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Ever-present teen

Published June 1, 2007


Making it through the school year with perfect attendance is an accomplishment. Lasting all 13 years, from kindergarten through 12th grade, without one absence seems impossible.

But Patrick James of Chamberlain High School graduated this year with a perfect attendance record. James' brother, Alan James, did the same thing last year. Only two other Hillsborough County students accomplished that this year.

"Until they turned 16, I took them to school every day, " said Natalie James, the boys' mother. "If you're not sick, why do you miss?"

She and her husband have the same work ethic, James said. The family also got lucky, never having to contend with a serious illness, accident or hospital stay.

The boys didn't resist their mother when it came to going to school, she said.

"Once we got them into the habit of going, they never asked to stay home, " said Toby James, the boys' father. "As time went on they saw they could do it."

In sixth grade, Alan James realized he'd made it halfway through school without missing. He decided another six years wouldn't be so hard.

Patrick James flirted with the idea of missing near the end of this school year, Natalie James said.

"It gets tiresome day in and day out never missing, " he said.

But he never had much of an urge to stay home, except for once in seventh grade, when he had a big test.

Some of Patrick's friends can't believe he made it to the end. They almost wanted to get him sick so he would be forced to stay home, he said.

It helped that Chamberlain's senior skip days were not organized well.

"There was never one day when all seniors were gone, and I was the only one left, " James said.

It could be a hassle some times, Alan said. On occasion he was marked absent accidentally, and trips to the office were required to correct it. One person laughed at him when he tried to get his record corrected. The person didn't take the mismarked absence as a serious thing, he said.

More difficult was continually getting up so early in the morning, he said.

The boys' father, Toby James, said he made it to ninth grade without missing. But he got sick, and his mom wouldn't let him go. He cried, he was so upset.

As a firefighter, James finds that showing up to work and being on time is important. In 23 years, he has been late to work only once, the day after Alan was born, he said.

"I hope they learned that if they're working, they should be dedicated to whatever they're doing, " Natalie James said.

Kathryn Helmke can be reached at 813 269-5314 or

[Last modified May 31, 2007, 08:23:30]

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