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Senior completes perfect attendance record

June 13, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

HANCOCK- It's not just perfect school attendance. It's a family tradition.

Jacob Rhodes hasn't missed a single day of school since kindergarten. Neither did his mother, his two aunts or his uncle - all of whom attended public schools in Hancock.

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The 17-year-old senior's attendance streak will tally 2,328 days when he graduates from Hancock Middle-Senior High School on June 17, he said.

"He knew he was working towards a goal and he's done it," Jacob's mother, Arlene Rhodes, said.

The desire to go hunting with his friends didn't keep him from classes. Summer weather didn't lure him from his task. Vomiting didn't stop him. Even a concussion couldn't keep Jacob out of school.

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"A sore throat is nothing," he said.

You've just got to be there.

Of the 1,082 seniors enrolled in the Washington County public school system this year, Rhodes alone will graduate with 13 years of perfect attendance, according to staff at the Board of Education.

Though the board doesn't track countywide perfect attendance, "it's rare," Student Services Administrative Secretary Loretta Mauck said.

Five family members accomplishing the feat is "amazing," she said.

"When I was 10 or 11, my mom said she'd like me to follow in her footsteps and go to school every day like she and her family did," Rhodes said.

In 1996, Jacob's goal became a mission after his aunt became the fourth family member to graduate with perfect attendance, he said.

"I wanted to be next."

Arlene Rhodes said perfect attendance "came naturally" to members of her family. She and her siblings tended to get their childhood illness during the summer months, she said.

To ensure Jacob's success, his mother even took nature into her own hands.

She said she purposefully exposed her only child to chicken pox one summer to prevent the virus from keeping him from school.

Jacob said he dealt with a bout with nausea in the sixth grade by "going through my normal morning routine, and going to school."

Has he made a few classmates sick?

"Probably," Jacob said.

Arlene Rhodes said her son never yawned early morning complaints about going to school, but Jacob said there have been days when it was tough to get out of bed.

Especially this year.

On Dec. 22, 1998, Jacob said he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a Hancock house. He was diagnosed with a concussion, but insisted on leaving the hospital early to get to school the next morning.

"I told the doctors I couldn't miss school," Jacob said. "They were surprised."

Even some teachers can't believe his accomplishment, but classmates keep track of the days, Jacob said.

On the mornings when his lingering head injury threatens to keep him home, his friends help motivate him to go to school, Jacob said.

And his commitment to perfect attendance won't end after graduation.

Jacob said he will strive to make it to work every day, and will attend all classes if he goes to college.

What if he has children of his own?

"I'll push them to continue the reign," Jacob said.

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