Jakob Scroggins nails perfect ACT score
y the time Jakob Scroggins took the ACT college admissions test for the fourth time, he had studied so much and knew the test so well that the process seemed rather routine. Weeks later, the North Platte High School student learned that while the test-taking may have been mundane, the process held a parting surprise-a rare perfect score of 36.
The high school senior said he truly never suspected he would become what officials say they believe is the first in the district’s nearly 70-year history, and one of only a few nationwide, to earn the distinction.
Scroggins learned the news from test officials via an email. The student and his mother, Alesia, said they initially reacted with shock and took a moment to digest the news before sharing with his father, Ryan, 16-year-old sister, Alaina, other family members and friends. “I felt pretty confident in it,” he said, adding that his scores increased each of the four years of high school. But he never dreamed his score would reach the top. Alesia said the news was overwhelming and she reacted by breaking down in tears.
Jakob scored 25 his freshman year, when he said the process was accompanied by extreme nerves, especially since many of the other test-takers were several years older and had more exposure to the complex questions. ACT subjects range from English and reading to math and science reasoning. But, while studying using an official ACT prep guide, his score jumped to 30 his sophomore year and increased to 33 his junior year.
North Platte School District Superintendent Karl Matt said after learning of the perfect score, he had to rely on the memories of recent district superintendents to determine that no student since at least the early 1990s, and possibly ever, has scored 36, (although district officials remember several students receiving high scores, including a near-perfect 35.)
Matt credited the distinction to several factors, including district’s small class size and dedicated staff, along with this student’s hard work and determination.
“You can talk to him for 30 seconds and tell how smart he is,” Matt said during a recent telephone interview, but added, “Just being smart is not enough.I think it shows if a student works hard and does their best, they can be quite successful,” he said, adding that this student’s academic success will be highlighted in the high school’s trophy case. He said the items, including a plaque and photo of Scroggins, will remain in the case “forever” and will signal to other students that “somebody who walked the same hallways.(and) achieved at that level.”
Matt said he also credits the district’s quality teachers with guiding Scroggins. He said a small district, such as North Platte, which has a total of about 600 students, offers advantages over larger districts, including small class sizes and more individual attention.
Early in life, Jakob’s parents noticed some traits that set him apart from others his age.
“He was always curious about how things work,” Ryan said. His aptitude at creating with Legos seemed above average, his father said. For instance, as a six-year-old, he could build structures recommended on the box for 12-year-olds. In addition, he began reading at about four years old. When his mother first noticed, she asked him how long he had been able to read without help, to which he said, ” ‘I don’t know, Mama, it just makes sense.'”
His parents also noticed Jakob began, also at a young age, to read and compare food nutrition labels, choosing the healthiest option based on sugar content and other ingredients. But Alesia said her son is not solely academically inclined. “He’s always been a very gifted, intuitive, sensitive person,” she said. “He ‘gets it,’ so to speak. He can read people well. He is ‘the whole package,’ I would say.”
Scroggins said his score causes him to feel more confident when applying to colleges. He already has applied and been accepted to a few four-year universities, but continues to wait to hear from some others, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which he believes he will eventually choose, if he is accepted. The university, located in Cambridge, offers what is commonly considered to have the nation’s top program in what he plans as his major: materials science and engineering. Jakob said he enjoys learning about basic structures and functions of materials, such as polymers and how they change when altered chemically. Eventually, he would like to have a career as either a college professor or a laboratory engineer, which would combine his love of chemistry, science, and math, he said.
While Scroggins knows he earned the score through many hours studying, he also credited his parents, whom he described as “never too busy to help with homework.” His mother, a special services teacher and his father, a network engineer, both instilled the value of education. Alesia said she earned two Master’s degrees when her children were young, so she modeled study skills. Jakob, who has attended North Platte schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, credits the teachers, especially two in high school who provided extra guidance. One was his physics and cross-country coach, Brendan Cary, and Shelley Meyer-Day, who teaches chemistry and biology.
Cary also is Jakob’s cross-country coach, which is one of his extra-curricular activities which provides variety and a break from his studies. Others include performing in school plays.
He also participates in Academic Bowl competition in which students form teams and answer questions about a variety of subjects. Jakob said he considers the activity his favorite.
“We have a good time.it’s a fun activity to kind of relax and take a break from the hard schoolwork, but it still stimulates our minds.” Jakob also has been involved in Scouts, where he earned the rank of Eagle, scouting’s highest achievement, and is active in his church, which he credits with teaching him to be thankful, among other important lessons. He said, “I just thank God everyday for His grace and the many blessings He’s given me.”