Graden Jarrell


North Mississippi student Graden Jarrell recently learned that he earned a perfect score of 36 on the ACT.

Jarrell, 17, is an Amory native and junior at Itawamba Agricultural High School. He took the ACT in October and got the results back in mid-December. It was his second time taking the test. He scored a 34 the first time.

“A lot of my classes sophomore year had a big focus on getting good ACT scores,” Jarrell said. “So there were practice tests in my classes and then on my own I reviewed math and science.”

Jarrell said he wasn’t expecting to earn such a high score and that he “was surprised that I made over a 30.” He credits having confidence in his reading ability and being mindful of how much time he spent working on each section with helping him achieve a 36.

Earning a perfect score is no small feat. Less than half of 1% of test-takers earn a score of 36. Just 4,879 out of 1.8 million U.S. high school students in the class of 2019 who took the exam earned a perfect score, according to a congratulatory letter Jarrell received from ACT CEO Marten Roorda.

He hasn’t set any concrete plans as to what college he’d like to attend, but said he’ll likely pick a math-related major like computer or electrical engineering.

An educator who’s been particularly influential on Jarrell is his sophomore English teacher Chris Johnson.

“He’s very passionate about teaching,” Jarrell said. “He tries to get that passion into students and it really shows.”

Johnson also serves as the scholars bowl coach, which Jarrell has been a part of since sixth grade. He was the first middle schooler Johnson ever brought with the team to the National Academic Quiz Tournaments’ annual Small School National Championship Tournament in Chicago. Johnson added that Jarrell has been a key member during the past two state championships and was part of the team that finished 7th in the nation last year.

As for the perfect ACT score, Johnson said Jarrell is “one of the most unique students” he’s ever taught and seeing that he scored a 36 was “not surprising.”

“He has the ability to be analytical and creative in his thoughts yet able to communicate them clearly to anyone,” Johnson said. “I’ve not seen many students of his intellect who are as well-balanced in so many fields of academia.”

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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