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A talented trio of Forest Lake Area High School students learned that they earned a perfect score of 36 on the ACT this week. Ben Cartford (junior) and brothers Matthew (junior) and Adam Strupp (sophomore) were called to their deans’ offices on Tuesday to hear the news. Although all three wondered what they had done wrong to merit a pass to the principal’s office, they were quickly told of the cause for celebration. Earning a perfect 36 is a statistical rarity. Only 79 students out of 61,000 in MN earned a 36 in 2017. Across the nation, Ben, Matthew, and Adam are part of the approximately one tenth of one percent of test takers who achieve such an accolade. A score of 36 is created by averaging a student’s scores in the subject areas of English, reading, mathematics, and science.

Sophomore Adam Strupp, Junior Matthew Strupp, & Junior Ben Cartford

Sophomore Adam Strupp, Junior Matthew Strupp, & Junior Ben Cartford


All three students credit preparation and perseverance for their success. The Strupp brothers took their first ACT test as 7th graders as part of their participation in NUMATS, Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search. Adam admits adopting a “vigorous approach” to his preparation, taking a practice test every other day for the month before April 3rd’s test. Ben prepared by taking the PrepStar test prep class. He also attributes both content and test taking strategy knowledge to two of his teachers, Mr. Leventhal and Ms. Ungerecht, who teach college level courses in the high school. Although Matthew agreed those teachers were instrumental, he pointed out that the score “isn’t a great measure of anything meaningful, but instead an arbitrary measurement”, while still acknowledging the importance such a score commands in the world of college applications.

For certain, these three students are more than their perfect ACT score. Each one is incredibly active in the Forest Lake Area High School community participating in a great variety of sports and activities including speech, debate, National Honor Society, student council, scouts, and other clubs. Principal Jim Caldwell stated, “I could not be prouder of these three young men for what they accomplished; however, the test score is just one aspect of student success. Being well rounded is the other. These three young men are a perfect example of that ideal; however, let us not forget that we have many other students who performed at or above the national average who will also have many opportunities available to them. Additionally, we’d like to recognize  juniors, Rachel DeSobrino and Autumn Schuldt who earned a nearly perfect score of 35 on their ACT.” Matthew went further by pointing out that their success can be attributed in part to their station in life.

However you credit the success of these three students, one thing is certain. They all have big plans to make a positive impact on the world around them. Ben is interested in combining his interests in computer science and conservation while Matthew intends to study ecology and evolutionary biology. Adam is interested in pursuing a STEM related degree at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Both Ben and Matthew are interested in attending the University of Minnesota while realizing that their performance on the test will encourage them to also consider other options including ivy league institutions. No matter which path they choose, the Forest Lake Area High School community is tremendously proud of the young men they have become and their desire to create positive change.