WHEN JASMINE Evans entered kindergarten in the fall of 1988, she began a streak a la Cal Ripken Jr. After 13 school years, this Hammond High School senior has not missed a single day of school.
"Even to have four years of perfect high school attendance is unusual," said Phyllis Parker of the public information office for Howard County schools. Her informal survey of the county's high schools revealed that perfect attendance from kindergarten through 12th grade "is a very rare occurrence."
Sylvia Pattillo, Hammond High School principal, said that she has never come across a student with such a long streak of perfect attendance. "For four years, yes, but kindergarten through 12th grade, never!" she said. "I think it's exceptional."
Statistics on perfect attendance are not tracked on the state level, according to Neil Greenberger, spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education. He noted that at a state board meeting last week, though, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick estimated that each year fewer than five students in Maryland achieve perfect attendance for kindergarten through 12th grade.
"And that may be an overstatement," Greenberger said.
Jasmine received her first attendance award at the end of her kindergarten year at Guilford Elementary. "At first, I just wanted the certificates," she said. "My mom would frame them and hang them on the wall."
"I always made a big deal about it each year," said Mildred Smith-Evans, Jasmine's mother. She said that she always emphasized to Jasmine that "her only job was to go to school," a lesson that Jasmine took to heart.
By third grade, Jasmine realized that she had an attendance streak going, but that is when she had her first "close call." Her teacher, Camille Washington, sent Jasmine to the school nurse one day because she wasn't feeling well and had a slight fever.
"She begged Mrs. Washington not to send her home," Evans-Smith recalled.
But because it was late in the day, her early departure did not constitute an absence.
She has had her share of sicknesses - it's just that they occur during school vacations. "I guess I have my body programmed," Jasmine said.
Jasmine's feat has not gone unnoticed.
"Miss Evans' accomplishment is commendable, and her discipline and the value she has placed on education will benefit her well into the future," said Gov. Parris N. Glendening after hearing about the Kings Contrivance resident.
State Sen. Martin G. Madden issued Jasmine a citation congratulating her on her perfect attendance. "I'm glad she's getting recognition. It's an outstanding accomplishment," he said. He also praised Jasmine's parents for supporting her in pursuit of her goal. "It shows the commitment on behalf of her parents to schedule around the school calendar," he said.
In fact, Jasmine acknowledges that her mother and her father, Earnest Evans, have made sacrifices so that she could maintain her attendance streak while keeping up with her extracurricular activities. Her mother used to drive her, sometimes all night long, to out-of-state competitions for the Kangaroo Kids jump rope team, when the rest of the team would miss a day of school to take a bus. Her father once flew with her to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a pom squad competition so she would not have to miss a day of school to ride the team bus.
Jasmine was honored at an awards ceremony at Hammond High on Friday where, along with Madden's citation and a letter of congratulations from the governor, she received a council resolution presented by County Councilman Guy J. Guzzone and other accolades, including a big box of Skittles - "her favorite," said Pattillo.
Jasmine plans to attend Morgan State University this fall, where, she says, she will study for a career that will keep her where she is quite comfortable - in a classroom, as a teacher.
This month, 112 students from Oakland Mills High School trekked to Williamsburg, Va., to compete in the Musicale Music Festival. "The entire band, orchestra and choir went," said Dan Richmond, the school's band director.
The orchestra, concert band, girls' choir, boys' choir and concert choir each placed first in their divisions and earned "superior" ratings, Richmond said. Winning outstanding soloists were senior Michelle Goddard on the viola, junior Martha Cargo on the piccolo and senior Nes Spence, vocalist. Senior David Nenner won outstanding soloist for accompanying the concert choir on the oboe.
Marjorie Gardner has been teaching at Guilford Elementary School for 32 years, but she had no trouble remembering her former kindergarten pupil Jasmine Evans. "She was always smiling," Gardner recalled. And, of course, she was there every day.
She was excited to learn about Jasmine's accomplishment, especially because Gardner, too, prided herself as having excellent attendance as a student at Ellicott City Junior High and Howard High.
"I had perfect attendance for three years," she said.
It would have been six years, except for one glitch.
"I missed three days in the ninth grade for scarlet fever," Gardner said.