When a couple million people celebrated the Phillies’ World Series championship by lining the streets for a victory parade on Oct. 31, 2008, then freshmen Greg Soussa, Mike Palmer and Kaitlyn McGarrigle were sitting in class at Archbishop Ryan High School.
And when the Ryan 12th-graders organized “Senior Cut Day” on May 15 of this year, Greg, Mike and Kaitlyn went to school instead.
In fact, the three teenagers attended class each day of their four years at Ryan. And they were at their desks for all eight years of grade school.
On Monday, during graduation ceremonies at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, the trio will be recognized for their commitment to attending classes every day for the last 12 years.
The teens officially completed the feat on Thursday, when the 428 seniors had to report to school for a couple of hours in the morning before attending Ryan’s Baccalaureate Mass that evening at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
They agreed that the key to perennial perfect attendance is staying healthy.
“I never get sick,” Kaitlyn said.
Kaitlyn, 17, spent kindergarten through eighth grade at St. Katherine of Siena in Torresdale. Mike, 18, completed the same years at St. Anselm in Parkwood. Greg, 17, attended Watson Comly Elementary School for kindergarten before moving on to St. Christopher in Somerton.
None recall whether they missed any time in kindergarten, or whether teachers even kept complete attendance records. They all finished eighth grade, they believe, as the only ones in their respective graduating classes to earn perfect attendance.
Greg remembers getting an extra push toward perfect attendance as he neared the end of his eighth-grade year.
“My mom said they’d mention it at graduation and that I should keep going for it,” he said.
Greg’s mom and Mike’s mom both woke up their sons every morning for school.
“I think my mom wanted perfect attendance more than me,” Mike joked.
For Kaitlyn, it was an alarm clock that awakened her each morning.
At Ryan, students must be in homeroom by 7:40 a.m.
Greg sometimes went to bed early after punishing lacrosse practices and games and usually woke up around 6:30 a.m. He was never late.
“I tried to be on time,” he said.
Mike’s head never hit the pillow before midnight, and Kaitlyn is a real night owl.
“I stayed up till three in the morning sometimes,” she said.
Mike and Kaitlyn rolled out of bed about 7 o’clock.
“I was late once [during] my junior year. My ride was late. I was getting antsy,” Mike said.
“I was late a lot,” Kaitlyn acknowledged. “I hit ‘snooze’ and overslept, or my rides were late. I’m terrible in the morning. I get up at the last minute.”
None had time to eat breakfast in the morning, but all were still able to maintain pretty good grades.
Over the years, Mike had a few close calls, including an excused absence to attend his grandfather’s funeral in seventh grade.
As a second-grader on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, he had a doctor’s appointment in the morning and planned to report to St. Anselm afterward. Of course, that was the day terrorists crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Somerset County.
“They said the mayor let everyone out of school that day,” he said.
As a freshman, he turned down a trip to Six Flags Great Adventure during a school day.
“My friend invited me. I didn’t go. I said no. I wanted to keep perfect attendance,” he said.
In general, Mike didn’t want to miss school because he’d fall behind.
“The worst feeling in the world is makeup work,” he said.
An overwhelming majority of seniors were “sick” on May 15, which was “Senior Cut Day.” Some students recovered in time to attend the Phillies’ afternoon game that day.
Classes were held that day for seniors, with as few as a half-dozen kids in each room. Mike, who played football at the school, tried to count how many classmates showed up.
“I was walking around the hallways and got up to seventy-seven,” he said.
There were even fewer members of the class of 2012 who showed up for school on Halloween four years ago, when the Phillies held their victory parade through the streets of Center City and South Philadelphia.
“I had to keep perfect attendance,” Kaitlyn said in explaining why she went to school.
Greg’s decision was easier. He was recovering from a knee injury suffered in football practice.
“I was on crutches. There was no point going down,” he said of avoiding the mob of people.
Greg’s biggest challenge was going to school the day after his injury.
“I probably should have stayed home. I was in so much pain. I made it to seventh period,” he said.
Now that their days at Ryan are over, all three will be heading off to college.
Greg will attend Bloomsburg University. He’s undecided on a major.
Mike will study communications at Kutztown and, like Greg, spend the summer working as a lifeguard at a water attraction in Wildwood, N.J.
Kaitlyn will enroll at Bucks County Community College to pursue a psychology degree.
While college professors might not be as vigilant as Catholic school teachers in keeping attendance, none of the soon-to-be Ryan grads plan to cut any classes.
“Why start now?” Greg asked. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org