CENTRAL — Austin Elliott is only a junior at Central High School, but he’s already done something no other student in the school’s history has done — earn a perfect score on the ACT.
Elliott, 17, took the ACT as a sophomore and nearly hit the mark with a 32. He’s been in the gifted program since the first grade and most of the classes he’s taken in high school have been advanced placement (AP) or dual enrollment.
“I knew that I could do better and I had learned a lot junior year and the school would let us take it again for free, so I figured I’d take it again and just see what happens,” Elliott said. “I was just so like, blown away by it. I was just so excited that I accomplished what I was shooting for.”
He said it wasn’t until the school’s award ceremony held a few weeks ago that he learned he was the first in the school’s history to accomplish the feat.
“I was even more taken aback by that because I really didn’t think that I was the first,” he said. “It was one of those things. I wasn’t prepared for that.”
He plans to attend college for biomedical engineering. He said his options are wide open now.
“I’ve now been like looking at more options because I have all the options available now,” he said. “The two that I’m looking at the hardest are Northwestern University in Illinois and MIT because they have excellent programs for the degree I want to get.”
Since he was five, Elliott has used a wheelchair but was officially diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) when he was older. People living with SMA have insufficient levels of the SMN protein, which leads to the loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and causes weakness and wasting of the skeletal muscles. The weakness is often more severe in the trunk (chest) and upper leg and arm muscles than in muscles of the hands and feet.
“I’ve always been kind of interested in medicine and how it’s designed and I’ve always been interested in helping people in any way that I can,” Elliott added describing his interest in biomedical engineering. Having my condition SMA and all that and going and taking these treatments that have been developed within my lifetime. It’s really kind of inspired me to go try and do something like that for other people. I also just have a really good interest in biology and chemistry, which are both very prevalent in that field.”
Elliott said the treatments have been helpful, but also painful. He described the process as something similar to a shot in the spine.
“It’s not fun, he explained. “Some days, it’s really rough and I don’t want to do anything for days afterward but it’s worth it.”
Elliott is also a member of the Central band and plays the saxophone. When the band is marching, he plays percussion.
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