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31 Nebraska high schoolers honored by Ricketts for perfect ACT scores
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31 Nebraska high schoolers honored by Ricketts for perfect ACT scores

The school is expected to open for the 2022-2023 school year.

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


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Emily covers K-12 education, including Omaha Public Schools. Previously, Emily covered local government and the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @emily_nitcher. Phone: 402-444-1192.

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