Toni Clark graduates from Nederland with 13 years of perfect attendance

Published 12:24 am Tuesday, June 9, 2020

NEDERLAND — Toni Clark has had perfect attendance for 13 years.

The recent Nederland High School graduate braved tropical storms, explosions, a global pandemic, flu season and a rough strain of food poisoning to complete a feat few make it through.

It took a lot of hard work and determination.

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“There were days I didn’t feel 100 percent and I still went to school,” she said. “My mom being a nurse, she helped me be healthy. I had no excuse to miss school, so I always kept going.”

Last year, a severe bought of food poisoning came close to destroying Clark’s perfect record.

A love for learning and band music drove Toni Clark to attend school daily.

“I felt bad the morning I woke up, but I told my mom I was still going to school,” Clark recalled. “I told my mom if I started to feel sick, I’d call her to come pick me up. My mom asked if I was sure and I said, ‘Yes, I can’t mess up my perfect attendance.’”

Clark rallied through first and second period before her illness got the best of her.

“I almost threw up in band class,” she said. “I was still determined to stay, but the band director told me I had to go home. Fortunately, the school counted me present because I made it through the first two classes. It was awful, but I knew I had to show up. I had an 11-year streak going on. That’s the first and last time I almost missed school.”

Clark was driven to school day-by-day by her love for learning and band, and a hatred for make-up work.

“I didn’t miss school because I hated make up work and being behind,” she said. “I never wanted to be behind so I just kept going. I also loved the social side of school. I was in the Nederland High School Marching Band and if I missed practice, they filled my spot in. I didn’t want that to happen. I love to march and I didn’t want all the hard work I put in to go to waste.”

Clark was also a member of the National Honor Society, French Honor Society, French Club and in the top 25 percent of her class.

“When you’re involved it makes it a little bit easier,” she said. “If I wasn’t involved I would be miserable.”

Joining the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Program and the Aggie Marching Band, Clark intends to continue her streak of excellence through college.

“Attendance is very important still,” she said. “I’m going to be a cadet and in the Aggie Band, where timing and discipline is everything.”

As the 18-year-old ascends into her journey through secondary education and the armed forces, her advice to others on perfect attendance is simply to keep going.

“You don’t have to be as perfect as me. It took a lot of willpower and willpower will get you through anything,” she said. “Set goals and keep at it.”

Nederland High School usually honors perfect attendance recipients with a program sponsored by a local car dealership. Due to COVID-19, the program was cancelled.

Yet, despite the letdown, Clark said she wanted to thank all of her campuses in NISD for helping her be so successful.

“I am disappointed, but not ungrateful,” she said. “I want to say thank you to all of my teachers and administrators for helping me accomplish perfect attendance and getting into my dream school.”

Clark attended Highland Park Elementary, Central Middle School and Nederland High School. She graduated on May 29 at Ford Park.