ROCK BRIDGE: Three seniors score perfect on ACT, make National Merit Scholarship semifinals

Monday, September 26, 2011 | 8:52 a.m. CDT; updated 11:04 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — For three Rock Bridge High School students, a perfect score on the ACT, National Merit Scholarship semifinalist honors and an internship to help develop the nanotechnology to beat cancer are all standard senior year activities.

Rock Bridge seniors Nicholas Sun, Methma Udawatta and Christina Wang all scored a 36 on the ACT test and were nominated as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

All three students said they were largely self-motivated, but all have influential people to inspire them to do their best.

“My parents always expected me to do well, but they never set any standards,” Udawatta said.

Two of the students took the ACT once, and the third twice. The test evaluates “high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work,” according to the ACT website.

A perfect score of 36 is not a small feat for most students; Missouri’s 2011 average ACT score last year was 21.6, according to the ACT data for the class of 2011.

Wang, who started studying for the assessment the summer prior to her junior year, advises paying attention to the essay portion of the test. She had other insight, too.

“I did a lot of vocab,” Wang said. “There’s actually an app on my phone,” she added with a small laugh.

To reach the National Merit semifinals, Sun, Udawatta and Wang scored highest in the state of Missouri on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, according to the National Merit Scholarship website.

Rock Bridge has 12 semifinalists this year. To progress to finalist standing, they must write an essay about someone or something with impact on their lives or something that they are proud of.

“I’ll probably write about marching band or music,” Wang said. She is a drum major of the Rock Bridge marching band and also plays the flute during concert season.

Additionally, Wang participates in a handful of other clubs and organizations at Rock Bridge and is interning at MU’s School of Medicine.

Udawatta plays in the band, too, as a percussionist, and chatted nonchalantly with Principal Mark Maus about taking Calculus 3 at MU and how she will not be far from having a math minor when she starts her freshman year of college.

Sun, who plays tennis for Rock Bridge and competed nationally with Future Farmers of America, was modest when it came to talking about his list of achievements and activities.

He seemed certain, however, that college would probably take him outside of Missouri, as did the other two students, both Columbia natives.

“I want to go somewhere with a certain standard of education,” said Udawatta, who is looking at colleges on the East Coast. “And it would be nice to get out of Missouri,” she said with a smile, the other two students nodding in agreement.

All three seem confident in what lies ahead for them. Sun didn’t hesitate or skip a beat when speaking about what motivates him.

“It’s the promise of the future.”

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