They say nobody is perfect, but last April, two local high school students defied convention.
Seniors Sarah Boots, a Brookfield resident at Lyons Township High School and Nadia Danford, a Riverside resident from Riverside-Brookfield High School both notched perfect scores of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam.
Danford, 17, was born into a tradition of educational excellence. Her dad went to Dartmouth and Yale; her mom attended Yale too. Her two older brothers went to the University of Chicago and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Currently, she’s thinking about studying math at Harvard.
Danford has a 4.0 non-weighted GPA and thinks it was the six advanced placement tests she took that helped her get in top form for the ACT, which she completed with time to spare.
When she’s not hitting the books, Danford plays varsity tennis, is president of the French club, performs in musicals and participates in a local Christian youth group. Sometimes she travels to Wisconsin to visit her horse, Tuffy, which is boarded there.
“I like to be involved and doing something,” Danford said. “I don’t like to be bored … [Staying involved] makes me manage my time really well.”
Boots, 17, hopes to attend Brown University where she might study English and creative writing. She’s head copy editor for the LTHS school newspaper, The Lion, and envisions writing political analysis one day for Time magazine. She also writes short stories and helps select pieces for the school literary magazine.
She also participates in rallies for the Save Darfur Coalition.
“It’s a major human rights issue of our time that I think is overshadowed a lot by different events in the news,” Boots said. “I think it’s important that people know about it.”
Boots scored a 35 the first time she took the test, and, since she just missed perfection, figured she might as well give it another shot.
“I was pretty calm, just because I knew that I could do well on it,” she said. “I wasn’t stressed, obviously a little bit the way you’re always stressed about a test, but it wasn’t like I felt this was going to make or break my whole life.”
In the top 5 percent of her class, Boots admits she is a perfectionist. Jason Scales, faculty advisor to The Lion and her teacher for the past two years, agrees.
“She’s very sharp,” he said. “She asks questions when she’s unsure of things, so that shows me she’s very conscientious about her work. She is a perfectionist, but not to any negative degree.”
“You have to be confident,” she said, pinpointing the key ingredient to her perfect score.
Lyons Township High School’s 2007 graduating class made history last year.
The group notched a composite score of 23.8 on the ACT, the highest ever in the school’s 119-year history.
Lyons Township High School is outpacing the national ACT score average and has increased its composite score over the past four years, according to a school press release.
Scott Eggerding, director of curriculum at LTHS, said the school makes sure its coursework lines up to ACT college readiness benchmarks.
“Our general mission is to prepare students for what they’d like to do with their futures,” he said.
Eggerding said he’s proud that LT’s ACT scores continued to increased, even when Illinois started requiring every high school student to take the test, regardless of post-graduation plans.
“You’d think they’d go down, and they’re better than the scores before,” he said.
District 204 Superintendent Dennis Kelly said it’s a combination of three factors: talented teachers, curriculum adjustments and solid students.
“All of our measurable scores over the past three or four years are literally going through the roof,” Kelly said. “We expect to do well with the caliber of kids we get and the level of support from our community. If we weren’t getting these results, people should be asking questions.”