Gabriel Wiles achieves top ACT score of 36

Teachers and coaches applaud the teen’s success


Gabriel Wiles, son of Christopher and Ashley Wiles and homeschooled junior in Sparta, earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36 in April 2024. The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1–36. A student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores.

About one-quarter of 1percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. In the U.S. high school graduating class of 2022, only 3,376 out of 1.34 million students who took the ACT earned a top composite score of 36.

“Earning a top score on the ACT is a remarkable achievement,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin. “A student’s exceptional score of 36 will provide any college or university with ample evidence of their readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead.”

Wiles’s work ethic and positive outlook have been paramount to his success in academics and athletics in White County. In the 2023-2024 season he held the lead runner spot on the WCHS Cross Country team and the top singles seat on the Varsity Tennis Team. 

Cross Country Head Coach Nathan Aaron says, “Gabriel Wiles embodies the epitome of excellence, from his recent perfect ACT score to his remarkable achievements in cross country. I believe he is the first individual I have known personally to obtain a perfect score of 36 on the exam, and yet I am nowhere near surprised at this feat. His journey is a testament to both his academic prowess and his natural leadership, evident from observing his early days of reading scripture, leading prayers and devotional talks during worship services. Congratulations, Gabriel, on your outstanding accomplishments! I know your future will be filled with even greater successes as you continue to inspire others with your dedication and talent.”

His biology teacher, Dottie Wilhite, adds, “As we wrapped up our biology class for the year at Upper Cumberland Tutorial, a student from another class made us aware that Gabriel had just found out that he had earned a perfect score on the ACT. Of course, we all applauded! We were very excited for him, but honestly, I wasn’t surprised. God gifted Gabriel with a bright mind and that coupled with hard work and determination made the perfect mix for his earning this honor.”

The following responses are from an interview with Gabriel:

What or who do you attribute your success to?

“God through His Word and His people is truly where my success lies. A large part of His provisions has come through my family. I’ve been homeschooled by my parents my entire life, and they’ve been my teachers, coaches, principals, counselors, trainers, and everything else I might need for success rolled into one. In addition to that, my dad is the current high school tennis coach, so he not only drives me to improve, he helps the whole team improve along with me. In cross country, my dad is my personal trainer who keeps me on track with my training and does his best to help me improve my time. Another major factor in my White County success is my coaches. They’ve helped me improve when it’s hard and keep me on the right track in difficult meets and matches. For this reason, I would like to thank Nathan Aaron, Amy Hawkins, Nancy Benningfield, Gregg Segraves, Kevin Copeland, and Mixon Moore for contributing and encouraging me to keep stretching and growing.”

What are your future hopes and plans?

“My hope for the future is to become either a civil engineer, a robotic engineer, or possibly a church youth minister. In the fall of 2025, I see myself enrolled in college. At this moment, my top choices are Vanderbilt, Harding, and Lipscomb. Five years down the road, I see myself married and graduating college, ready to pursue a career. In a decade, I see myself set in my career, whatever it might be, with a growing family.”

What advice would you give other students who want to achieve high scores on the ACT?

“Some advice I would give to other would-be high scorers is to never give up. I didn’t achieve my perfect score until my fifth attempt, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t score where you would like to off the start. Success comes from your daily discipline. Study your subjects every day and don’t give up.”

From Topher and Ashley Wiles:

“We’d like to thank our entire community in White County, Sparta, and the Upper Cumberland.  God has blessed our children to receive support and encouragement from our city and county leadership.  The church leadership at Central, DeRossett, Jefferson Avenue, and Collegeside Churches of Christ have all invested in the spiritual, emotional, and academic growth of Gabriel and his siblings. The leadership of White County High School has been especially inclusive and encouraging to Gabriel in all his pursuits.  With support of such great people in the Upper Cumberland, it’s easy to see why Gabriel and so many other students reach high levels of success.  Friends and neighbors, we appreciate you and we look forward to more growth together!”      


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