Newton High School seniors Henry Jantzen, Colton Aarstad, Neil Smucker and Tyler Shelly aren't just at the top of their class — they are at the top of all the classes in the United States.
All four students were honored by the National Merit Scholarship program, which ranks students based on their performance on the PSAT (preliminary SAT). Aarstad, Smucker and Shelly ranked in the top 3 percent and Jantzen ranked in the top 1 percent.
"I can't ask for four better young men," said NHS counselor Chuck Corley Sr. "They'll be very successful in life, I'm sure."
The students took the test as sophomores and then retook it officially as juniors. They said the National Merit recognition will open doors for them in college.
"It looks nice on a resume," Jantzen said.
Smucker plans to attend Bethel College, majoring in biology. Jantzen is undecided on what college he will attend but would like to study biology or a foreign language, such as German or French. Shelly has enrolled in Wichita State University and will major in mechanical engineering. (Aarstad was not available at the time of the interview).
In addition to academics, extracurricular activities have been an important part of their education, as well. Shelly has enjoyed his involvement in the school's Robotics program; Jantzen has participated in debate and forensics, as well as Scholars' Bowl; and Smucker is a member of band and jazz band, playing flute and alto saxophone.
Corley said the students' rigorous curriculum — as well as teachers who challenged them — played a key role in their success.
"We always like to have those honors because it reflects well on our teachers and the classes they've taken," he said.