Ironton High senior earns No. 2 state rank

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

A little hard work and a passion for reading brought an Ironton High School student more than just a good education. Now, she’s a record-breaker.

Rachel Near, who will be a senior at IHS this fall, recently earned local and state accolades for her performance on the English portion of the Ohio Scholastic Achievement Test.

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Miss Near earned the highest score ever for an Ironton student – and the No. 2 score statewide for a student from any school of any size.

She competed against about 17,000 select students from across the state. The test is given every year in various subjects and is open to any student who wants to take it.

Miss Near’s English test score earned her first place in the district by division, first place in the district regardless of school size, first in the state by division and second in the entire state regardless of school size.

Her teachers say that is quite an honor.

"She has scored the highest ever on this test as far as we can tell – and for her to have place second in the state is quite an accomplishment," Ironton High School principal Larry Stall said. "She’s brilliant and we’re super proud of what she’s being able to do for the school. She’s a real joy to have in school."

Miss Near credits her English prowess to the reading she does every day – books, magazines, newspapers – anything she can get her hands on, she said.

"I love to read and I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember," she said. "I love to read books by Jane Austin, who is my favorite author, and ‘Gone With the Wind’ is my favorite book. I also like to read books by many other authors. I think reading is what helped me do as well as I did."

But reading is not her only exercise.

Miss Near participates in several academic activities in school. She is a member of the varsity quiz bowl, participates in the school’s musicals and is a member of the Spanish and German clubs. She is a member of the National Honors Society and Spanish honorary.

The IHS student has also participated in national testing in the subjects of math and science. The Test of Engineering Aptitude of Mathematics and Science has brought Miss Near and her teammates a ranking of 38th in the nation, not to mention that only 200 teams can place in the testing.

Her mother, Mary, credits her daughter’s success to determination and good preparation.

"I think quiz bowl helps her out a lot in addition to her reading," said Mrs. Near, who is a teacher. "She has been read to since she was old enough to sit up and now that’s all she does. We’re really proud of her for what she has accomplished."

Miss Near says her family and her teachers should take credit for her success, too.

"I got my love of reading from my parents; they’re brilliant," Miss Near said. "Ms. Lux was my 11th grade teacher and she has taught me most of my literary terms, which was a big part of the test. I took the (OSA) test when I was a sophomore and scored an honorable mention."

In addition to preparing for the test, one of the toughest parts of participating is waiting.

"This year, I wasn’t sure how well I did, especially when they started announcing the scores from the test. We were in the scholarship team awards assembly at school when the scores were announced. They started with those who had scored the lowest and worked upward. When they came to the last award, I thought that I had either scored the highest or I didn’t place at all. I really didn’t think I had the highest score."

And the best part – for mother and daugher – was the presentation of the honor.

"I had found out that she scored the highest just moments before because I was in charge of handing the students the awards while Mrs. Handley read the names of the students," Mrs. Near said.

"When she came up to the stage, I asked her if I could hug her and she said yes. I was very proud of her though somewhat surprised – but I knew she had the ability. She’s always reading a book and that’s the key. She gets her love for reading from her dad and I. We both love to read and I think we’ve passed it on to our children. She’s also had some very good English teachers."

And, as if a state ranking on a tough test was not enough, Miss Near will turn 17 today.