And You Thought You Had Good Attendance

Jalyn Brown is a graduating honors student and a varsity basketball player at Riverhead High School in Long Island, New York. She's looking forward to a well-deserved chance to sleep in after a 13-year streak of perfect attendance. Brown tells host Michel Martin about what pushed her to get to school every morning.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Dropping out of school can have implications for years, as we've just talked about, but success in school can come from a lot of things. Intelligence, good attitude, supportive home environment and good habits. And one of those habits might be particularly important - the habit of showing up every day.

Jalyn Brown is about to graduate from Riverhead High School in New York and she never missed a day of school for 13 years. She's an honor student and a varsity basketball player. We caught up with her after her last day of classes, of course, at her home in Riverhead, New York.

Jalyn, welcome to the program and congratulations.

JALYN BROWN: Thank you.

MARTIN: And I just want to emphasize, of course, you are not missing school to talk to us.

BROWN: No.

MARTIN: I just wanted to - she's like, no. That would never happen. Seriously, 13 years, you never felt like sleeping in, never had a headache, didn't want to go?

BROWN: Well, I had headaches, sniffles, but I just brought a box of tissues, took a little medicine and just went on to school.

MARTIN: Did you set it as a goal to never miss a day of school when you started school or was it something that just kind of happened?

BROWN: Well, I've been getting certificates ever since elementary school and then in junior high and then I knew that they also have certificates here at high school, so I was - I said I can make 13 years if I really put my mind to it. And why quit now when I've been going for the years that I've been going?

MARTIN: Do I have it right that perfect attendance is kind of a family affair?

BROWN: Yes. My cousin and my older sister also got perfect attendance in school for 13 years and my sister for 11 because she was down south in Virginia and moved up here when she was in second grade.

MARTIN: So she kind of set an example for you?

BROWN: Yeah, exactly. My dad always told me that - you could be like your sister not missing a day, so I just wanted to be just like her.

MARTIN: Those aren't always words that achieve the desired effect. You know what I mean?

BROWN: Yeah.

MARTIN: You could be just like your sister. It doesn't have the same effect on everybody.

BROWN: Yeah. Well, we're 11 years apart, so we never really argued or, like, had to share things, so there's really a big gap in age, like, so I always looked up to her.

MARTIN: Well, that's nice. I'm glad to hear that. I'm sure she's glad to hear that, too. Now, you know, you were telling one of our producers that you actually don't really like school, but you like being in school. Do I have that right?

BROWN: Yes. Well, not a lot of people like doing the work, like the work ethic, but I love to make people happy and laugh and I just love seeing people with smiles on their faces everyday because that's what gets my day going.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We are speaking with Jalyn Brown. She is graduating from Riverhead High School in New York after 13 years of perfect school attendance.

So that actually - what you just said is interesting to me because I think that could be kind of inspiring to other kids who thing that - well, to have perfect attendance, you just have to love the work and love being there and it seems to me that what you're saying is that there are lots of ways to get motivated. Could you talk a little bit about that?

BROWN: I just - like I said, every morning, I motivate myself to go to school, even though - if I'm, like, a little sick or, like, if I'm sore after practice or a game the other night, I just still motivate myself to go to school because I know I have - I knew I had a perfect attendance 'til now and I never wanted to quit.

MARTIN: And, even with your basketball schedule, I mean, also with your athletic schedule...

BROWN: Yes.

MARTIN: I think some people might be interested to hear that because you can certainly see a scenario where...

BROWN: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...going to games, getting in late...

BROWN: Yes.

MARTIN: ...having to stay up late to do homework that you might not gotten...

BROWN: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...finished.

BROWN: Yeah. That was, like, every night for me for basketball. I usually - I would not get in till like 9:30 or like, in the spring, with my AAU traveling team, I used to always go up to the city for practice and I wouldn't get home until 11:00, 11:30 and then would have to go to school the next day. So it was kind of hard and, like, tiring going to school, but I still got up out of bed and went to school.

MARTIN: How early did you have to get up?

BROWN: I get up every morning at six o'clock for the past four years to go to high school.

MARTIN: And six o'clock - and, you know - did you know that teenagers apparently are notorious for needing to sleep?

BROWN: Yes.

MARTIN: Did you, like, dream of sleep?

BROWN: Yeah. Well, you - definitely during basketball season, like, I always wanted to sleep, but I know I couldn't, like, sleep in. I had to go to school on time and finish the school day. I knew I could come back home and take a nap.

MARTIN: Well, we are catching you just after you've finished and I want to say congratulations.

BROWN: Thank you.

MARTIN: And what are you going to do this summer?

BROWN: This summer, just catch up with some friends before they go to college and I start summer league in July at my college.

MARTIN: And where are you going to college?

BROWN: I'm going to C.W. Post University.

MARTIN: OK, great. Well, congratulations. Do you think you're going to try to maintain your streak there?

BROWN: Yeah, hopefully, I can. I'm just - like I said, I'm going to keep on trying my best. I'll give it 100 percent and see if I can get perfect attendance in college, also.

MARTIN: Well, I'm going to keep a good thought for that. Yeah, Jalyn, I'm sure that there are a lot of people listening to the program - probably mainly parents - I'll just be honest about this - who are wondering what they can say to their kids who aren't as motivated as you to kind of maybe give them a little bit of what it is that you have. Do you have any wisdom to inspire people who would like to follow in your footsteps, but aren't really sure they can do it?

BROWN: Well, I think anybody can do it if they really set their mind to it. Like, just not seeing a school as just work, work, work, but just seeing your friends and laughing with your friends and, like, because you never know what will happen the next day. And just have fun with it, like, even though there's a lot of work with homework, testing and stuff. There are still people around you that makes your day much better.

MARTIN: That was Jalyn Brown. She is a graduating senior at Riverhead High School in New York. She managed to go 13 years with perfect attendance and she joined us from her home on Long Island, New York.

Jalyn, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations to you and we know we're going to hear great things from you in the future.

BROWN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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