Seniors first at West Harrison to score perfect ACTs

GULFPORT -- Joseph Layton and Christian Manganti are friends inside and out of West Harrison High School.

They take many of the same classes, they both play percussion in the school's band and they competed against each other to see who could earn the best ACT score.

Eventually they tied with 36 -- a perfect score and the first perfect ACT scores for West Harrison High School since it opened in 2008.

"It's just fun to go after a goal," Layton said of his drive to achieve the 36. "It's the same reason we strive to do so well in percussion."

Layton was ahead of Manganti in the race for a 36 for a while. He got a 32 after eighth grade. But ultimately, Manganti hit the perfect score first, the summer before his senior year. Layton earned his top score in September.

Neither let the fun competition keep them from other activities.

Manganti is in the math, English, science and history honor societies and the overall National Honor Society. He's also active with his church.

Layton is in the school's robotics club and active with other groups as well.

"We're that kind of people," Manganti said. "Overachievers."

The two took the ACT "eight or nine" times. But neither spent much time specifically studying for it.

"Everything here prepares you," Manganti said.

At most, they would take a practice test before each actual exam.

Dana Trochessett, the school's principal, said the perfect scores speak well of the school.

"It solidifies the high expectations we have here for our children," she said. "It also validates what we're doing in the classroom."

A perfect ACT score is rare.

In Mississippi, only 10 people have achieved a 36 during this school year. Overall, only about one-tenth of 1 percent of all students who take the ACT earn a perfect score. In 2015, Mississippi's average composite ACT score was 19. West Harrison High School averaged a 19.4.

Both Layton and Manganti have heard the perfect score could help them go wherever they want.

They said want to stay in the south for college.

Manganti wants to attend the University of Mississippi or the University of Southern Alabama and eventually go to medical school. Layton is looking to study electrical engineering at the University of Alabama.