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A dedication to education

ALEXANDRIA--Emily Hanson has accomplished a feat few others can claim: She hasn't missed a day of school in more than 10 years. On Friday, the Hanson High School senior plans to attend her last day of classes as a Beaver, and celebrate having per...

Emily Hanson, a Hanson High School senior, is pictured recently in the school's library. Hanson will attend her last day of classes Friday having not missed a day of school since second grade. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)
Emily Hanson, a Hanson High School senior, is pictured recently in the school's library. Hanson will attend her last day of classes Friday having not missed a day of school since second grade. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

ALEXANDRIA-Emily Hanson has accomplished a feat few others can claim: She hasn't missed a day of school in more than 10 years.

On Friday, the Hanson High School senior plans to attend her last day of classes as a Beaver, and celebrate having perfect attendance since April 5, 2006, when she was a second-grade student.

The attendance record doesn't say the reason Hanson missed in 2006, and she doesn't remember. But what she does remember is how hard she has worked to be in school every day since.

"When I do something, I don't do it halfway. I'm going to be at school no matter what, even if I don't want to, even if I have tests," Hanson said. "I'm going to come because that's what a good student does."

But, until recently, Hanson didn't even know she had such a massive streak going. High school principal Ray Slaba called Hanson to his office one day prior to the school's Awards Day-a day in which students are recognized for their outstanding achievements-and asked her if what his records showed was correct.

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"I just looked at him and was like, 'What do you mean? I come to school every day, I don't know what my attendance record is,' " Hanson said.

Prior to that, she said her drive came simply from not wanting to fall behind in her class work. Hanson is involved in cross country, track, oral interp and the school's play production, so she misses a handful of days each year to attend school-sanctioned events.

When she does, and is forced to play catch up at school, it's not a good feeling for the senior.

In fact, Hanson has been so dedicated to her unblemished attendance record that during her junior year, she scheduled knee surgery around her school schedule.

The surgery was on a school day-but after classes ended. And Hanson returned the next day to help her classmates decorate the homecoming float. During times like this, Hanson received some gentle prodding from her classmates to take a break.

"Classmates have encouraged me at times to go home when I'm sick or if I'm having a bad day," Hanson said. "They say things like, 'You're a senior, you can do those things.' But I just don't. I'm not going to miss for something that isn't important."

There was one close call, where Hanson contracted the flu and told her mom that was the day-the day she'd have to stay home. But the school had just announced a snow day.

"Everyone here at school is impressed and so proud of what Emily's accomplished," Slaba said. "It's basically unheard of, with all of the reasons there could be to take even just one day off, for someone to have not missed in so long. It's amazing."

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A family affair

Hanson isn't the only one in her family to maintain a flawless attendance record. Her younger sister, Abby, a junior at Hanson High School, hasn't missed school since she was in fifth grade. The last day she missed was March 8, 2010.

Hanson said while it has become somewhat of a sibling rivalry in which the pair pushes each other to persevere, much of her sister's success has been by her own doing.

"I think I push her a little bit, but we are very determined-it's in our blood, I think," Hanson said. "She's very determined to finish out the years without being sick or anything, too."

The girls' mom, Rita, is a teacher at the school, so the importance of education has always been stressed in the family. And it has helped Hanson in maintaining not only a perfect record, but also in not recording a tardy. That has been especially evident in inclement weather.

The mother-daughter pair, up until recently, traveled the 8 miles outside of town to the school, often arriving by 7:30 a.m.

"That's definitely one way to never be late," Emily Hanson said. "With that kind of stuff, you just plan ahead and are ready for everything."

Moving forward, Hanson plans to attend Dakota Wesleyan University to study nursing and run on the cross country team. She's realistic about the time both her classwork and athletic involvement will take, and she's aware that it might be more tempting to take a day or two off without her parents' support and encouragement. But she's also fixated on finishing her education with exemplary attendance.

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"That's what everybody looks for in a good student and that's what an employer looks for," Hanson said, "someone who pushes herself even if she doesn't want to."

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