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2 never missed school
Graduates mark 13 perfect years
McConnell Alex
Alex McConnell - photo by Submitted

Forsyth’s public high school graduations are set as follows:

* Forsyth Academy: 6 p.m. at Lambert High School

* Forsyth Central: 10 a.m. at Cumming Fairgrounds

* South Forsyth: 11 a.m.
* West Forsyth: 3 p.m.
* North Forsyth: 7 p.m.
All three are in the Arena at the Gwinnett Center.

Source: Forsyth County school system

Two members of Forsyth County’s high school class of 2010, whose graduations get under way tonight, always made it to school.

Anna Kirkland of North Forsyth and Alex McConnell of West Forsyth posted perfect attendance records for their 13-year academic careers, all in Forsyth County Schools.

“It is unusual and exceptional,” said Susan Atkins, the school district’s assistant director of student support.

Atkins said she can’t remember anyone else achieving the feat recently.

It was quite the accomplishment too, especially since neither senior reached it by accident. Both got a taste of a perfect record before reaching middle school.

Kirkland was honored after finishing fifth grade at Chestatee Elementary.

“I didn’t really mean to do it at first. I didn’t even know that I had perfect attendance,” she said. “But if I could do it for that long, then surely I can do it for this long.”

McConnell received his first recognition after second grade at Sawnee Primary School, which set his goal in motion.

He said the 13-year stretch is thanks to both “perseverance” and a little bit of luck. His grandmother, a former school bus driver, would pick him up each morning to drive him to school.

His mother, Sandra, said the family helped with his goal, even making funeral arrangements so that he would be able to attend for the required number of hours one day.

“There were a couple days he didn’t want to get up,” she said. “Once you got him up out of bed ... he’d say, ‘Yes, I’m going to school.”

She said she had almost made perfect attendance in school herself, but the chicken pox kept her home.

And that’s where McConnell said luck has come in: He has never had an illness bad enough to keep him home.

For Kirkland, sicknesses always seemed to wait until there was a break from school.

She thinks that having a mother who worked as a paraprofessional may have fostered her love of learning and a strong immune system.

“I don’t think I would be OK with watching [my mom] go to school and then not go to school,” she said.

Her mother, Donna, said that her “self-motivated” daughter gets full recognition for the achievement, since she never needed a push out the door.

Kirkland, who was involved in yearbook, Beta Club and National Honor Society, said going to school each day kept her current in activities and classes.

Atkins said studies have shown regular attendance draws students closer to their communities, as well as helps them be higher achievers.

Kirkland agreed that being present every day made it easier to keep up in difficult classes such as Advanced Placement literature.

“I know if I missed one day of that class, I would regret it,” she said.

Both teenagers will be heading off this fall to college, where attendance isn’t always counted.

Kirkland plans to study nursing at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

“I’m excited to see what I do in college,” Kirkland said. “But I’m kind of excited to miss a day.”

McConnell will attend Toccoa Falls College to study youth and pastoral ministering.

He said he may miss a class if “there’s a really darn good reason.”

Neither student chose to participate in senior skip day, something McConnell said made for one of the most fun days at school.

When he tells his peers he’s never missed a day, “it’s kind of a jaw on floor moment,” he said.

Sandra McConnell said her son’s feat was a draw-jopping moment when he was recognized at a recent West ceremony.

Kirkland got a plaque to commemorate her many years working toward the goal, though a glitch kept her from receiving an invitation to publicly receive it.

Donna Kirkland said of her daughter: “Everyone had a good laugh that the person who had perfect attendance was not there to get it.”