Another Signal Mountain High School student has aced the ACT college-preparatory exam, while a fourth of this year’s senior class had high scores on a single test of the ACT.
Senior Dana McCormack scored a perfect 36 composite score on the ACT exam she took in October. Fellow senior Tamjeed Azad achieved that in the spring. SMHS graduate Andy Vernetti was the first SMHS student to ace the ACT two years ago.
SMHS counselor Leslie Sharpe noted that 38 of 154 seniors who took the test earned anywhere from 30 to a 36 on a single test. “It’s pretty impressive,” she said.
The majority of those students (28) took a full load of International Baccalaureate courses in 11th and 12th grades, and five others were in a partial IB program. Three had no IB classes, and another two had no IB courses. All took the ACT exam at least twice, with most taking it three or four times and a few even five or six.
“The best advice I could give to others who are preparing for the ACT is to take it more than once in your junior year, so that the pressure doesn’t come down to your senior year to get the score you want to send to colleges,” McCormack said. “Also, it is important to understand how to pace yourself on the questions and never spend too long on a question.”
McCormack said she “primarily prepared by doing math Edgenuity practice that was assigned by my math teacher to target skills that I was weakest on. I didn’t take any external ACT courses. Most of the improvement comes from practice,” she noted.
This young lady has thrown herself into STEM-related activities and is known for her perseverance. She has most enjoyed working with the Technology Student Association for the past six years.
“The community of TSA has not only helped me build my skills in STEM, but also grow as a person,” McCormack said. “It helped me build my confidence and learn about being a leader. As chapter president and vice chair of the Tennessee TSA Membership Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to give back to the organization that helped me become who I am, as well.”
Another club McCormack enjoys is T.E.A.M.S., or Tests of Engineering and Aptitude in Math and Science, which operates under the TSA umbrella.
She said T.E.A.M.S. provides “a really cool opportunity to explore real-life engineering problems with my friends, as well as compete with other nerdy teens on the state and national level.”
“Dana is an amazing student with drive, focus and contagious enthusiasm. She enjoys working with others, but when it is time to compete, she is highly competitive,” said Rebecca Cacicedo, a Spanish teacher who also serves as the school’s TSA advisor. “Dana’s dedication and enthusiasm are infectious and inspire others to work hard to achieve their goals.”
Other teachers had similar remarks. “Dana is an extremely inquisitive student who exhibits advanced level thinking skills,” said Stephanie Lewallen, an IB Biology teacher. “In class, she was always the one who would ask the hard questions that would promote deeper thinking and understanding for herself, as well as her peers.”
McCormack’s interest in STEM extends beyond school. She serves on the STEAMgirls Teen Advisory Board, a collection of high school girls in the Chattanooga area who are passionate about STEM and the arts.
“We work to create fun opportunities for other girls to become exposed to STEM,” McCormack said. The group’s Halloween event offered 3D pumpkin carving and game design, as well as young female STEM professionals, who shared their experiences.
McCormack’s Gold Award project for the Girl Scouts of America was to create a summer day camp for girls in second through fourth grade and publish lesson plans online to be recreated by others.
“Dana is an ideal student who transfers her learning from the classroom and finds ways to incorporate it into her daily life,” observed Amber Thevenet, an IB French teacher. “She seeks opportunities to learn and goes out of her way to collaborate with her classmates of all academic abilities,” said Thevenet, who noted McCormack won the award for highest grade average in French last year and was awarded for her outstanding performance in the National French Contest in 2016 and 2017.
This year, McCormack is president of the school’s chapter for Mu Alpha Theta, a mathematics honor society, as well as a member of the Leo Club, Beta Club and National Honor Society.
“Dana is a natural team leader and fosters an environment of collaboration where everyone feels confident and appreciated,” Cacicedo said.
Steve and Kathy McCormack are proud of their daughter, who has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and also enjoys reading, music, science fiction movies, and her dog, Hazel.
“I remember when Dana was young and wanted to make something, and I didn’t really have time,” said Kathy McCormack, who serves as chair of the SMHS math department. “Dana didn’t get flustered. She just went and found everything she needed and did it herself anyway.”
Mrs. McCormack said her daughter has “always been determined and independent in accomplishing her goals. She doesn’t love school but she does love learning. Her 36 is a wonderful recognition for her determination and achievement. I am very proud of her.”