Once North County High senior Chalia Belt hit seventh grade without missing a day of school, she knew she would make it all the way to graduation with perfect attendance.
And even though Russell Peacock of Glen Burnie wasn't much interested in book learning, he was interested in being known for his consistent attendance.
When it came to homework, he said, sometimes, "I just didn't do it. But I went to school."
As Anne Arundel County's 128 public schools closed for the summer yesterday, Belt and Peacock, both 18, basked in the distinction of being the only two of almost 22,000 graduating seniors who showed up each and every day.
That's 2,340 days from kindergarten to 12th grade, 209 more days than consecutive games Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. played to break Lou Gehrig's record in September 1995.
They aren't on national television or collecting cars and celebrity souvenirs, but they have received rewards: Peacock's parents gave him $10 for each year of school. And Belt, who even went to school on Senior Hook Day last week, received an autographed picture of President Clinton in the mail.
Both are honored by county schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham, who conceded she can't boast the same impressive record.
"I'm glad they're being recognized, and I think we should also recognize their parents for their support of their children, because certainly the young people couldn't have achieved this without a lot of support from home," she said.
Belt's parents are divorced and share custody. Her father, William Belt, a mail carrier she lives with half the time in Glen Burnie, told her she had to go to school "because there's so much you can learn, and there's no use sitting home and not doing anything," she recalls.
Good health also helped. She had only mild colds; she underwent minor surgery last fall on a day schools were closed; she got chickenpox as a toddler, before she started school at George C. Cromwell Elementary.
Getting well for Monday
"Of course," adds her mother, Deanna Belt of Hanover, a loan coordinator at Bowie State University, "Chalia did get sick, but it just so happened that it happened on the weekends, and we kind of made sure that she got well for Monday morning."
It was when she was in seventh grade at Lindale-Brooklyn Park Middle that Chalia Belt learned that her attendance was flawless.
"We decided from then that we were going to keep this up," said Chalia Belt, who is a part-time cashier at a Marley Station fast-food restaurant.
"I'm very proud of it. I always wanted to do something unique when I was in school, and this is it," she said.
She plans to attend the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and study elementary education or telecommunications.
'Every little pain'
College isn't in Rusty Peacock's plans. The Old Mill graduate works at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore insulating boats, and he says he isn't interested in reading and studying. He enjoys biking and assembling model cars.
His mother, Linda Peacock, sets a high standard for attendance for him and his four siblings, he said. Because she kept after him, his grades improved from mediocre in middle school to better in high school, where he sometimes got straight A's, he said.
If her children were "really sick," she wouldn't force them to go to school, Linda Peacock said. "But I didn't want to encourage them to expect that every little pain would be good enough."
Her son eventually got used to that.
Setting an example
"As I got older and all, I just wanted to go," Rusty Peacock said. "If I did it, other people might want to do it, to say that they did it also."
His friends who cut school never came up with anything really exciting to do, anyhow -- nothing worth breaking the record for which he was recognized at graduation, he said.
"They gave me a plaque," he said. "I thought, that's pretty dumb, personally."
But when he walked out of school for the last time, he gave himself a round of applause, thinking, "I finally made it."
Pub Date: 6/05/98