Teen graduates with perfect attendance since kindergarten
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As Hampton Bays' Alyssa Sardone neared the end of her high school career, she began to feel anxious about a certain rite of passage -- senior skip day.
"I would talk to my friends about it and I really wanted to do it," she said about the impromptu day when many seniors arrange to skip school.
But on the day in May when most of Sardone's classmates were at the beach, Sardone, 18, was in school, solidifying her record of perfect attendance since kindergarten.
"In the end, it didn't really seem worth it for one day," she said.
On Saturday, Sardone will graduate from Hampton Bays High School with a 3.5 grade point average and the unique honor of perfect attendance.
Lars Clemensen, superintendent of the Hampton Bays Schools, said Sardone's achievement represents a commitment to excellence that any educator would be proud to see.
"That's more than 2,300 days of education," he said. "It's excellent. It's a fantastic honor."
Grace Ryan, Sardone's mother, said she began encouraging her daughter to keep perfect attendance after she finished first grade without missing a day. But it didn't take long before Sardone was the one pushing herself.
"She's always been a healthy child, so that helps," said Ryan. "But for sure, there were days when she didn't have to go, didn't want to get out of bed, but did."
She said when Sardone was in fifth or sixth grade, she had a terrible ear ache and the doctor said she did not have to go to school the next day.
"Alyssa said, 'But can I go to school?'" she said. "The doctor looked so surprised. Most kids are looking for a reason to miss."
Sardone fought her fever, took her medication and went to school.
In the fall, she will attend University of Buffalo for a seven-year pharmaceutical sciences program.
Sardone's father, Michael, who lives in Ronkonkoma, said his daughter has always been an inspiration.
He said he's especially proud of her accomplishment because it comes in the wake of tragedy.
In April, Sardone's sister Amanda - one of Michael Sardone's two daughters from his new marriage - lost a six-year battle with leukemia. She was just shy of her 10th birthday.
"She just lost her sister," he said. "They were close, so for her to continue to do that, she's just a rarity."
Sardone said she often thought of her sister, who was usually too sick for school, as she worked toward her goal.
"Especially when I was younger, I would feel like I had to go to school because she couldn't," she said.
Michael Sardone said his oldest daughter was always with her sister in the hospital, and in April, she and her mother flew home early from a vacation in Paris to attend Amanda's wake.
In addition to excelling in school, Sardone is also dedicated to community service. She said she has raised more than $11,000 for the American Cancer Society through various fundraisers since she was in the fourth grade.
Ryan, who is also remarried, said lovingly that she never had another child because it couldn't have turned out as good as her first.
"I know I couldn't make it 13 years without calling in sick," said Ryan, who teaches fifth grade in the William Floyd School District. "It's an amazing accomplishment that shows work ethic, perseverance and determination."
Now, the question is whether Sardone will continue the record in Buffalo.
"We'll see," Sardone said. "That's another seven years. That's a long time."