SARASOTA, Fla. -- Think back to those high school days when you had to strive to score the best on the SAT or the ACT. The highest you can get on an ACT is a 36.
About 1,600 students got a perfect score of the roughly 2 million who took it back in 2015. One Sarasota student made that prestigious list -- and she’s in eighth grade.
Julia Kourelakos’ curiosity for learning started as a baby. Her mother, Jennifer, recalls one day when Julia was 20 months old and they were riding in the car. Jennifer says Julia pointed at a yellow yield sign and shouted “Mommy yield.” Jennifer says she nearly crashed.
When they returned home, Jennifer tested her daughter’s word knowledge. She says, “She knew about 200 words. I said I think she could read. I was showing her baby books. At 2 she was reading baby books and at three full chapters.”
Julia’s mom says by 5 she was reading at a fifth-grade level in kindergarten and doing multiplication.
“She just taught herself,” says Jennifer.
When a friend decided to take the ACT last month the 14-year-old eighth-grader did, too, 3 years earlier than most students.
“I decided to take it for fun,” says Julia.
She knew she did well just not this well.
Julia says, “I got a 36 composite the highest possible score.”
Julia got a perfect score! Her mother says her IQ tested very high but wouldn't reveal that number.
How are teachers able to challenge her? “That’s a challenge for me,” says Wayne Robertson, Julia’s math teacher at Pine View School in Sarasota.
Julia attends Pine View School for the gifted in Sarasota. She’s taking Algebra 2 with 11th-graders.
“She’s got a strong curiosity about knowledge and learning,” says Wayne.
Julia says, “I figure it’s always good to keep learning. Once you have the drive to learn you can do whatever you want with your life.”
Julia says at Pine View she feels normal being different. Her math teacher says other instructors adapt to a student’s learning level. “We do away with the notion that it’s one size fits all for teachers and learning,” says Wayne. The Algebra 2 teachers create tougher more challenging assignment for students like Julia. “Whatever I give out she’s willing to do it,” says Julia’s math teacher.
Julia is your typical teenager. She has a boyfriend, is part of the Sarasota Crew rowing team, volunteers and sings in the choir. The teenager loves reading especially sci-fi books but says right now she's reading about genetics.
Julia wants to attend MIT and become a biomedical engineer in genetics specifically DNA computing.
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