In 13 years of school, Chase Pullen of Bel Air High has never missed a day — even if it meant walking nearly bent in half one day and driving all night to get home another.
“It was a lot of luck,” said Chase, 17, who will graduate from Bel Air on May 30.
Chase is one of three seniors graduating this year to have perfect attendance throughout their Harford County Public Schools careers.
Chase, Alayna Avent of Harford Tech and Cara McLaughlin of Fallston have all had perfect attendance for 13 years, Jillian Lader, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools, said. That’s 2,340 days of school.
‘Something kind of cool’
Chase first thought about 13 years of perfect attendance when he was in fifth grade and recognized at the end of elementary school for not missing a day.
“It was cool because no one else in elementary school had done it,” said Chase, who attended Forest Hill Elementary.
He kept up the streak but it didn’t really become “a thing” until 10th grade, when he realized he might actually do it.
“It’s something that makes me different. I like most of school, so there wasn’t really a reason for me not to go,” Pullen said. “It’s something kind of cool — I’m 300 days short of Cal Ripken’s streak in baseball.”
Ripken, an Aberdeen native who played his entire career for the Baltimore Orioles, played a record 2,632 games in a row before sitting out a game.
Chase had to go to somewhat extreme measures to maintain his attendance record, including coming to school with a sprained back after he slipped on the sidewalk.
“He was walking halfway bent over,” his mother, Renee Pullen, said.
Chase missed half a swim season, but not a day of school he said.
He almost, sort of, missed a day as a freshman, when his family was stuck in Florida where they had been on vacation. The airport in Baltimore was closed because of ice and they couldn’t fly back, Chase said.
His older sister, Alison, a 2016 Bel Air High graduate, was “freaking out,” because she was working on her own attendance record — she hadn’t missed a day since second grade, Chase said.
Rather than fly to Baltimore or Philadelphia or anywhere close, the Pullens flew into North Carolina, and from there drove all night to get back home.
“Only for school to be canceled,” Chase said.
Renee Pullen said neither Alison nor Chase ever went to school with anything more than a cold. Strep attacked Chase’s kidneys when he was 3 and he had RSV as an infant, and when the family got the stomach bug one year, it was over President’s Day weekend.
“When he said luck, that’s what he meant,” Renee Pullen said.
She and her husband, Jeff, never took their kids out of school during the year for vacation — that was saved for spring break or summer — and they didn’t have to travel far for holidays.
“It’s a family thing that kind of snowballed and turned into this,” Renee Pullen said. “Then it became fun.”
The Pullens other daughter, Jenna, an eighth-grader at Bel Air Middle, gets strep once or twice a year.
“She had perfect attendance in pre-school, but perfect attendance is not just her gig,” Renee Pullen said. “She has to find something else.”
Chase, 17, is excited to graduate. He’ll be attending UMBC in the fall to study computer science, he said.
“I just really like technology and computers. I’ll probably end up being a programmer, but it’s pretty early and that field moves pretty fast,” he said. “I’m excited about wrapping up high school, moving on to something a bit bigger, studying something I want to study.”
‘Having the willpower’
Alayna Avent, who lives in Edgewood, graduates from Tech next Friday. She learned from her mom that it’s important to always be on time and attend school.
“It’s all about getting out on time and having the willpower to want the best I can do by doing to school every day that I could,” Alayna, who studied culinary arts at Tech.
She never really had more than a cold, she said.
She was in third grade at Deerfield Elementary when she really got serious about going to school.
“I moved on, I learned,” she said. “As you grow, certain things become more important.”
Alayna, who was in four honor societies, on the dance team and in Student Government Association at Tech, plans to attend Salisbury University in the fall to major in communications, with a path of production, and minor in dance, she said.
She’s proud of her attendance record.
“It was a lot of work and it was worth all the work I put into it,” Alayna said. “And personally I find it to be an amazing accomplishment of mine.”
Alayna’s perfect attendance was a goal for her mother.
“She knows she needs to be in school, be attentive and go to school to learn,” T. Avent said. “And she knows that.”
Alayna’s younger brother and sister, in fourth and first grades, respectively, at Deerfield, also have perfect attendance in their short school careers.
‘It kind of just happened’
Cara McLaughlin never set out to have perfect attendance. After eighth grade at Fallston Middle School, her assistant principal told her to try and do it for high school.
“And it happened,” Cara, 17, said. “I didn’t set out any goals, it kind of just happened.”
She credits it to a good immune system — and timing. Cara was seldom sick, she said, but when she was it was on the weekends or holidays.
“I think I’m really healthy,” she said.
Had she not been in school every day, she wouldn’t have the relationships she does with some of her teachers, “and I wouldn’t have the grades I have,” Cara said.
She graduates Thursday and is excited to be done with school.
After working in her dad’s physical therapy office and completing an internship this summer, Cara plans to attend Notre Dame of Maryland University to study biology then go to graduate school for orthotics and prosthetics. Her internship this summer will be at an orthotics and prosthetics office.
Cara’s mom, Jackie, said the family never took vacations during the school year.
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“I was the strict mom, not letting her skip school because she and her friends wanted to goof off,” Jackie McLaughlin said. “I try to tell the kids, don’t take all your opportunities for granted. Make a commitment and respect your teachers and do your best.”