Madison Mitzel didn't start out to break a record. After all, she was only 5 and in kindergarten. But by the time Mitzel graduated fifth grade at Warren Elementary School and was given a prize for perfect attendance, she had a goal.
"I didn't realize I had perfect attendance" until the prize, said Mitzel, a Cockeysville resident and Dulaney High School senior. "That's when I decided to do it for the rest of school."
On May 26, awards' night at Dulaney and the day before graduation, Mitzel will be honored for reaching her goal. She has had perfect attendance for 13 years of school. Put another way, she has not missed a single day in her Baltimore County Public Schools' career through Warren Elementary, Cockeysville Middle and Dulaney High.
"I'm excited. It feels good to have accomplished that," said Mitzel, the daughter of Kathy and Ed Mitzel and the youngest of four.
On a balmy spring day, Mitzel arrived for an interview looking stylish in a black hi-lo skirt and T-shirt emblazoned "Creativity," the school magazine. Last fall, she was voted "best dressed," which in high school has brought her more attention than her perfect attendance.
With a few days left before school officially ends, "I am being super cautious," said Mitzel, who attributes her record to a couple of factors.
Mitzel said she has been generally healthy or, when she got sick, it was mainly on weekends. Major family events, such as the funerals of her great-grandparents, happened to fall outside of school days. Vacations were scheduled around the school calendar.
That's not to say there haven't been some close calls. Her mother, Kathy Mitzel, remembers when Mitzel was in third grade and had a sore throat. Tests showed it wasn't strep, the doctor cleared her to return to school and she was put on antibiotics over the weekend.
"We asked her if she wanted to go back [on Monday] and she said she did," said Kathy Mitzel. "We never sent her to school sick."
Another close call was Super Bowl 2013, when the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans. The family wanted to attend, but Mitzel said she would go only if she could get back in time to attend school on Monday. A special flight was arranged for Ravens fans to fly in and out of New Orleans in a day.
"We left New Orleans at 2 a.m. and arrived in Baltimore at 5 a.m. [Monday morning]. Madison took a shower and went to school," said her father, Ed Mitzel.
Chloe Messier, her best friend since age 4, can attest to Mitzel's determination. "She is definitely committed to school," said Messier, daughter of Carol and Lawrence Messier, a Cockeysville resident and Dulaney High senior. "Even if she didn't feel well the night before, she'd come to school and then start to feel better."
Lynda Whitlock, principal of Dulaney for the past four years, couldn't be prouder of Mitzel. "Madison is a role model," she said.
While perfect attendance is rare, it's not unheard of, says Whitlock. She can remember one other student during her tenure at Dulaney with a similar record. Good health is a factor, of course, but in her opinion, there's more to it than that.
"It takes a committed child and supportive parents. They don't schedule vacations [during school days]. They make school a top priority for the child," Whitlock said.
Mitzel, a member of the National Honor Society, has been active at Dulaney. She has participated in the field hockey team, student government, future business leaders and school events club. She has worked as a waitress at Brightview Mays Chapel Ridge Retirement Community for the past four years.
Other activities include playing forward on the basketball team at the Cockeysville Rec Council and horse-riding in Interscholastic Equestrian Association events through All In Stride Equestrian Center.
Next fall, Mitzel will attend Purdue University, in Indiana, to pursue a degree in retail management. She wants a career that combines retail and fashion, perhaps as a buyer for a department store or, ultimately, her own boutique.
"I put my perfect attendance record on my resume," Mitze said. "People noticed."