Hersey junior earns perfect scores on ACT and SAT
Three years ago, Clarissa Gomez was on top of the world after winning the state spelling bee hosted by the Knights of Columbus. Now, the Hersey High School junior has topped that: She earned perfect scores on both the ACT and SAT.
And she's not alone. Hersey officials announced that another student had also earned a perfect score on both the ACT and SAT, Luke Larson of Arlington Heights. He is an active student, who competes on the volleyball, math and Scholastic Bowl teams.
Clarissa also participates in many activities, but she knows there is a connection between her championship spelling and her perfect scores on standardized tests.
"Doing all that preparation for the spelling bees has increased my vocabulary," she says," so that helped."
Clarissa is the oldest of two children of Dr. Eric Gomez, a family practitioner at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital, and Dr. Regina Gomez, an obstetrician on staff at Northwest Community Hospital.
She attended St. James School in Arlington Heights, where she developed a love of reading and competing in spelling bees. It was in sixth grade that she won the St. James preliminary bee for the first time, and she advanced to regionals and the state finals each year in junior high school.
"Spelling is an important piece of literacy," said St. James Principal Judy Pappas back in 2015 when Clarissa won the state title.
"Kids who participate in spelling bees gain an understanding of language and an appreciation of reading and writing."
Clarissa credits her preparation as much as her mastery of the words with helping her succeed. For the spelling bees, she studied the competition lists of up to 4,000 words, with her father every day.
When it came to the ACT and SAT, she prepared equally hard and wound up earning perfect scores the first time she took them.
"Having that experience of preparing for academic challenges, with that kind of conviction and dedication," Clarissa says, "developed a work ethic that has helped me throughout high school."
At Hersey, Clarissa serves on Student Council and participates in the Scrubs Club, for students interested in a medical career. Yet, she still loves competing and is a valuable member of the school's math team.
At the recent state finals of the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics competition, she placed fourth overall as an individual, after placing in the top five in two of the team events with her classmates.
Jessica Brtva, math team coach at Hersey, says Clarissa is an integral part of the team, both as a competitor and an inspiring teammate.
"In addition to her remarkable natural talents and the work she puts in developing and furthering her abilities," Brtva says, "she is an incredibly kind and thoughtful young person."