Carey High School graduating senior Darby Northcott doesn't remember exactly when she became fixated on perfect school attendance but she's sure where the goal of being reliable and setting goals came from—her mother.
When Darby was in elementary school, her mother, Dustin Northcott encouraged her to go to school every day. It became a good habit to get into and a good habit to continue.
By the time Darby got to sixth grade and hadn't missed a day of school, her classmates voiced their view. "They said to me, you're halfway through, you might as well just keep going," Darby said this week.
Northcott graduated from Carey High School on Thursday night with an enviable record—12 years of never missing a day of school, perfect attendance from the first grade through the 12th, and 12 candy bars from principal John Peck.
Each year at the end-of-year school awards assembly, Peck salutes perfect attendance students in front of the community by presenting them with a certificate and a candy bar. He always jokes about the perfect-attendance students because there just aren't many of them.
For instance, at Tuesday's awards ceremony, Peck said "Too bad it doesn't take longer to hand out these certificates and candy bars." There were only four perfect-attendance students at Carey this year—a second-grader, a fourth-grader, a sophomore and Darby.
Peck said, "Darby is an excellent student and person. She has the ability to set a goal and work to achieve it. She has wanted to have 100 percent attendance for years and each year for as long as I can remember, I have awarded her the perfect attendance award.
"I think it's a wonderful accomplishment, a very special award. I don't know if there are any others in Idaho and even all across the country who have achieved what Darby has with 12 years of perfect attendance."
Northcott, 18, acknowledged, "It was hard. There were times I didn't want to school, or when I was sick." As time went on, she became more and more aware of how unique her quest was. She said, "A classmate might say to me, I can't believe you can do it, because I can hardly go through a week of school without missing a day."
Born at home, raised as an only child, the daughter of Dustin Northcott and Darrell McKenzie appreciates her background in the small Idaho farm town and the learning abilities she gained at school.
She started 4-H at the age of 8 and has been showing lamb ever since. The leadership qualities she has gained through 4-H have been invaluable to her development, she said. She plans to attend Carroll College in Helena, Mont. and study anthrozoology—the study of human and animal interaction—with the goal of training seeing-eye dogs.
Her work ethic and perfect school attendance have gone hand-in-hand as Northcott has accepted and seized responsibility when called upon.
Three examples stand out.
An important member of Carey's volleyball and basketball players from her freshman through senior seasons, Darby may have played her two best basketball games in Carey's final two games of the 2012 State 1A tournament when the Panthers earned the third-place trophy.
Northcott, averaging 3.7 ppg, scored 6 points with 6 rebounds in Carey's 73-70 triple-overtime semi-final loss to Summit Academy. She made two clutch free throws in the first overtime and a key putback in the third. One day later, Northcott scored 8 points with 6 boards as Carey (16-8) held off Mackay 47-43 for the third-place honor.
"Those games at state were tough," she said. "I tried to push through and do my best."
In volleyball, she earned a team award for 100% serving—not surprising if you consider her 100% school attendance record, and something she attributes to much practice.
Last June, Northcott as part of her 4-H responsibilities helped save the day and finish putting out the program for the Sawtooth Rangers' Days of the Old West Rodeo in Hailey.
She said, "A couple of girls were assigned to make the program, but when they didn't finish it, the work was left up to me and another 4-H member. We spent countless hours calling people, selling ads and designing the program. We spent two days working on it, even staying up all night. It needed to be done, and it was done in time with 300 copies ready to sell on the day of the rodeo."
Northcott has for many years been involved in October's Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Ketchum. Using one of her own lambs, she has led a band of 1,500 sheep down the spectator-lined Main Street.
One year, the sheep had minds of their own but Northcott's leadership skills and knowledge of the animals kicked in and helped smooth out a touchy situation.
She said, "The sheep bounded through the crowd and down a side street. I was off after the sheep. I found them and, by using my lamb, led them all back onto the main road and saved the day for the parade of sheep."
With her perfect attendance achievement in the rear view mirror, Northcott said she is looking forward with confidence to applying the work ethic and dedication she has learned in school and 4-H to her college and work careers.