LAYTON -- Small classes, college courses and dedicated students have set NUAMES apart and garnered national recognition.
The Northern Utah Academy of Math, Engineering & Science made this year's U.S. News & World Report top high schools list. It's the only early college high school in Utah on the list and one of only 21 nationwide.
Alan Stokes, principal of the school in Layton, said it came as a surprise that NUAMES would be on the list considering the school is only six years old.
He said he was happy and excited when he heard the news.
However, biology teacher Jon Harris said getting the honor didn't shock him.
"We're good," he said with a shrug. It's all the explanation needed.
The magazine judges schools based on college readiness, test scores compared with others in the state and whether disadvantaged students are performing better than expected.
Schools that perform well in all three categories are eligible for gold and silver rankings.
NUAMES was named a bronze school because it does not offer Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes, which is what the magazine bases its college-readiness evaluation on.
What NUAMES does offer is even better, said junior Josh Mullins. Juniors and seniors can take college classes at Weber State University's Davis campus.
While some universities don't accept AP or IB tests, they will almost always transfer college credits, Josh said. The school is housed in a group of portable classrooms next to Weber State buildings. Students can go from a college class back to a high school class with no trouble.
If they work hard, Stokes said, students can graduate with an associate degree.
Junior Brianna Lehman believes NUAMES students are so successful because they all want to be at the school and classes are small.
Because NUAMES is a charter school, enrollment is capped at 500 and students have to apply to attend rather than be assigned to it.
Students are willing to work to achieve goals, Brianna said.
Another thing that helps is the small student body -- only 370 students this year.
"It's not this group and this group and this group," Josh said. "It's more like a family. Everyone knows everyone else, which is the best and worst thing about this place."
Even though the students excel, Brianna said, the big misconception is that all of the students are nerds and don't have fun.
"That's not how it is at all. We might be higher-achieving than others, but we're not any different than other high school students."