David Lauderdale

14 years without an absence 'the right thing to do'

Theresa Bishop apparently never has a bad day.

She will graduate Thursday from Battery Creek High School with perfect attendance. She has never missed a day of school since entering pre-kindergarten 14 years ago at Broad River Elementary School.

That's 2,520 school days.

She's the only student in the Beaufort County School District to graduate this year with perfect attendance. Statewide, only 72 seniors in a class of 44,000 made it through 12 grades without an absence.

Theresa did more than 12 years, and she never missed Sunday school at St. John's Lutheran Church on Lady's Island, either.

Theresa didn't really have any close calls for an absence because of illness, even though she got a shaky start in this world. She was born at home after her mother was sent home from Beaufort Memorial Hospital because the baby wasn't quite ready. As soon as Patsy Bishop got home, Theresa Nicole arrived.

She grew into a healthy child, playing on the Battery Creek softball and tennis teams.

"I never didn't want to go to school," she said.

Theresa missed a portion of a school day last October when her grandfather died.

At home, her parents, Bruce and Patsy Bishop, stressed the importance of school.

"You don't miss school," Patsy Bishop said. "We told our children that in order to better yourself you need a good education."

It has worked with Theresa.

She has never made a grade below a B. She has made all A's as a senior -- including in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Technical College of the Lowcountry courses. She'll be the class salutatorian, with a 4.644 grade point average.

She'll be going to Newberry College, a liberal arts Lutheran school in the Upstate. Her parents will have to pay only for textbooks and lab fees. She earned the Newberry College Founders Scholarship, the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship, the Sam Walton Community Scholarship and other grants.

Theresa plans to study physical therapy and do post-graduate work at the Medical University of South Carolina.

"I've worked my hardest," she said, "especially these last two years."

One thing she did have to miss were some practices with the Beaufort Youth Orchestra. Sometimes the Thursday practices conflicted with softball games. But she still was the orchestra's principal viola chair.

Battery Creek Principal Ed Burnes cited self-discipline, determination and her parents' help for Theresa's attendance mark.

She acknowledges facing the same temptations to skip school or fake sickness that everyone has. But Theresa had a simple philosophy about getting up and going, on good days and bad, all 2,520 of them:

"It's the right thing to do, and it benefits you in the end."