Three Kirkwood High School Students Earn Perfect ACT Scores
Kirkwood High School seniors Helena Verbrugge, Sara Simkins, and Ezra Mendelson earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36. Nationally, while the actual number of students earning the top score varies from year to year, on average, less than one-tenth of 1% of students who take the ACT earns the top score.
Helena was born in the United States to Belgian parents, and she is a dual citizen of both the United States and Belgium. Her father’s job transferred the family to Denmark which is where Helena spent her young childhood. At the age of nine, her family moved to Kirkwood and Helena joined the Kirkwood School District as a fifth-grade student at Westchester Elementary. She continued to North Kirkwood Middle School, and is now KHS. She is a member of the KHS Pioneer Pride Marching Band and the jazz band, where she plays tenor saxophone, bassoon. She is also involved in the KHS Mock Trial team, and a former member of the KHS Robotics Team.
One of her favorite memories as a KHS student was when the band traveled to Chicago. “We performed at the University of Illinois-Champaign, then went to Chicago,” said Helena. “I enjoyed performing, going to the Chicago museums, and attending the Blue Man Group show.”
She is currently enrolled in the St. Louis Centers for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program in the Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing strand. There, she visits local businesses to learn about engineering. As a member of the student-led organization Clean My Planet, she is advocating for more solar energy usage in the St. Louis community. She plans on taking her knowledge toward pursuing a degree and career in Environmental Engineering. “Our first duty is to help the plant, and the second is the help the people in it,” says Helena. “The planet is first because, without a healthy planet, life cannot be sustained.”
Helena is fluent in English and Flemish/ Dutch. She is also studying Spanish, German, Mandarin, and Danish. She would love to live back in Europe as well as volunteer in Africa.
Helena is the daughter of Koenraad Verbrugge and Hilde Van den Borre. She has two siblings who are both KHS alumni: Eli (KHS ’17) and Rhune (KHS ’20).
Sara previously attended kindergarten at Tillman Elementary then switched to North Glendale, and then to Nipher Middle School. She is a member of the KHS Mock Trial Team, the women’s captain of the KHS Racquetball Team, an officer in the KHS Club, and works on costume designs for the KH Players.
Her favorite memories at KHS is being a member of the mock trial team and racquetball team. “I loved when the racquetball team went to nationals in Oregon. It was an incredible experience that I got to share with some amazing people,” Sara shared.
Two of her favorite subjects at KHS also involve two of her favorite teachers. Her love of history stems from being a student in Mr. Lucas Ravenscraft's social studies class. He is also the KHS Mock Trial Sponsor. Sara also loves French, and her time in Madame Anna Kalfus’ class. “Both have helped me on my path to pursuing my passions of history and languages,” said Sara. Sara is fluent in French and would like to learn Mandarin.
Sara loves reading and has a personal goal to read a book a week in 2021. She is currently on book number 44 for the year. She sees a connection between her love of reading with doing well on standardized testing.
After graduating from KHS, Sara sees herself in college and pursuing a degree in international relations. In particular, she would like to be a foreign service officer and work abroad furthering US interests.
Sara is the daughter of David and Amy Simkins. Her sibling Wren graduated KHS in 2020, and her brother Michael is in 8th-grade at Nipher. While close with her whole family, Sara credits her dad with helping her balance everything. “He teaches me the tools to feel empowered to handle everything, while also not feeling pressured at all,” said Sara.
Ezra joined the Kirkwood School District as a fourth-grade student at Keysor Elementary. He continued to North Kirkwood Middle School and is now at KHS. He is a member of the KHS Tennis team. He also enjoys the collectible card game “Magic: The Gathering.” “I love most nerdy pursuits,” said Ezra.
One of his favorite memories involves a class project during his freshman year in Mrs. Amy Leatherberry’s English Class. “We were tasked with performing a scene from Romeo and Juliet,” said Ezra. “We chose the duel scene between Tybalt and Mercutio. We chose to turn the scene into a Western. We all wore jeans and cowboy hats and made a tumbleweed by putting tissue paper on a Roomba. The Roomba caused all kinds of problems which made it very enjoyable and about as fun as a freshman Shakespeare scene can get.”
One of his favorite subjects is math but he truly enjoys all classes and teachers. “I have been lucky enough to have almost exclusively great teachers for my tenure at KHS,” said Ezra. “Every one of them deserves recognition. They all made me feel comfortable in class and made the topic interesting, and I can't ask much more than that.”
After graduating from KHS, Ezra plans to tap into his math skills with a career in the casino field as a croupier.
Ezra is the son of Karen Guskin and David Mendelson. He has a brother named Jonah and sister named Phoebe. “My family is great. Loving, supporting, and funny.”