Senior Profile: Emma Harrell

Meg Murphy

"I wish I could do half of what Emma does,” said Katie Harrell, Emma's mom.

Amelia Hurley, features writer

After logging onto the official ACT website, a sense of exhilaration rushed through her body. She silently begged for a score of at least 30. Nervously opening the tab, Emma Harrell, senior, was shocked to discover she got a perfect score of 36 on the ACT.

“I’ve always been an honor roll student,” Emma said. “It’s nothing special to me because I’ve been doing it for so long.”

After moving to Kirkwood at the end of fourth grade, Emma re-tested to participate in the gifted program. Once adjusted to the new district, she said going to school was not too difficult for her.

“I think the most important thing is paying attention in class,” Emma said. “I really try to absorb what the teacher is saying. I think it’s important to focus on academics because it’s essential to be educated.”

Although she is enrolled in many honors courses, it is not so easy for Emma to excel all the time. She said her homework load can sometimes be overwhelming.

Her score doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.”

— Anna Kalfus, KHS french teacher

“I’m a huge procrastinator,” Emma said. “Sometimes I do the bare minimum and watch a movie for the rest of the night. I have struggled with mental health, so I think it is very important [to pace yourself]. Knowing yourself and knowing when you need to take a break is crucial.”

According to Emma, throughout all her success, her mother has been a huge supporter of her academic career. She said she gets all of her inspiration from her mom.

“She doesn’t put any pressure on us to do well, but I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Emma said. “My mom is so accepting. If I get a bad grade, I might be really upset but she’ll comfort me and always be there for me.”

Emma’s mom, Katie Harrell, said she has always admired Emma for her hard work. She said that Emma is very self-motivated, which helps her to be self-reliant.

“Emma has been independent since grade school,” Katie said. “I have never had to keep tabs on anything she did. Everything she has accomplished has come from herself.”

According to PrepScholar, an online website made to prepare students for standardized testing, only 0.195 percent of participants score a 36 on the ACT. Katie said she was blown away when she found out how rare it was.

“I thought it was truly amazing [when I found out her score],” Katie said. “Part of me was not surprised because she has always excelled so much in school. She scored in the top one percentile on the SAT, so when I heard about her 36 on the ACT I was not shocked.”

Anna Kalfus, KHS french teacher, has had Emma as a student all four years of high school. Kalfus said it has been an honor to have Emma as a student for such a long time.

“When I think of Emma, her ACT score isn’t the first thing I think of,” Kalfus said. “I think of this reliable person who has evolved into such a strong woman today.”

According to Kalfus, Emma has modeled a great student. She said her leadership abilities are shown from afar without being publicly demonstrated.

“Emma isn’t the bragging type,” Kalfus said. “She is an outstanding leader behind the scenes. I’m impressed to see that she has found her balance at such a young age.”

Although a grand success, Kalfus said she wants people to see the student behind the test score. She believes the truly important characteristics of Emma lie past the academic achievements.

“Her perfect score is amazing, but it is not what defines Emma,” Kalfus said. “Emma can be defined by her outstanding personality traits. Her score doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.”

Both Katie and Kalfus said that, although Emma’s score is impressive, the true achievement is not in her academics, but in her personality. They said they are proud to have watched her develop into whom she has become today.

“Emma’s always been kind of quiet and focused so she picks things up very easily,” Katie said. “She works hard, so I think that combination [of being focused and hard-working] has really helped her. I wish I could do half of what Emma does.”