LIMESTONE, Maine — You may not have heard of the Maine School of Science and Mathematics.
The magnet school resides in the small town of Limestone-- which sits right up against the Canadian border. It has just 144 students.
The students and faculty at MSSM say the school's success is directly tied to its size and location.
"They're focused on learning. There are a lot less distractions up here," says Dean of Enrollment Alan Whittemore.
"We are number two in the nation because of our location, not in spite of it."
The small northern Maine town is home to some of Maine's sharpest young minds.
U.S. News and World Report ranked the Maine School of Science and Mathematics the second best public high school in the country in late April. The magazine ranks the "best" schools on specific criteria including students' college readiness, math and reading proficiency and graduation rate.
"We're serving a very niche group of kids that are curious and motivated," says Whittemore. "They're very very capable. They don't know everything, but they sure want to."
Asked to describe the school, Senior Ethan Winters jokes, "Imagine a normal school where you have these different cliques of nerds, jocks, popular kids, whatever, and then you just isolate the nerds and make a school out of that."
Being made up of self-proclaimed "nerds" isn't the only thing that makes the Maine school of science and mathematics different.
While it's technically a "public" high school, students must apply to get in and everyone lives in school housing.
According to the students, living in remote limestone has its perks.
Senior Amanda Chen says, "Watching the night sky without any light pollution nearby is amazing! I've seen the northern lights and shooting stars."
Senior Julia Malcolm says, "Although we don't have a lot of contact with the outside world, I do feel like there are a lot of opportunities for us to bond with each other and go outside and have winter fun."
Although--senior George Johnson jokes "There's a reason I only applied to colleges in California."
The students are excited to see their academic strength recognized on the national stage by U.S. News and World Report.
Johnson says, "We're always so involved in our community that to see some recognition from the outside is refreshing."
Senior Ian Ammerman says, "We're not just some misfits in the middle of nowhere doing numbers, we really are good and we have fun while doing it."
Like all public schools, tuition at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics is paid for by taxpayer dollars. However, students pay $9,300 for room and board. Students can apply for financial aid to cover those costs.
Of the 144 students, 82 are male and 62 are female.
1% Hispanic or Latino,14.5% Asian, 1% Black or African American, 82% White, 2% Two or more races.
Most of the students are from Maine. 8% are non-resident students.
Of the 36 seniors this year, 12 will be attending Colleges and Universities in Maine.