DeMers sisters ace difficult ACT exams

by Jim Boyle

Had she known how rare it was for someone to ace an ACT test, she may have felt more pressure.

As it was, Anessa DeMers was just trying to equal her sister, Mara DeMers, who got a composite score of 36 out of 36 on her ACT exams a few years ago.

Anessa did it.

The Elk River High School senior earned a perfect score and did as she set out to do.

“I knew it was attainable, because my sister did it,” she told the Star News. “I wasn’t expecting it because it was my first time taking it, but I was hopeful.”

Mara (left) and Anessa DeMers posed with Dodger at their Nowthen home on the eve of heading out to Pony Club Nationals in Lexington, Va. for quiz competitions. Photo by Jim Boyle

Nationally, while the actual number of students earning a composite score of 36 varies from year to year, roughly one-tenth of 1 percent receive a top score. Among test takers in the high school graduating class of 2011, only 704 of more than 1.6 million students earned a composite score of 36.

Anessa didn’t know that until news of her results came to her. “I just didn’t want to seem like the less smart sister,” Anessa said.

Mara, a 2010 graduate of Elk River High School, is now a third-year plant biology student at the University of Minnesota.  Anessa, who will graduate from Elk River High School in 2013, plans to study creative writing. She and her sister are the daughters of Sue Lavenz and Robert DeMers.

Anessa credits her success academically to her parents, who read to her when she was little (Dr. Seuss books were her favorites) and signed her up for all the “fun ECFE classes.”

“School has always been fun for me,” she said. “I like to learn things.”

Her class schedule for her senior year includes five Advanced Placement classes (calculus, literature, physics, government and economics), one College in the Schools class (German) and Wind Symphony (band). For some students that schedule might be too rigorous. Not for Anessa, though.

“She’s a wonderful kid to have in our school,’ said Elk River High School Principal Terry Bizal. “She knows what she’s doing. She has demonstrated an ability to accelerate her learning.”

Bizal said to have two sisters accomplish what they have is even more amazing.  The parents of the DeMers girls couldn’t be prouder of them.

“All parents are proud of their children,” Sue Lavenz said. “Acing this test is just a little unusual, so we’re very proud of them.”

Lavenz runs Stable Living, a boarding and riding school at the DeMers home in Nowthen. Robert DeMers works in the aerospace division of Honeywell.

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.

In a letter recognizing this achievement, ACT CEO 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.”

Anessa would like to write books someday.  She was the winner of the 2012 Chase Korte Peace Essay contest and she won the local and a district Voice of Democracy competition before finishing fourth at state.

One of her academic goals is to study creative writing at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. She has her sights set on finishing No. 1 at Elk River High School.

“It may sound a bit cocky, but I am hoping to be the valedictorian of the class, but there’s a lot of competition for it,” she said.

ACT test scores are accepted by all major U.S. colleges, and exceptional scores of 36 provide colleges with evidence of student readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead.

Finishing atop her class would be another sure sign of readiness. It would also bring her even with her sister who achieved the feat in 2010.