During the 2017-18 school year, 1.9 million students in America took the ACT.
Just 3,741, or .195 percent, made a perfect score of 36.
The numbers aren’t available yet for the 2018-19 school year because students are still taking the test, but the stats figure to be similar.
Jonathan Ervin, a senior at Munford High School, will be part of that elite group. After posting three 35s he got the news in November that he scored a 36 when he took the test Oct. 27.
“I was in band and all the administrators came into the band room,” Ervin said. “They were all giggling, looking at me and pointing me out. I didn’t know what was going on. Mr. (Barry) Trobaugh announced there had been a lot of firsts in his years at the school and then said I got a 36.”
It’s the first time anybody at any of the three Tipton County high schools has ever posted a 36.
Ervin has taken the test once a year since the seventh grade, when he got a 27. He scored a 31 in the eighth grade before scoring three 35s.
Most high school students take an ACT prep course during their junior year. Ervin did not. Instead he studied on his own by reading books, watching videos and taking practice tests, beginning the process two to three months before each test. He said the Kahn Academy website was a resource he used a lot.
Ervin acknowledged such self-motivation is unusual.
“Yeah, I realize that,” he said. “My parents, my family pushed me a lot.”
Angela Huffman, the senior guidance counselor at Munford High School, said it’s obvious to her Ervin has a unique ability to get things done on his own.
“My first impression of him is always, always self-driven. Very self-driven,” she said. “He had a goal for himself. I don’t think it was always his parents pushing him to be that way. It was his own internal drive to be that way. He really wanted to achieve more than anybody at this school ever had before. I think he really wanted to do that and he has.”
“As far as motivation for learning, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Warren Smith, a chemistry teacher at Munford. “It can be intimidating working with someone as intelligent as he is.”
Smith said Ervin’s parents have been very involved with his development and have asked him to keep pushing their son.
“Challenging him can be difficult,” Smith said, “but it’s fun when you have a kid who wants to learn. A lot of other kids you have to motivate. Not him.”
Ervin said he began thinking about the possibility of getting a 36 during his freshman year.
“It was a personal goal because I knew I could do it,” he said. “I knew it would be something good for the school and something I could say I did later on in life.”
He’s also a National Merit semifinalist and will find out next month if he is a finalist, something only about 15,000 students in the country achieve each year.
It’s been a monumental year for Ervin, who is 17. A few months ago he found out he and his girlfriend Jessie Young, who is also a senior at Munford, will be having a son. The baby, who will be named James, is due March 1.
He is fully aware there is a stereotype attached to people who become parents before high school graduation.
“It was nerve-wracking at first because, number one, telling my parents, and two, telling her parents,” he said. “I hadn’t even met a lot of her family before. At first, they definitely held on to that stereotype.”
Everything is fine now between the two families, Ervin said. Young has been accepted to Baptist Nursing School and he said they plan to move in together after he turns 18. Ervin plans to attend Christian Brothers University and major in mechanical engineering.
Ervin does not shy away from talking about becoming a father.
“Honestly, it’s kind of disheartening when people talk about what good I’m doing and they don’t want to talk about that at all,” he said.
Before he finally got his 36, his friends kidded him by calling him Mr. 35.
Now he has two new names: dad and Mr. 36.