New Berlin - It may be a first in the history of Eisenhower High School, said its Principal Michael Fesenmaier.
Two students - Gregory Hartmann and Rishil Mehta - achieved perfect scores of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam in the same year. Not only that, they are friends, are in many of the same school activities and they live right across the street from each other.
The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each test is scored on a scale of 1-36, and a student's composite score is the average of the four test scores. The Wisconsin state average score for the ACT is 22.0. New Berlin Eisenhower's average is 24.5.
It is amazing enough, Fesenmaier said, to have one student with a perfect score of 36.
"Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the test get a perfect score," he said, adding that a high school is lucky to have one student, let alone two, with perfect scores in the same year.
"We may never have had two in the same year," Fesenmaier said.
Adding to the uncommon accomplishment is the fact that Rishil gained his perfect score as a freshmen. Out of the 598 perfect ACT scores since 2000, only 20 or 3 percent were freshmen, said Nancy Owen of the national ACT headquarters in Iowa City, Iowa.
Gregory, who will be a senior this fall, and Rishil, who will be a sophomore, have been neighbors since childhood. Both attended Elmwood Elementary School and both participate in orchestra, play the piano, have been in the State Honors Orchestra and are part of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra.
In addition, they're teammates - on the table tennis and math teams - and both play tennis.
Individually, each has made a name for himself.
Gregory has received numerous music awards. He was named exemplary soloist at the State Wisconsin School Music Association Solo & Ensemble for two years in a row. He placed second in the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association state piano competition and has won several awards for his original compositions. In addition, he has been named an AP Scholar with Distinction, receiving the highest score of 5 on all five exams he has taken.
Rishil, as a freshman last year, earned a perfect score in Eisenhower forensics team competition at state. He also was the district spelling bee champ and placed third in the Wisconsin State Spelling Bee as an eighth-grader.
"I'd say both of them value learning," Fesenmaier said. "When you hunger for that, it helps you continue to grow."
Path to perfection
Even though the boys are friends, they did not study for the ACTs together and because they are so different in age, there is no friendly academic competition going on, either.
"Greg's not much of a surprise," Rishil said. "For me, it was more of a surprise. I didn't expect it."
Gregory said his preparation for the ACTs came in the form of taking a practice ACT test the night before, which turned out to be disconcerting. He knew that the practice test was harder than the actual ACT, having taken the ACT before as a freshman, but he was unpleasantly surprised.
"It was really hard. I thought I'd get a 27. I was kind of worried," Gregory said.
But he said was pleased that he topped out with a perfect ACT score and excited that his friend did, too.
Rishil took practice tests and wrote the ACTs as both a seventh- and an eighth-grader, but this time around it was easier.
"I usually found a quarter to be really hard, but this time I never really struggled," he said. "This time I did not guess on any of the questions, which is a surprise."
Surprising too is how both he and Greg have such similar interests and both reached the top of the ACT heap.
"It's pretty much coincidence, but a nice one," he said.
A parental perspective
Gregory's parents knew they had an exceptional offspring when he was learning chess at the age of 2.
But his dad, Dr. Robert Hartmann, said that although their son is gifted, "He's a hard worker and when he combines his talent with diligence, that's why he's where he is."
His mother, Carol, applauded the schools for their individualized instruction at the elementary level and the flexibility that allowed Gregory to do independent study in high school.
Both of his parents keep the achievement in perspective. "More important is he's a good kid and a kind boy," Carol said.
Rishil's father and mother, Atul and Dr. Malini Mehta, also take the wider view beyond mere academics.
"He's a very good kid," Malini said. "He has a good head on his shoulders, and he sticks to his values."
They knew their son was bright from his first day in kindergarten.
"He wrote a full sentence and the teacher was shocked," Malini said.
As Rishil has gone through intermediate and is now in high school, she said she sees good acceleration that challenges Rishil academically. As a freshman, he got to attend two science honors courses and he will take more advanced placement or college-level courses as a sophomore, Malini said.
Gregory would like to become a concert pianist.
Rishil too likes music as a career, but he also is thinking about medicine and business.
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