BISMARCK, N.D., March 19, 2021 – North Dakota School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Friday praised four North Dakota high school seniors who registered perfect 36 composite scores on the ACT college entrance exam during their high school careers.
Students who take the ACT are scored separately in math, science, English and reading. The results are used to compile a composite score, which can range from 1 to 36. North Dakota’s high school Class of 2021 has four members who registered a 36, the highest possible score, on the ACT.
The students are Owen Conoly (Wilton High School), Dennis Du (Grand Forks Central), and two students at Fargo Davies High School, Kareem Kamel and Max Pritchard.
“These young people deserve the congratulations of all North Dakotans for a tremendous achievement,” Baesler said. “We are certain they will represent North Dakota well in whatever they choose to do after high school.”
State law requires North Dakota 11th graders to take the ACT or WorkKeys assessments. During the 2019-20 school year, 7,160 North Dakota juniors took the ACT, registering an average composite score of 19.5.
An ACT minimum composite score of 24 or greater is required to qualify for a North Dakota academic scholarship, which offers up to $6,000 in tuition assistance at a North Dakota college or university during a recipient’s post-secondary career. The scholarships are funded by the North Dakota Legislature.
Below are short biographies of the 36ers in North Dakota’s high school Class of 2021.
Owen Conoly, 17, a senior at Wilton High School, has been accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a private university in Cambridge, Mass., that is regarded as one of the nation’s premier schools in science and engineering. He said he will “most likely attend” the school.
“I plan to study math, or possibly physics or computer science,” Conoly said. He intends to join the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps during college, and then serve in the Air Force, or possibly the newly formed Space Force, after graduation. His ambition is to serve as a cyberspace operations officer.
Conoly has the distinction of getting perfect scores on the two most prominent college entrance exams, the ACT (36) and the SAT (1600). “I’ve taken both tests a few times,” he said.
Dennis Du, 17, a senior at Grand Forks Central High School, has been accepted at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is leaning toward attending Harvard to study computer science and artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence “is an emerging field, and there are a lot of exciting opportunities to come,” Du said. “But also, I really like the kind of logical thinking the field involves, and just working through problems is a big part of that. I really enjoy it.”
Du plays tennis and chess and enjoys listening to music and occasionally writing it. A violinist, he favors classical music, especially Beethoven.
Du took the ACT once, in December 2019. His perfect score “definitely was a surprise,” Du said. “I had prepared for it, but I wasn’t expecting a 36 in all four sections.”
Kareem Kamel, 16, a senior at Fargo Davies High School, has not decided about which university he will attend. He wants to study mathematics and computer science, with an eye toward a career as a data scientist.
“I really like working with numbers and statistics,” Kamel said. His parents are both professors at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.; his father, Dr. Ahmed Kamel, teaches computer science and management information systems, while his mother, Dr. Mona Ibrahim, is a professor of psychology.
Kareem Kamel took the ACT once, earning his perfect 36 score when he tested as part of Davies’ junior class in March 2020. He plays tennis and chess – Kamel is captain of Davies’ boys’ tennis team – and likes to read books about economics and other nonfiction subjects.
Max Pritchard, 18, a senior at Fargo Davies High School, has been accepted at the University of Minnesota and is awaiting word from six other universities, including Yale, Harvard, and Brown. He intends to major in statistics, and minor in English and Spanish.
Pritchard’s hobbies include creative writing and theater, especially improvisational comedy. He wrote and directed the play “The Critics,” a one-act comedy – performed by Davies students -- about two high school theater critics who had sharply different opinions on a play they both reviewed.
Pritchard acted in the Davies production of Maxwell Anderson’s “Truckline Café,” playing the role of Kip, the café’s owner.
His perfect ACT score came on the only time he took the exam, in March 2020, when his junior class at Davies sat for the test. He had wanted to do well to strengthen his chances of being accepted at a top-tier university. “It was a little bit of a surprise, as it would be for most people, I’m sure,” Pritchard said of his perfect score. “I would say ‘relieved’ was a big emotion, because I planned on applying to big colleges.”