At one WNY high school, a 36 on the ACT isn’t so rare

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Acing a college entrance exam is pretty rare, but it keeps happening at Williamsville East High School. The school has had four students score perfectly on the ACT in the last calendar year.

“Logged in, saw the score, and I was like, is this real? Did I log in correctly? Is this a glitch?” Melissa Li was slightly shocked when she first saw her score on the test. She will head off to Harvard in the fall, and not surprisingly, would have been willing to try a second time if it was anything less than a 36.

“I was really thinking of it as kind of a practice run. I thought for sure I would have to take it again because I didn’t really prepare a lot. So it was just kind of a blur, and it was just a really big surprise.”

But her classmate Andrew Cartwright, who’s going to Cornell, can’t say he was shocked by his perfect results.

“I thought I got a perfect score,” Andrew told News 4 through laughter. “I don’t want to sound so conceited. My sister got one, so I felt good. So thought, it’s probably, hopefully a 36.”

Less than one tenth of one percent of students that take the ACT exam earn a perfect score. But it hasn’t been that uncommon at East lately. Principal Scott Taylor admits he’s getting used to recognizing students for the accomplishment.

“We’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have about one per year, but having four in one year is quite an accomplishment. And it’s a credit to them and their families for all the hard work that they’ve put in.”

Catherine Eaton says she has that support system to thank for her success.  “All of the help from the teachers and everything. I think that really prepared the me the most,” Eaton said. She will be a senior at East in the fall. “Learning how to take tests, how to plan my time. And the obviously the subject material.”

Spencer Sonnefeld feels the same way. While he’s proud of this milestone, says his education so far as prepared him to rack up many academic achievements.

“This is sort of, in the trophy case, and it’s one of those things, people are going to recognize it, but there’s plenty of other stuff in there as well.”

Spencer is looking forward to going to Brigham Young University in the fall, where his father and sister went.

“It’s a school that my family is really involved in, and that I just really have been wanting to go to for a long, long time.”

And back at Williamsville East, they’ll keep helping and watching students achieve their dreams.

“When you have a very supportive family and community, and a good school district, great teachers, and students that really work hard, you have accomplishments like this,” Taylor said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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