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2 Northwestern students never missed a day of school in 13 years

Susan Murphy, Rock Hill school district truant officer, sat at the attendance desk Tuesday at Northwestern High School and looked at these two teenagers having their pictures taken next to the Northwestern Trojan statue.

She said the greatest words a parent could ever hear: "Who are those kids?"

Murphy never saw the names Katelyn Jackson and Kyle Yarborough because the two kids graduating this weekend never missed a day at Northwestern High School. But the perfect attendance for this duo started long before.

That was 2,340 school days ago for each - all the way back to kindergarten.

A pair of kids who had no sore throats, no moaning over taking tests while lying to gullible parents about a mystery fever caused by a heating pad under the electric blanket, no days when they just didn't feel like going or worked all night to make up an excuse that included diphtheria, botulism from all the fast-food kids eat, or cooties from kissing.

Just last year, a young girl in second grade had the dreaded swine flu and got a week off to keep other kids from getting it. She was forced to eat ice cream and watch cartoons.

A pair of teenaged sisters immediately felt constricting throats, burning foreheads, and looked up cholera and malaria on the Internet so they could say they had the symptoms.

"I want swine flu," said the middle daughter.

"Yeah, the youngest always gets all the favoritism," said the oldest. "She's so lucky to get the swine flu."

Those kids are my kids, who sure would skip school if they ever could get away with it.

Yet neither Kyle nor Katelyn ever skipped school. In 13 years, neither Katelyn nor Kyle ever missed a day.

Before Northwestern, Kyle never missed at Sullivan Middle or Ebinport Elementary.

"I wasn't feeling good a few times," he said, "but I just came anyway."

Not only did Katelyn never miss school at Northwestern or Rawlinson Road Middle before that, or Mount Gallant Elementary before that, she never was even was sick.

No flu, no sprained ankle - not even a common cold.

"I just loved going to school," said Katelyn. "I figured I would have to make up the work, anyway, if I ever missed, so I always went."

The two soon-to-be Northwestern grads are the sole perfect attendance students from York County this year.

Across the state, 72 students went from first grade through 12th grade without missing school - including Jordan Truesdale of Andrew Jackson High and Lauren Bradburn of Buford High, both in Lancaster County.

"The award from the state is for 12 years," Katelyn said, "but I tell everybody it is 13 for me because of kindergarten."

"Me, too," said Kyle. "I didn't miss in kindergarten, either."

In the Rock Hill household of Edward and Faye Yarborough, it is no surprise that son Kyle got up every day and never missed school - his father is a former Marine and Coast Guard warrant officer.

After Saturday's graduation, Kyle plans to do volunteer work this summer before starting on a graphics design career at York Technical College.

"My boy was dedicated to going to school - he did his best every day and I am proud of him," Edward Yarborough said. "Like all kids, he had days he wasn't feeling his best, but he made it to school. He wanted to say he went every day."

James Blake - the principal at Northwestern and one of the first at school each day, long before classes start - even recalled seeing Kyle at Hardee's in the morning before school most days.

"Every day," Blake said. "I knew he'd be at school. Katelyn, it seemed like I saw here all the time, too. That's right - she was here every day."

The desire to go to school every day in the house of Mike and Pam Jackson started very early for Katelyn. Try the very first day of kindergarten - back when Bill Clinton was president.

"She told her father when she came home the first day she liked school and was never going to miss," Pam Jackson said.

"And she was right. She never missed."

The two of these kids - who attend a high school so large they had to introduce themselves Tuesday on the cusp of graduation - made it through a combined 4,680 days in school without fail.

Katelyn leaves soon after Saturday's graduation for a two-week church mission trip to China, then will come home to attend Charleston Southern University. When she gets back, she can rub it in on her younger brother, 13, who lost perfect attendance a couple of years ago.

"It was just two days, but he had a strep throat," Katelyn said.

And then Katelyn can do one more thing. Her parents all those years ago promised her a car if she never missed school. Katelyn, who keeps her promises, said she likes sports cars.

Vroom, vroom, Mom and Dad, vroom vroom.