LINCOLN — Laura Kirshenbaum counted down the days until ACT results would be released.
When the day finally came, she opened her test results, and a celebratory shouting party ensued.
She texted her father a photo of the score: 36.
“Best text ever,” said Matt Kirshenbaum.
Kirshenbaum was one of 31 Nebraska students from the Class of 2021 to receive the highest possible score on the college entrance exam. Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt honored the students Wednesday in the rotunda at the State Capitol.
With four students, Lincoln East High School had the most students who earned perfect scores. Westside High School had three students with perfect scores.
Ricketts said the Class of 2021 is special because students had to endure a pandemic on top of all the regular challenges of achieving a top score on the test.
“You are a special class,” Ricketts told the students. “It may not have been a designation you would want, but when faced with challenges you overcame them anyway.”
The students honored on Wednesday all said they plan to attend college in the fall. Harvard University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are some of the students’ future destinations.
Ricketts acknowledged that college and first jobs might take the students out of the state, but he asked them to consider returning to put down roots later in life.
“We want you here in Nebraska,” Ricketts said. “We want you to come back.”
Kirshenbaum, a graduate of Burke High School, will be staying in the state and attending UNL for biochemistry.
She said a scholarship from the school will help her keep college costs down. She said the university also has a relationship with the University of Nebraska Medical Center and she likes that connection.
And by going to UNL, Kirshenbaum will keep a family tradition alive. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all attended the university.
On how she achieved that top score, Kirshenbaum said she got some great advice from her teachers at Burke High School about taking the test early.
She got a 35 the first time she took it in her high school career and was aiming for the top score. She used practice tests offered on the ACT website and reviewed old notebooks from her classes.
She received the 36 the summer before her junior year.
“It was such a relief to have it done with,” Kirshenbaum said. “To know that was going to open so many doors to colleges for me.”
The students graduating with perfect ACT scores:
Jack Amen, Lincoln High School
John Boesen, Malcolm High School
Emma Cada, Blair High School
Charles Campbell, Concordia Jr. Sr. High School
Matthew Dahlke, Kearney High School
Samuel Dekleva, Saint Patrick Jr. Sr. High School
Sophia Dervin, Duchesne Academy
Henry Egan, Creighton Prep
Elias Ervin, Bellevue East High School
Nicholas Hammans, Burke High School
Aiden Hand, Lincoln East High School
Grace Henderson, Millard North High School
Drew Hinton, Millard West High School
Laura Kirshenbaum, Burke High School
Andrzej Korlacki, Lincoln East High School
Joshua Lee, Lincoln East High School
Andrew Li, Westside High School
Katie Liske, Marian High School
Elijah Lubberstedt, Elkhorn South High School
Benjamin Lyons, Creighton Prep
Clare Oldenburg, Pius X High School
Kolton O’Neal, Gretna High School
Kenneth Ou, Lincoln East High School
Matthew Salfity, Westside High School
Trishna Srikumar, Brownell-Talbot
Ava Steele, Westside High School
Connor Thomason, Blair High School
Samuel Vu, Papillion-La Vista High School
Bethany Wiebold, North Bend Central Middle High School
Jonathan Xing, Lincoln Christian School
Kenny Zhu, Millard North High School