- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arman Hemmati, an 18-year-old senior at Southside High School in Fort Smith, received a letter last week naming him as a National Merit Finalist. That notice followed a call from Harvard University requesting an admissions interview. Before that, Hemmati learned that he had earned a perfect score - 36 - on the ACT exam.

But all Hemmati wants to talk about is his rock band.

Just the Chips was formed four years ago by Hemmati and a few of his friends. He switched from playing classical music on the piano to keying tunes from classic-rock bands like Journey and Van Halen.

“We started out small, with birthday parties and stuff, but then we started getting gigs,” Hemmati said, dropping the names of a couple of Fort Smith restaurants like La Huerta Mexican Restaurant and Neumeiers’ Rib Room.

“The band is pretty popular in town,” said Jill Guerra, Hemmati’s mother. “When he was little, he was in a lot of plays. He’s always been kind of a ham, a performer. When he’s playing in the band, he’s up there shaking his head and really gets the audience into it.”

Off the stage, however, Hemmati is known for his humility, Southside math teacher Sheryl Waggoner told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1haPtJl ).

When he learned of his perfect ACT score, he initially shared the news only with his best friend, Baker Jones.

Only five other students in Arkansas earned a 36 score in 2013. Nationally, only 1,162 of the 1.8 million test-takers in the high-school graduating Class of 2013 earned the top score, according to ACT statistics.

The average national score was 20.9 for 2013; Arkansans’ average score was 20.2.

Hemmati further distinguished himself by earning a score of 36 in each of the four test subjects: English, mathe-matics, reading and science.

“He has so much humility that I doubt that very few people know about it,” Waggoner said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Guerra said her son’s only response when he told her the news was “Finally.” Hemmati had scored a34 on his previous attempt last year, but he had earned a “humbling” 29 on his first try when he was a sophomore.

“That was pretty funny. It surprised me because I had done well on standardized tests before then. It kinda disappointed me a little,” Hemmati said, adding that he bought an ACT practice book and set his sights on a higher score.

Guerra said Hemmati has had a real love of learning since he was a young child, and she has never had to push him.

“It was kind of a big responsibility because he always had a thirst for wanting to know everything. He’s not content with just his grades; he really wants to know the information. He wants to understand things,” Guerra said.

Hemmati has gained a reputation as the “go-to guy” at school for homework help or to explain difficult concepts in the classroom. He comes by it naturally, said Guerra, who is a math professor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

Added Waggoner: “His questions are so thought-provoking. Other students seek out help from him, and his whole face just lights up when they ask him questions.”

Hemmati does not have a college of choice yet, but he is thinking about the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Harvard, he said, may be too lofty a goal.

“MIT and Harvard are insane. People that go there are incredibly smart and just genius,” he said. “It would be awesome to be one of those people, but I am just not sure which college I want yet.”

He hasn’t settled on a major either, but Hemmati doesn’t hesitate when asked what his future holds.

“OK, so here’s my actual plan,” he said. He then told the tale of a professor he met last year during math camp at the University of Michigan. The professor had earned his college degree, worked in “the real world” for a few years and then returned to teach.

College and career aside, Hemmati said his biggest challenge these days is balancing band practice with the demands of soccer practice. Although he’s the team captain, Hemmati claims he’s not the “star” and that his teammates remind him of it often.

“When I do something wrong, they say, ‘Oh; 36. I guess running in a straight line wasn’t on the ACT.’ I’ve gotten better, but I’m definitely not the best on the team,” Hemmati said.

___

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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