Ashia Hawkins never missed a day at Old Suwannee Christian School, and he is the valedictorian of his graduating class.

There were days in Ashia Hawkins’ senior year at Old Suwanee Christian School when he felt sore the after playing in basketball or soccer games and didn’t feel 100 percent. It didn’t matter, though. Hawkins had made a commitment.

“There were a couple weeks I would tweak something, and the next morning I would get up and not know if I could go in,” Hawkins said.

Circa fourth or fifth grade Hawkins told his parents that he wanted to achieve perfect attendance for 13 years, up to the day he would graduate high school. Hawkins not only never missed a day at Old Suwannee Christian School, but he is the valedictorian of his graduating class.

Perfect attendance, he said, had an influence on his academic achievement.

“I guess, I would say that since I went every day, it kind of motivated me to do well,” he said. “Since I’m already there, I might as well try my hardest.”

It’s a surreal feeling for Hawkins to recall thinking how far off his goal of perfect attendance seemed when he was a middle schooler. Now he’s writing a valedictorian speech.

There’s some luck involved in achieving 13 years of perfect attendance. Sometimes Hawkins was under the weather, but he always happened to be sick on the weekends. Perhaps most importantly, his parents stressed that school was like a job.

“What you do in school is going to follow you into the workplace,” mother Tracey Hawkins said. “That’s how we presented it. He came to us and said that he wanted to do this. … I was like, ‘OK? We always made an effort to never say what you can’t do. Do you know what this is going to entail?’”

Though he attends a small school, Hawkins’ coursework is rigorous. It includes a handful of Advanced Placement, dual enrollment and some programming courses.

Hawkins has a bit of a competitive side. His older brother, Anias, was also valedictorian of his class. The younger brother, who played basketball and joined the soccer team as a goalkeeper as a senior, was too competitive to let his older brother out-do him.

“It was like, Ashia — because sometimes he was known as Anias’ brother — I think that also kind of motivating him to be known for himself, ‘I’m Ashia,’” Tracey Hawkins said. “They always competed for grades.”

Ashia Hawkins credited one of his history teachers, Joshua Gillispie, and a science teacher, Dwayne Reed, for helping him reach his full potential. He said he not only enjoyed their classes, but the life lessons they provided.

Hawkins is bound for Kennesaw State University on an honors scholarship to study computer science.

“I’m just so proud of him. And it was something he came up with, and I just feel that this is a good start for his adult life,” Tracey Hawkins said. “The things you do in school are a dress rehearsal. The skills you pick up in school will carry you for a lifetime.”

Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories in the county he grew up in.

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