Jefferson High School student Natasha Brisbine recently received the news that she’d earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36. According to ACT’s letter of congratulations, less than one-tenth of 1% of all test takers earns the top score.
“I thought it was difficult,” Natasha says of how she felt after taking the test in June. “But I thought I did okay.”
It turns out she did more than “okay.” She did perfectly.
It’s worth noting—and she prefers that it is mentioned--that Natasha’s success comes not without challenges and not without guidance along her academic journey. “I had issues in ninth grade—as in freaking out over little things,” she offers. She credits her school guidance counselor, Donna McCullough, for being “the logical person who keeps me focused.”
She and her parents, Barbara and Bruce Brisbine, also point to Taft staff members Stephen Koepke, her science teacher, and Richard Hemann, her guidance counselor, for their part in Natasha’s academic success.
“We’ve been lucky that she’s had great teachers,” Barbara says of Natasha’s experience from Taft Middle School to Jefferson High School.
“Great teachers and staff,” Natasha gently adds.
Natasha, one of many students who receives special accommodations as outlined by her 504 plan, wants it to be clear that all students, when given individualized support, are capable of academic excellence.
It’s clear that her parents have allowed Natasha to flourish in her interests and take advantage of a variety of opportunities such as the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s district-wide expanded learning initiative which provides eighth graders with the option to enroll in high school level courses. As a student at Taft, Natasha made her way to Jefferson High School for science and math classes—the two subjects which clearly fuel her curiosity. “I’m kind of fascinated with space,” she says. She adds, jokingly, “Is it bad that, in my free time, I calculate orbital speeds or watch astrophysics documentaries?”
Natasha’s love for math and science started early. She was reading Stephen Hawking before she was in fourth grade. “I got bored with books in the library,” she says. “So I started reading Stephen Hawking.”
This summer, Natasha enrolled in summer classes at Coe College where she says with amusement at having the opportunity, “I’ll get to learn quantum physics!”
Indeed, Natasha’s story is one of a young woman whose love for inquiry has been fueled by supportive parents and an academic experience rich with opportunity. “You just feed them what they want. Encourage their interests,” Barbara says. “You say, ‘Nat! Come and see this DVD on fractals!’”
From fractals to final frontiers, Natasha’s academic journey finds her at the head of her class if ACT scores are any indication of what lies ahead for her.