Weather Forecast


Second Brainerd student earns perfect ACT test

Brainerd High School (BHS) junior Connor Gunsbury — who is one of the youngest in his class at age 16 — has just added one more prestigious academic achievement to his resume.

Gunsbury earned a perfect score of 36 on his ACT test. He took the test Dec. 12, 2013, and found out the results during Christmas break.

Gunsbury, the son of Brent and Jenny Gunsbury of Nisswa, said “I was a little surprised (with my score). I felt like I would do well, but not a perfect score ... I am excited.”

Gunsbury said the hardest part of the ACT was the science portion. The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each test is scored on a scale of 1-36, and a student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores.

“The questions (in science) were so long that by the time you read the question, your brain was fried,” said Gunsbury. “It was a lot of reading.”

Nationally, it is a rare occurrence for students to earn a perfect score on their ACTs. On average, less than .1 of 1 percent of the students who take the ACT earns the top score. Among test takers in the high school graduating class of 2013, only 1,162 of 1.8 million students earned a composite score of 36.

Locally, BHS officials can proudly say they have two students who did that in the 2013-14 school year. Gunsbury joins BHS senior Clark Hickman who received a 36 on the June ACT.

When asked about Gunsbury now earning a perfect ACT score, BHS Principal Andrea Rusk said she was not surprised.

“He is an outstanding academic student,” said Rusk. “He is a well-rounded student. In addition to his academics, he is involved with athletics and a member of service clubs and other activities. He is a high achieving student and has many great qualities.”

Nicole Harmer, who was Gunsbury’s AP biology teacher last year, was not surprised by his achievement either.

“He is a very bright child,” said Harmer. “He definitely comes into the classroom wanting to understand (the lessons.) He wants to learn things in detail and he asks a lot of ‘Whys.’

“He is very meticulous. He really knew what he was up against when he was taking the ACTs.”

Harmer said several times Gunsbury would bring in examples, such as an article, of what he learned in class and would share it with the other students.

“This is a sign of someone who will always be a learner,” she said.

Gunsbury has earned many achievements in his school career. He took 19th place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee held in Washington, D.C., when he was in eighth grade. He earned his trip to the national bee after winning the Brainerd School District spelling bee and the regional Lakes Bee.

At the high school, Gunsbury is involved in Knowledge Bowl, Kiwanis Key Club and in Wind Symphony. He also is involved in three sports — cross country, track and Nordic skiing. He currently is working on lettering in all three sports for four years in a row.

Gunsbury said a few factors contributed to his achieving a perfect score on the ACT. Factors include his parents reading to him at a young age and the school programs from elementary to the high school, including his Advanced Placement (AP) courses helped him prepare for the test.

“I’d particularly like to thank Mrs. Harmer and Mrs. Lundgren, whose AP science classes helped tremendously on the science section,” said Gunsbury. “Also, Mr. Peterson’s AP U.S. History class helped me develop critical thinking and close reading skills important to the reading and writing sections. A final factor was the ability to participate in spelling bees from elementary school through eighth grade, which made the vocabulary questions much easier. Test scores are certainly not everything, but I’m hoping it’s an indicator of future success.”

In a letter to Gunsbury about his achievement, ACT chief executive officer Jon Whitmore said, “While test scores are just one of the many criteria that most colleges consider when making admission decisions, your exceptional ACT composite score should prove helpful as you pursue your education and career goals.”

JENNIFER STOCKINGER, staff writer, may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at