Saturday, May 17, 2003

She was 'Here' - 2,340 times

'Miss Perfect' always at school

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Colerain High senior Jennifer Holterman (right) laughs with seniors Devin Hackett (left) and Brittany Campbell as they await their turn at bat Friday during a gym class.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
COLERAIN TWP. - Only nine school days stand between Jennifer Holterman and 13 years of perfect attendance.

Neither flu nor colds nor senior skip day have prevented the 18-year-old Colerain High School senior from missing a day of school in 2,340 days.

"Everyone asks me, 'Don't you ever get sick?' and 'How did you do it?' " Jennifer said. "If I ever got sick, it would be on a Friday night or a holiday. I had chicken pox before I even started school."

Unless the unexpected occurs, her mark of perfection will be formally recognized May 29 at the school's awards night. Her graduation is June 5. While the feat is not unheard of, it is rare.

"I've only been here a couple of years," said her principal, Maureen Heintz, "but I've been a principal all over the United States and I've never heard of such an accomplishment. She's not at the top of her class. She's just a normal kid who's never missed a day of school."

On the days she felt less than stellar, she toughed it out or avoided the school nurse so she wouldn't get sent home.

"If I can walk, I'm OK," Jennifer said.

Her closest call came in fifth grade at Colerain Elementary, when her family was returning from vacation in Florida. After a delay, she had 45 minutes to get from the airport to school. Tardiness and early dismissal count against perfect attendance.

"I was pushing my dad because I didn't want to miss school. I didn't think about the attendance thing. I just didn't want to miss school." She made it.

The down side of her perfect record was missing her grandmother's funeral last year.

"My mother-in-law knew Jenny never missed school," said Jennifer's mother, Barb, who graduated from Colerain High 25 years ago. "We told her, 'Life goes on. You have to expect that there are some things you can't do.' "

Another challenge came March 3, when most of her classmates took the day off for the traditional senior skip day.

"I figured I've gotten this far, I might as well keep going," she said.

Friends in Jennifer's accounting class had other ideas.

"They were going to kidnap her, so she'd miss the day," Barb Holterman said. "The teacher got wind of it and said, 'Don't you dare screw up Jenny's thing.' "

She receives friendly razzing from classmates who dubbed her "Miss Perfect," but for the most part, her friends are astonished by what's she done.

"It's amazing, because I know I couldn't go a year without missing a day," said senior Megan Steinmetz, 18.

She's also had an influence on her classmates. A couple of years ago, Jennifer and friends in Young Life, a Christian outreach ministry group, met before school on Fridays at a nearby Bob Evans for Bible study and breakfast.

"Some of us wouldn't be too worried about getting to school on time," Megan said. "But Jen would be the one to get us there. She'd say, 'I can't be late. I can't be late.' "

Jennifer's not sure how long her perfect attendance will continue at Lake-Sumter Community College, 30 miles north of Orlando, Fla. She'll attend school there for a year, before transferring to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where she'll study to become a physical education teacher.

"I'm one of these people if I miss something, I feel really out of the loop," she said. "I like learning, and I just don't like missing anything."


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