Maria Thompson loves school.
So much so that the Niles McKinley High School graduating senior hasn't missed a day since entering kindergarten.
Not for an unscheduled family emergency. Not for a cold. Not even after breaking her ankle during a Friday afternoon girls softball game last year.
After breaking her ankle, Maria said she told her mother and the ambulance driver that she wanted whatever needed to be done to be done that night so she could be in class on Monday.
"I told her, in this case, it would be OK to miss school," Theresa Thompson, her mother, said. "It is not like she had the sniffles or something. She was going to be on pain medication drugs."
Maria, however, was undeterred. Achieving perfect attendance in school had become a badge of honor for the teen.
So, the following Monday, she was in school, in a wheelchair and in class.
"I just tell myself to suck it up and go to school," Maria said Thursday. "I am lucky I never had the flu or any illness that kept me out."
She credits her parents for instilling in her the importance of making it to school every day.
"They taught me that when I was in elementary school," she said.
As an added incentive, when she was in middle school, Maria learned about a scholarship for students who go through their high school careers without missing a day of school.
At that point, she determined she wanted to win that scholarship.
"I applied for the scholarship, but I don't know if I won it," she said.
"Right now, I'm just happy I've been able to do something that so few students have been able to do," Maria said. "All of my friends think I'm insane for not missing any days from school, but I've gotten congratulations from everyone."
Maria maintains a B average in her classes, plays softball, volleyball, is the vice president of the Italian Club, and helps tutor younger students in one of the district's elementary schools.
She already has been accepted at Youngstown State University, where she plans to major in education. She would like to become a middle school teacher.
Loren Gargano, a guidance counselor at the high school, says Maria's drive and willingness to do anything to help indicates she has the potential to become an excellent educator.
"Her father and I have always taught her that when you do something you have to give 100 percent of yourself," Theresa Thompson said. "It helps when in school and will help when she gets a job."
While her parents have never told Maria that she should never miss school, they've provided examples in their own lives.
Thomas Thompson, her father, receives a bonus check at the end of each year if he doesn't miss a day of work. In the five years he has been on the job he has received the bonus check every year.
"I'm a Realtor and if I don't go to work I don't get paid," Theresa Thompson said.