COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- For his summer internship, Alan Hatfield works at the Center for Geospatial Intelligence at the University of Missouri.
The 17-year-old peruses satellite images of places likely to be featured in the news. Later, programmers will gather intelligence on the sites Alan researches.
"I can't really talk about it much," he said, citing security provisions. "Yeah, it's one of those places, which is awesome." It's a top-level internship for a high school senior, which fits Alan well, considering he recently proved he's one of the nation's smartest high school students.
In June, on his second effort at taking the ACT and SAT, Alan earned a perfect score on both college-entrance exams, earning scores of 36 and 2400, respectively.
The first time he took the ACT, he earned a 35. His first SAT score was a 2240.
Alan says there's no secret to his perfection; he's always enjoyed school and has done well. His teachers say he's a smart student who seizes every opportunity to improve himself and never turns down a chance to enrich his intelligence.
"He's just very bright. Some very bright kids choose not to challenge themselves," said Marilyn Toalson, Rock Bridge High School gifted teacher, who has known Alan since he was 10.
"He has always taken the opportunity to better himself."
No organization tracks the number of students who ace both the ACT and SAT.
For the graduating class of 2008, only 294 students earned a perfect 2400 on the SAT, including two from Missouri.
On the ACT for the 2008 graduating class, only 514 of the 1.4 million students who took the exam earned a perfect 36, including 13 from Missouri, said Nancy Owen, spokeswoman for the ACT.
Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark knew of only one other Columbia student to achieve a perfect score on both tests.
Long before Alan took the national exams, he and others recognized his gifts.
Toalson remembers Alan at the College for Kids, a summer academic program for gifted students at William Woods University.
Alan, 10 at the time, chatted with college students into the late-night hours about medical school or someday attending an Ivy League university.
Alan breezed through Mill Creek Elementary School and headed to Smithton Middle School.
"I really wanted to do well in school," Alan said of middle school. "It's kind of more laid out who's going to be more successful."
After Smithton, Alan attended West Junior and will be entering his final year at Rock Bridge, where he started to think about school in the context of the rest of his life.
He said he also has made a conscious effort to hone his intellectual talents.
"If I'm going to do it," he said, "I'm going to do it the best I can do it."
His fall class schedule will be no exception: He's taking Advanced Placement courses in literature, European history -- his favorite subject, government, psychology, biology and statistics.
He also will be taking calculus III at the University of Missouri.
"He's taken the hardest classes he can take to challenge himself," Toalson said.
Despite his academic achievement, Alan said he has a poor work ethic and procrastinates.
But what he might lack in study habits he makes up in ambition. He speaks fluent Spanish and is learning online how to speak French.
In the future, he plans to learn Italian, Mandarin and Arabic.
"The thing that stands out is that he's very comfortable about speaking" Spanish "and not real worried about making mistakes, which holds some students back," said Barbara Phillips, who taught Alan in AP Spanish at Rock Bridge.
Alan insists he knows no academic secrets other than just sharpening a gifted mind with years of hard work. "I've always had a knack for it," he said. "I've always done well on tests. I've always been able to retain information."
After high school, Alan plans to study public policy at an East Coast school, serve in the Peace Corps for two years and then attend graduate school for public policy.
Eventually, he wants to start a think tank focused on humanitarian efforts.
"This is obviously a 17-year-old kid" talking, Alan said of himself. "So I don't know if it's going to happen or not."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)