Cathedral student scores 30 on ACT, has big plans for future

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sam gause | The Natchez Democrat Cathedral High School student Miller Downer, 16, scored a 30 on the ACT his first time taking the test.  (Sam Gause / Natchez Democrat)

Sam gause | The Natchez Democrat
Cathedral High School student Miller Downer, 16, scored a 30 on the ACT his first time taking the test. (Sam Gause / Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Thirty isn’t known for being a magic number, but as Miller Downer’s ACT score, it was.

The 16-year-old student earned an overall score of 30 on the ACT, a test that many colleges look at during the admission and scholarship processes.

Downer was originally born in New Jersey. His family moved to Natchez when he was 3.

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“We’ve just kind of been here ever since,” Downer said.

At Cathedral High School, Downer got involved with Key Club International and the National Honor Society.

Pat Sanguinetti, chief administrator and 7-12 grade principal at Cathedral, said Downer is an excellent student who works to stay on top of his studies.

“He doesn’t put things off,” Sanguinetti said.

Outside of the classroom, Downer likes stringed instruments. Cathedral doesn’t have a band, but that didn’t stop Downer from learning how to play instruments such as guitars and ukuleles.

The family dog, Ringo, stands as a testament to some of his musical tastes.

“I was a big Beatles fan a few years ago,” Downer said, remembering when he picked the dog’s name.

Downer also likes working with computers, more specifically building them.

At the end of July, he’s scheduled to take computer classes in New Jersey, at a school that’s near and dear to his heart.

“My dream school has to be Princeton,” Downer said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to get in, but it’s worth hoping for.”

Downer is considering going into a career in the sciences, perhaps something with Biology. It was his desire to take a closer look at the field with Cathedral’s anatomy and physiology dual enrollment class that resulted in his score.

“That’s sort of the class to be in if you want to be in a science,” Downer said.

The class required an ACT score of 18 before a student could be admitted.

Sanguinetti said the class is done with Copiah-Lincoln Community College and gives students eight hours of college credit over the course of a year.

“All of the dual enrollment classes require a student to have an ACT (score),” Sanguinetti said.

Sanguinetti said the school pushes the ACT “100 percent.”

“Every point a child goes up is going to be more scholarship money at most colleges,” Sanguinetti said.

Downer had already taken the ACT once when he was 12.

“They wanted him to take it because of his standardized testing and how well he had done,” Melanie Downer, Miller’s mother, said.

Downer scored a 21 then, and later took a practice version of the test. When he took the test last June, he didn’t find the science section, which he said had several charts, too difficult.

“Charts are usually my kind of thing,” Downer said. “I don’t know why.”

While Downer, didn’t like the math portion as much, he completed the test scores and went home.

About a week and a half later, his mother asked him about his scores.

He told her they wouldn’t be up yet but his sister, Caroline Downer, 19, suggested the time difference between Natchez and the East Coast might mean he would get the scores at a different time.

When he checked later, he saw he’d received an overall score of 30. He scored a 28 in English, 25 in mathematics, 30 in reading and 33 in science. According to the National ACT Profile Report, 1,845,787 students who took the ACT in 2014 received an average overall score of 21, 20.3 in English, 20.9 in mathematics, 21.3 in reading and 20.8 in science.

Sanguinetti said Cathedral’s senior class of 2015 only had five students who scored in the 30’s. Data for Downer’s class is unavailable.

When Downer texted his mother the news, she took a screenshot of the text and put it on Facebook.

“I was very, very excited,” she said.

Downer said his father, Jeffrey Downer, was also proud of him.

“I almost don’t want to take it again,” Downer said.

But despite his high score, Downer isn’t ruling it out.

“I have more time to take it, so I might as well,” Downer said.