Two from Lewiston were perfect at UM


For a couple of guys who claim not to be geniuses, college students Matt Bouchard and James Morin are doing pretty well for themselves.

Maybe it has something to do with the 500 trips they made to the gym over four years.

Bouchard and Morin are graduating from the University of Maine in Orono this spring, and the two Lewiston High School graduates share a remarkable achievement. They will each graduate from college with a 4.0 grade-point average, meaning they never got below an A in any class for four years.

They were perfect. And how rare is that? Well, university spokesman Joe Carr told the Sun Journal that in a graduating class of about 2,000 students, only 12 will graduate with perfect GPAs. That means just over one half of one percent of students achieved that mark, certainly an elite club.

What’s more, the two seniors didn’t select lightweight majors. Morin majored in biology and Bouchard in business finance and accounting.

The two friends shared an apartment and say they were a good influence on each other. A friendly competition developed to maintain their perfect grade-point averages.

The two are modest about their natural skills: “We’re by no means geniuses,” Bouchard said. Instead, they attribute their success to a lot of late-night study sessions. “It’s working hard that pays off,” Bouchard said.

We’re betting that the more than 500 trips each made to the gym also helped. That’s right, they also had a most-workouts competition over their four years, which Morin claims to have won by a 70-visit margin.

All of which is interesting because a school district in Naperville, Ill., has been in the news recently for using exercise to dramatically improve the attention spans, concentration and memory of students.

Students at the high school increased their math and science scores on an international test after participating in a pre-school movement class called “Zero Hour.”

Another group of students in a specially designed gym class just before their literacy course increased their reading scores more than another class that didn’t take the exercise and movement program.

Large-scale studies in Illinois and California have found that public school students who score high on fitness tests were more likely to do better on standardized reading and math tests.

A Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. John Ratey, who is writing a book on the subject, calls exercise “Miracle-Gro” for the brain.

He contends that regular exercise changes brain chemistry in a way that makes young minds more receptive to learning.

Unfortunately, the discoveries come at a time many schools are cutting back on physical education classes and cutting out recess, even as childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing.

The physical activity cutbacks are often done to leave more class time for learning in order to improve standardized test performance.

Sadly, the most recent evidence seems to show that an emphasis on fitness may pay more dividends than spending an extra half-hour hitting the books.

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