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Schools honor 14 who never missed

LAWRENCEVILLE - The dedication of 14 recent Gwinnett graduates helped them achieve a level of perfection few students ever reach.

The teens attended every day of school from kindergarten through 12th grade - all 2,340 days of instruction.

"We're proud of these students for their tremendous record of attendance. Attending school every day in one year can be difficult - but to do so every year of your academic career is quite a feat," said Jorge Quintana, spokesman for Gwinnett County Public Schools. "These students and their families should be commended for this accomplishment and for making education a priority every day."

Dacula graduate Christopher Ryan Nelson attributes the accomplishment to his determination. After achieving perfect attendance in elementary school, he made it a goal to continue the trend through middle and high school.

"How many people can say they never missed a day of school for 13 years?" Nelson said.

When he woke up with a headache or an upset stomach, he took some medicine and went to school. (Fortunately, he said, he never suffered from a major illness.) When his friends participated in senior skip day, he went to school. Before he went on a school-sponsored band trip, he checked with the school to see if the excursion would ruin his attendance record.

"I feel very accomplished," he said, "and my parents are very proud of me for doing this."

Like Nelson, Mill Creek graduate Andie Tuggle decided to make it a goal to achieve perfect attendance after finishing fifth grade. And it wasn't an easy goal to achieve.

"When you're a little kid, you always want to skip school, or you get sick, or you go on a family trip," she said. "Being a senior was the worst, with senior skip days."

But Tuggle said going to school every day became part of her character. She, too, was lucky enough to avoid major illnesses. One year, she had strep throat - but because she got sick on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a school holiday, she didn't miss any classes.

In a few years, having perfect attendance may become a family tradition. Tuggle's younger sister, Bryce, is also working toward the milestone.

"There are some days you wake up in the morning and think, 'Gosh, I don't want to go to school,'" Tuggle said. "But you just have to stick it out. In the end, you'll be better off."

SideBar: Perfect Attendance

The following Gwinnett County Public Schools graduates were recognized this year for having perfect attendance from kindergarten through 12th grade:

· Michael Bradford II, South Gwinnett High

· Joan Chung, Peachtree Ridge High

· Samuel Guldenschuh, Peachtree Ridge High

· Austin C. Hunt, Collins Hill High

· Nolan Keatley, Collins Hill High

· Christopher Ryan Nelson, Dacula High

· Brandon Patrick, Parkview High

· Morganne Patterson, Norcross High

· Rebecca Suder, Parkview High

· Michael F. Swift, Berkmar High

· Leandra Taylor, Parkview High

· Andie M. Tuggle, Mill Creek High

· Miles Walk, Parkview High

· Chong Hak Yoo, North Gwinnett High