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Acing the ACT: Backstage With Logan Ryan

Valerie Ing/JPR


Redding’s University Preparatory School has only been around for about 10 years, but it’s already ranked by US News & World Report as one of the best high schools in the nation.

Now the school has another feather in its cap…one of its students has just aced the ACT. The ACT is a really challenging test that high school kids take to see how well they’re cut out for college.

JPR’s Valerie Ing went behind the scenes of a high school play to find out more about what it means to get a perfect score on the ACT.

It’s Tech Week at University Preparatory School. Tech week, despite its name, is not about technology. At U-Prep, tech week is all about the drama.

About 50 students are in the final chaos of their last rehearsals, preparing for the school’s fall musical, Bye Bye Birdie. Up in the balcony, 16 year old Senior Logan Ryan -- who might just be the smartest teenager in the U.S -- is operating the spotlight.

Logan Ryan:“It’s kind of nice to feel like a part of a production (which I can’t wait to see), cause I’m not nearly talented enough to actually be on stage.”

Just like about 2 million other high school kids across the nation this year, Ryan took the ACT back in September. It’s similar to the SAT. And when Ryan took it, he did something pretty amazing…he got a perfect score. He didn’t miss a single question. That’s something that only one tenth of one percent of students who take it manage to do.

It’s probably a bigger deal than Ryan’s making it out to be, as the teen stands in the balcony of his school theater, training the spotlight on two of his peers on the stage down below. He doesn’t think colleges will be seeking him out because of the score. He says the most important thing acing the ACT has done for him is a big boost of confidence:  

Logan Ryan: “Before I was kind of wishy washy , it was like -- do I really want to apply to some of those ivy league colleges? -- because they’re kind of out of my reach, but this was like, you know what? I think I can at least be a qualified candidate.”

Since Ryan loves biology and is thinking about becoming a doctor, his short list of ivy league colleges now includes Yale and John Hopkins. Ryan says he took a week off of school to study for the ACT, so he was feeling pretty prepared going in, but there was still one area in the multiple choice part of the test that threw him off, and he admits …. he guessed.

Logan Ryan:“It was a physics based question.  In the science portion. If anyone knew anything about circuits I'm sure they would’ve looked at it and said, ‘Oh that’s easy.’ And not even think about it. I’m terrified of physics. And circuits. And electricity in general.  So I saw like hertz & a lot of weird things I’d never seen before, so I thought I’d go with zero. I’m gonna assume it’s a trick answer. And I guess I was right. So….yay!”

U-Prep’s administration has been strongly encouraging its students to beef up their high school resumes by getting involved in other activities. They say Ivy League schools don’t just want great academic achievers. They want active, community minded students. And that’s why Ryan is standing behind a LycianStarklite II spotlight, participating in his high school musical:

Logan Ryan:“It helps to know that I can’t just have a nice GPA and a nice score and just be school smart and expect that to fly with a lot of colleges. So I decided to do some baseball, math & science club, science bowl, Lion Club and some tutoring. Basically a lot of math and science, which is kind of what I’m interested in. So it’s kind of nice that U-Prep offers these opportunities & I like how they stress that you should take advantage of them, like branch out and try new things. Like this year, like working on the stage crew with musical.”

Ryan also plays banjo in his family’s bluegrass band, the Ryan Mountain Boys. By the way, if there are any Yale scouts attending U-Prep’s production of Bye Bye Birdie this weekend, Logan Ryan will be the one operating the balcony spotlight on stage right. 

Valerie Ing was a teenager when she hosted her first music program on the airwaves. As a student at SOU, she was JPR’s Chief Student Announcer and the first volunteer in our newsroom. She's now JPR’s Northern California Program Coordinator, hosting Siskiyou Music Hall from JPR's Redding studio in the Cascade Theatre.