Elizabethton High School celebrates high-achieving seniors with billboard display

Published 8:10 am Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Taking a national exam without passing out is often an accomplishment in itself. Scoring significantly above the state average is another, but being able to broadcast your accomplishments to the entire city on a massive sign is a feat on its own level.

Over a dozen students from Elizabethton High School achieved a score of 30 or higher on their ACT scores this year, and to celebrate the achievement, city schools are putting their names and faces on a giant billboard for the entire city to see starting in April.

For these students, their scores were the results of months of study and hard work, at the very least.

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“My goal was a 31, and I got mad when I ended with a 29 the first time,” senior Emily Jenkins said. “That is a $2,000 difference for a UT scholarship.”

Bekah Price, Public Relations Coordinator for Elizabethton City Schools, said the test is mandatory for high school graduation. Every junior is required to take it at least once. She said the billboard promotion is relatively recent.

“This is the third year we have done this,” Price said.

Senior Lauren Pilkton said studying for and actually taking the exam is difficult and takes a lot of time.

For her, the math section was the hardest when she first took the ACT: because she started taking it her sophomore year, she had yet to finish Algebra 2 beforehand.

Senior Sydney Goodsell said the reading section demonstrated one of the test’s greatest challenges: time-management.

“I always get behind in the reading section,” Goodsell said. “Then they will call five minutes left, and I still have a whole section left.”

Sheri Nelson, Assistant Principal and Testing Coordinator for EHS, said the school works on mentally preparing students for the exam by changing the mentality surrounding it.

“It is more a show of what they already know,” Nelson said. “We prepare them every day.”

The students said they owe at least part of their success to successful time management.

“Do the easiest questions first,” Goodsell said. “It goes by a bit faster each time.”

Senior Hannah Edwards said the mentality you approach the test with is just as important.

“Prepare the night before,” Edwards said. “Do not stress about it. The more you take it, the less it scares you.”

Each of them said it took them multiple attempts to reach the scores they currently have.

EHS hosts a Fall “Retake Day” for seniors to retake the ACT while juniors are taking it for the first time, while freshmen and sophomores take practice ACTs at the same time.

The students said the relatively short break period is just as vital to success as the test itself.

“Bring a water bottle for when you panic,” Jenkins said.

“The students amaze us every day,” Nelson said. “And we cannot brag enough on our teachers, who work so hard to get students ready.”

The students said their success at the ACT gives them more options for post-secondary education in the near future. Goodsell and Edwards even said they plan on being roommates at UT in the fall.

Price said the students will be featured on the electric billboard across from Grindstaff as onlookers come into Elizabethton from Johnson City, on West Elk Avenue.