The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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December 7, 2013

East Newton student scores perfect 36 on ACT

GRANBY, Mo. — When George Bennion took the ACT in October, he was shooting for a score of 35 — one point higher than his older brother had scored on his test.

But when the results came in, he was surprised to see that not only had he outdone his brother, he had also scored a perfect 36.

“I really thought I didn’t do that well,” said Bennion, an 18-year-old senior at East Newton High School. “Everybody’s telling me they’re proud of me.”

More than half of all high school graduates take the ACT, a 215-question college entrance exam that tests English, mathematics, reading and science skills and knowledge. Scored on a scale of 1 to 36, the national average composite score among last year’s graduates was 20.9.

Bennion is in elite company: Fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of test-takers score a perfect 36, according to the ACT’s marketing and communications office.

The third time proved to be the charm for Bennion, who previously took the ACT as a sophomore and again as a junior and scored 30 and 32, respectively. He said he didn’t study too much for the third exam, although he had taken the high school’s ACT prep course twice and also had an ACT study book left over from his brother.

Scott Charlton, principal of East Newton High School, said faculty and staff are proud of Bennion’s accomplishment. He said the perfect score might be a first for East Newton; it’s at least the only one he knows of in his 20 years with the district.

“We were probably more excited about it than he was; he was pretty low-key,” Charlton said. “Our population here is 420 kids, and we have a student who knocked it out of the park.”

Bennion keeps himself busy, both in and out of school. His class schedule this year includes lighter fare, such as physical education and yearbook, and more rigorous courses, such as physics and Advanced Placement English.

When asked to name his involvement in extracurricular activities, the list seems endless: He’s president of Future Business Leaders of America and vice president of Future Teachers of America, National Honor Society and DECA, a marketing and management organization. He also takes part in student council and Quiz Bowl, tutors through the A+ Scholarship Program, sings in his church choir, is enrolled in an online course in Japanese, and is seeking the Eagle Scout rank from the Boy Scouts of America.

After graduation, Bennion plans to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and major in management with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. He also expects to serve a two-year mission through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before his studies are over.

Ultimately, Bennion wants to start his own businesses in the food industry — something to do with Asian foods, though he’s tight-lipped on the details. He already has a good handle on what would make a successful business, periodically serving up fried rice during the lunch hour at school with his entrepreneurship class.

“I have a bunch of ideas,” he said, “but I’ll probably start with just one.”

In the state

Nearly 75 percent of Missouri graduates last year took the ACT at least once; their average composite score was 21.6.

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