Pittsburg Teen Honored for Never Missing Class in 11 Years

Like everyone, Pittsburg teen Mareiya Gonzales has had her share of the sniffles. She's also had those days where staying at home and watching TV seemed more fun than going to class, especially when a touch of senioritis kicked in during her final year.

But she never succumbed to a sick day. 

For 11 years, the 17-year-old teen has maintained a perfect attendance rating. That means she has never missed even one lesson in algebra to go to the dentist or doctor. For sure, she never missed a spelling quiz to get a Slurpee at 7-Eleven. 

For all that, Mareiya was honored Monday night at a celebration for students who have maintained unimpeachable attendance records in the Pittsburg Unified School District. Not surprisingly, Mareiya took home the biggest trophy of the night.

"All through elementary and high school, I enjoyed going," she told NBC Bay Area, when asked if it was ever tempting to break her streak. "So, I was like, why would I ever miss it? I never really had the urge."

Her principal, Todd Whitmire, called her "phenomenal." A longtime administrator, he can count "on one hand" the number of times he's seen such a spotless attendance record.

It's an accomplishment — and a dedicated mindset — that cannot be overstated, especially in a county where truancy poses significant problems in grade school and high school.

Data from the attorney general shows that elementary schools in Contra Costa County had a 30 percent truancy rating in the 2013-14 academic year, one of the worst rates in California. Truancy, defined as at least three unexcused absences, ultimately cost the county $36 million in funds and the state more than $1 billion during that year.

At the Pittsburg Unified School District, where approximately 11,000 students are enrolled, about 350 students are absent for more than 10 percent of the school year. That's a rating that's better than the national average, but boosting attendance is still a priority across high schools in California.

But Mareiya likes class, especially math, and is never lured into having a "ditch day." She said she feels at home at “Pitt,” and touted the school's diversity.

"At other schools, you don't get a bunch of different races," she told NBC Bay Area in an interview. "We get to see cultures and different types of activities that most people don't get to see, and I like that."

The 4.0-GPA student will be applying to several California public universities, partly because she feels they offer a more inclusive learning environment. Her first choice is UCLA.

Mareiya said that she inherited her work ethic from her parents, both of whom made sure to drill down on the importance of education at an early age.

"I know that my parents, when they were younger, lived a way different life than I did," she said. "I know they always pushed me to be my best so I didn't have to go through the same struggles."

Her mother, Magie Gonzales, works for the district and was the same age as her daughter when she had her first child. Watching Mareiya and two of her other children accept attendance awards was a moment of accomplishment for her, as well.

"My husband and I were young parents, and we always wanted to make our standards a little bit higher for our kids to reach their goals and their dreams," Magie told NBC Bay Area. "We tried to teach them that it doesn't really matter where you come from or who you are, you have that option to succeed, and we wanted to make sure our kids know that."

Gillian Edevane covers Contra Costa County for NBC Bay Area. Contact her at Gillian.Edevane@NBCUni.com

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