Above and beyond

Recognizing seniors with impressive ACT accomplishments


Photo courtesy of Greg Tiemann

Seniors Andrew Kenny and Drew Hinton — both members of the 32 and Above Club — hold a plaque for being National Merit Finalists. Some take the ACT once, others retry to achieve their desired score or get a feel for the kind of pressure they may be under. “I took it once in October before we had to take it together as a class,” Kenny said. “I wanted to know what it was like before we had to take it.”

Emma Baker, Editor-in Chief

During CCR on Thursday, April 29, the Class of 2021 came together on Zoom for a presentation recognizing select senior students that scored a 32 and above and/or jumped three or more points on the ACT exam.

The members of the 32 and Above Club stand together with their certificates in front of the Academic Wall of Fame. For these select few, much studying, hard work and dedication was needed to succeed. “I did some review stuff online, and I had one of those big books so I did practice tests,” senior Savannah Clites said. “You just have to have good thinking skills because sometimes there’s questions where it’s more worth it to just skip it, try to come back and even guess sometimes and then just be able to think logically about what answers you can take off.” (Photo courtesy of Greg Tiemann)

Though a first in the sense that recipients were announced virtually, the online event kept alive the four-year tradition of honoring exceptional young scholars.

“Until this year, we have pulled the seniors down to the auditorium or the gym and recognized them in front of the student body,” assistant principal Mark Hawkins said. “We felt the recognition during CCR was an opportunity to honor them just as if we gathered the whole class together in one room.”

In total, 39 seniors joined the 32 and Above Club this year, a number that Hawkins describes as typical despite a not-so-typical year. These students will be given honor cords for ACT Excellence, an achievement not correlated to the club. Additionally, 150-200 seniors will be receiving certificates in the coming days for accomplishing (at least) a three point jump on their tests. 

For senior Savannah Clites, official entrance into the 32 and Above Club is a long time coming. After reviewing online and taking several practice tests, she took the exam for the first time in 2019, landing her highest score right then and there.

“I wanted to do well so I could get scholarships for college,” Clites said. “Since I did get the 32, my tuition is paid for at UNL. It feels great to achieve that score because not a lot of people do that. It’s a hard test, and you get to be in the top percent of it.”

Beyond the online help, practice exams and test prep sessions, Hawkins attributes one important quality of these particular students to their success: applying themselves to challenging coursework in their everyday lives.

“These students take their academics very seriously,” Hawkins said. “They challenge themselves and they take honors and AP classes. They do everything they can to strive for academic excellence, and they recognize that rigor is really the key to the ACT.”

Senior Andrew Kenny, a 32 and Above Club Member and a National Merit Finalist, finds Hawkins’ sentiment to be true, and like Clites, he took the exam twice. 

“I got the same score both times,” Kenny said. “The first time I took it, I did better on English and math, and the second time I did better on reading and science, so it balanced out. My classes helped me prepare, and I think you also have to be good under pressure. [The testing experience] will give me confidence going into college that ‘yes, I can do this.’”

While Kenny will be attending the University of Oklahoma in the fall to study meteorology, Millard West understands that not all students are headed down that same academic path. The point of the award is moreso to acknowledge that the club members are setting themselves up well for future success through grit and dedication.

“High school is really about preparing for post-secondary, regardless if you are going into a trade, a two year college or a four year college,” Hawkins said. “The habits you develop in high school, they follow you. It’s not easy to get a 32 on the ACT; it takes a lot of effort. The same goes for the three point jump because if you have a student that starts at a 22 and they end up at 25, that’s huge. That’s a lot of work on their part, and we want to make sure that we are recognizing their excellent effort.”

All in all, these outstanding seniors are leaving West with their best foot forward. Their high scores and score jumps will continue to motivate many students that come after them.