Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


January 8, 2014

Mark Maynard: Perfection can come with price: 1/9/14

ASHLAND — I received an email on Wednesday morning from Paul G. Blazer High School Principal Derek Runyon about a student who recorded a perfect score on the ACT.

You will be reading more about Cameron Garner, a junior, in an upcoming edition. He joins a rare club of students that has scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. I’m not exactly certain of how many we’ve had in the area, but it’s certainly an elite bunch.

I know one of them because he’s my nephew. Matt Riddle — we call  him Dr. Riddle these days — was a junior at Rose Hill Christian School and had already taken the ACT twice before and scored a 34 the previous February.

We were on vacation that fall in St. Augustine, Fla., with Matt’s family. My daughter, Sally, is Matt’s age and she was also taking the ACT that Saturday morning before we were heading home.

They came out of St. Augustine High School with totally different emotions — Sally was a wreck and Matt was practically skipping to the car.

“I did awful!” Sally said tearfully.

“I think I did pretty well!” Matt said cheerfully.

Tearfully and cheerfully, that was it.

Matt later learned he did better than “pretty well.” He actually did perfect (and I think he probably knew it but didn’t want to say).

Meanwhile, Sally’s score wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t that bad. She ended up with a Presidential Scholarship at Morehead State University and came out of college debt free. How many can say that?

Matt found out he soon had some celebrity status for the 36 on the ACT, but it also came with a bit of a curse. No matter where he went or what he did, Matt Riddle became “the kid who scored the 36 on the ACT.”

Mr. Perfect would forever be remembered for that amazing accomplishment, even though he tired of hearing about it from family and friends.

Some of the family joked Matt’s tombstone would have here lies the man who got a 36 on the ACT.

No matter where he went, that’s what people wanted to comment on and still do today, said his mother, Wanda Riddle.

Matt Riddle has accomplished much more in life than a perfect score on the ACT, but the attention he still receives underscores the rarity of the achievement.

Among test takers in the high school graduating class of 2012, only 781 of more than 1.66 million students earned a composite score of 36.

The ACT college readiness assessment consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each test is scored on a scale of 1 through 36, and a student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores.

In 2013, the average composite ACT score was 20.9 across the nation.

Wanda Riddle, a retired math teacher from Blazer who  teaches the subject at Rose Hill, said she wasn’t surprised about Garner’s achievement.

“It’s very exciting and he’s a very good deserving kid,” she said. “He’s a lot like Matt in, yes, he has a lot of ability, but he also works very, very hard.”

Wanda had Garner in Algebra II when he was a freshman.

“He came in several times after school to ask questions,” she said.

Wanda remembers the excitement of finding out when Matt scored the 36.

“We saw it that morning online, like at 6 o’clock, and it was like ‘Wow!’ He really wanted to do that.”

ACT test scores are accepted by all major U.S. colleges, and scores of 36 provide colleges with evidence of student readiness for the academic rigors of college work.

There’s no question Matt was ready, and I’m sure it’s the same for Cameron Garner.

Congratulations on the honor and get ready to hear about it, for better or worse.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.


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