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CHAMPAIGN As the school bus bumps along Interstate 74, sunlight from the hazy morning slanting in behind his head, Likith Govindaiah and his friends talk about video games, television shows, scoring on AP tests and what they could mean for your college career, the best burger joints in Champaign Urbana and how it’s a first world problem if you have trouble getting through the fries to reach your burger.

He and his Champaign Central High teammates are heading to a Scholastic Bowl tournament in Bloomington.

They talk about Nicolas Cage, how he always seems to play the same character in every movie, and Likith complains about the math in the movie “National Treasure.”

“Nicolas Cage is so stupid,” he says.

The Central team happens to be sharing a bus with the Centennial Scholastic Bowl team, but Likith and his friends ignore the Centennial coach’s offers to “run questions” at the front of the bus.

Likith swears he doesn’t study much for Scholastic Bowl, but on the bus, a chemistry textbook is open on his lap.

In between the conversation, Likith yawns over the chemistry textbook, then a long, skinny index finger pushes up his rectangular glasses in the right hand corner.

Likith is realistic, soft spoken, thoughtful and interested in learning about the world around him.

He knows he’s smart, but he doesn’t think he’s the smartest. He’s competitive, but he’s careful to remember: “There’s always someone better than you.”

He’s getting used to the idea that he won’t always be the best in math and science, that he’ll need to collaborate with those who have similar passions in college and beyond. Likith is a senior at Central. He moved to the United States from India at age 6.

Scholastic Bowl is just a small part of Likith’s life. He’s also the co captain of Science Olympiad and competes with Central’s Math Team and in Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering.

If he told you about all the awards he’s won, the times he’s placed, the attention he’s gotten while competing, you’d be listening a while. He’s taken every math and science class at Central possible, and he earned a score of 5 on the AP statistics test, even though he never took the class.

Beyond school and competitions, Likith is passionate about math and science and enjoys board games, video games, logic puzzles, playing tennis and hanging out with his friends, playing Risk and watching movies.

Oh, and it just so happens that Likith scored perfectly on both the ACT and the SAT.

In general, that puts him in about 0.1 percent of students who take the ACT each year. Generally, about 0.022 percent of test takers earn a perfect score on the SAT.

Likith didn’t really study for the ACT or any standardized tests: “They’re not fun.”

He did take some practice tests the week before and studied some grammar, too.

“It wasn’t the greatest thing,” to earn that perfect 36, he says.

He’s a little more proud of the perfect score on the SAT because fewer people take it in the Midwest.

He found the vocabulary on it “really annoying” because you don’t use it in everyday speech.

It’s early November, and Likith’s first choice college is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s applying early, and he was surprised that he enjoyed writing the five essays about himself.

“It wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be,” he says.

As a student, Likith believes in concentration and careful research.

When he and Science Olympiad partner Rohit Bhonagiri get together on a Sunday morning to prepare to make a boomilever for regional competition, there’s no texting, no music playing in the background, not even much talking as they cut balsa wood and measure it carefully, sorting pieces by weight.

Texting or other lack of focus would add time to the task, Likith says, and when it comes to math and science, he’s passionate, driven and dedicated to intensive thinking.

On topics less rigorous, though say, Spanish vocab he might be more distracted.

In his AP European History class, you might find him reading a book (“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” by Tom Stoppard) for AP English.
marco polo airport Champaign student perfect on both ACT