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Perfect ACT score doesn't faze Rockford student as parents cheer him on

ACT.jpg
Maria Gardner Lara
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Sinecio Morales stands with his parents Victor Morales, (left) and Deverne Morales (right) in their home in Rockford.
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Receiving a high score is highly desirable for students competing for entrance to very competitive colleges. A perfect score is rare with less than one percent of all test-takers earning it.

The Auburn high school senior, Sinecio Morales paused when asked how he prepared for the ACT exam in which he earned a perfect score: 36.

"I didn't," Sinecio said.

His breakfast before the big test also did not stand out. It didn’t involve a bowl of grits, oatmeal, eggs and ham or a bowl of some superfoods.

“I think I went to Dunkin, and I got coffee, and I had a breakfast sandwich,” Sinecio said.

His father Victor Morales said he was more excited than his son when he learned of Sinecio’s achievement.

I was like, I Oh, my goodness,” Morales said. “I didn't know how to act.”

Sinecio said there’s reason why he did not prepare for the test.

“When it comes to standardized tests, I've learned from the past that if I study for them, it actually makes me more confused,” he said.

Sinecio wants to be a surgeon, possibly focused on cardiothoracic, which entails the heart and lungs.

His mother, Deverne Morales is a retired nurse and it's her career that influenced his interest in medicine.

“We've been so very proud of him for working so hard to achieve these accomplishments, Mrs. Deverne Morales said. Sinecio is the youngest of two sons, and she adds that she is proud of both of them.

Sinecio has a mixed background, and while it used to be annoying to get prodding questions about his identity, he said, he’s grown to appreciate being raised experiencing both sides of his family.

“I love my culture,” he said. “I love that I'm mixed. I love both the fact that I'm Black and the fact that I'm Puerto Rican.”

His father is his loudest cheerleader.

Morales says it’s important that families celebrate their children’s accomplishments.

He said he and his wife rather than focus on outcomes, they encourage Sinecio’s efforts.

“As long as you do your best, we don't care,” Morales said.
We keep telling him that look, but since we know what God gave you and the gifts that you have, we're like, ‘Okay, now let's go, let's do this.’”

In addition to achieving academically, he also excels in Quizbowl. He’s been competing in the buzzer-based academic team competition since he was in middle school.

He’s a generalist on the team and studies various topics like science, literature, mythology and geography.

“I find it really enjoyable to be able to learn about multiple different topics and not just be confined to one thing,” he said.

In a regional competition in November he ranked the top individual scorer. But in this tournament, winners don’t get trophies.

Instead, they select a book from a collection of classics and acclaimed novels spread out on a table.

“And I chose The Kite Runner by [Khaled] Hosseini.”

He studies violin and is involved in his church where he often plays the drums and attends bible study weekly. He also has a part-time job at a pizza restaurant.

When he was younger, his whole family was regularly involved in outreach ministry that included supporting a homeless shelter and a women and children’s crisis center.

“I wanted him to see that, what the world is really about,” his father said. “Just because he's blessed to have two parents, a home and everything that he needs, doesn't mean that everybody else does. But that doesn't mean that he's better than them.”

Sinecio said those experiences helped him to understand the larger community and his place in it.

“It's made me more passionate about my future because I've always wanted to help people because of it,” he said.

In addition to taking part in activities outside of school, it’s, also college application season.

“There's a lot of moving parts to it all at once,” he said.

To keep up with college and scholarship deadlines he created a google sheet. He shared it with his dad, which he’s not always sure was a good idea.

“Sometimes I get on his nerves,” Morales confesses. “I've been asking him, ‘Okay, so this week, what is do? Did you do it? When are you going to do it? Do we owe a fee? What is the fee? What do we have to do?”

Sinecio wants to study biomedical engineering and is applying to schools on the east and west coasts.

Deverne Morales said it’s going to be an adjustment not having him at home.

“I said, ‘I'm going with you,’” she said. “It's hard for me to imagine him not being here. However, we have strong faith in the Lord, that he'll keep him safe from hurt and harm.”

Sinecio said he’s currently focused on getting into school and less so on the financial side of the process.

“Probably even since before I started high school, that when it came to college, he didn't want me to be thinking about money the whole time,” Sinecio said. “He wanted me to think about where I wanted to go for my education.”

His father said he’s praying that scholarships and grants will help ease the financial burden, but he also started a college fund years ago.

Morales owns a trucking company and drives a truck locally.

“He knows, even if I have to work until the day I die, for him to go to college, then I'll do what I have to do,” he said. “These are the sacrifices we make as parents.”

With everything he is juggling, including his school work, Sinecio said he also has time to hang out with his cousins and friends and play video games. It's a lot of Overwatch and Apex Legends. Also, he enjoys reading just for fun.

A Chicago native, Maria earned a Master's Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield . Maria is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America. RFA is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization. Un residente nativo de Chicago, Maria se graduó de University of Illinois Springfield con una licenciatura superior en periodismo de gobierno.
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