccalaureate Program.
Forty-three of the students got perfect scores on the ACT and one on the SAT.
Less than one-tenth of 1% of graduates who take the ACT get a perfect score of 36.
The ACT is the most popular college entrance exam for Nebraska students. It measures a student’s knowledge of English, mathematics, reading and science. There is an optional writing section. The score range for each of the four multiple-choice tests is 1 to 36. The composite score is the average of the four subject test scores rounded to the nearest whole number.
Nebraska’s average ACT score for 2019 graduates was 20.
The SAT — another grueling exam, which isn’t as popular with Nebraska students — has two sections: evidence-based reading and writing, and math. It includes an optional essay. Ricketts congratulated the students but also their parents for their role in their child’s success.
“Your young person did not achieve that by themselves,” he said. “Maybe they don’t know that, but you know that.”
He also encouraged the students to thank their teachers and to return to make their careers in Nebraska.
“Please come back to Nebraska,” he said.
The following graduates were recognized:
Drew Vuncannon, Scotus Central Catholic
Ella Barnes and Daniel Hudson, Elkhorn
Eugene Kim, Derek Madden, Joshua Oarhe and Julia Patterson, Elkhorn South
Brayden Whitaker, Mount Michael Benedictine
Jacob Kosmicki, Grand Island
Chase Johnson, Landon Power and Carter Wenburg, Hastings
Jackson Savage, Norris
Benjamin Soria and Tyler Wong, Kearney
Dylan Chapin, Celeste Matthes and Pranav Palli, Lincoln East
Luke Moberly, Lincoln High
Evan Fulton and Tuong Phung, Lincoln Southwest
Matthew Dohmen, Lincoln Northeast
Grace Driewer, Du Duong and Luke Tomes, Lincoln Pius X
Ian Parmely, Augustus Shald and Lucy Tu, Millard North
Luke Partsch, Lourdes Central Catholic
Hailey Bixler, Neligh-Oakdale
Keegan Nitsch, St. Patrick Jr.-Sr (North Platte)
Eric Seger-Pera, Omaha Central
Richard Chapman and Tristan Curd, Omaha Creighton Prep
Theodore Jansen and Reese Pike, Omaha Westside
Braxton Fjeldsted, Vincent Lin and Owen Sumter, Papillion-La Vista
Katherine Reisig, Scottsbluff
Alyssa Gilliland, York
Elizabeth Sasse, home schooled
Victoria Fleming and Raleigh Kreis, Omaha Duchesne Academy