Hanahan High School senior Crystal Jean Burbage becomes third in her family to graduate with perfect attendance

Crystal Burbage with her brother, Charles, after he gave her the new “car” he bought her to fulfill a promise he made if she was valedictorian for her class. Her father (background) promised to buy her a real car.

Crystal Burbage’s biggest supporter — and perhaps biggest competition — is her oldest brother, Charles.

When she was in second grade, Charles graduated from Hanahan High as No. 3 in his class and with perfect attendance. She told him she would have perfect attendance when she graduated, too, and they bet he would buy her a brand-new car if she could best his ranking by graduating No. 1 in her class.

Burbage had no idea how difficult that would be, and the pressure mounted after her other brother, Chris, also graduated with perfect attendance.

She stayed focused on what she wanted, and her hard work paid off last month when she graduated from Hanahan High as valedictorian with perfect attendance.

“It was kind of a challenge to keep up with that (expectation),” she said. “I set my goals and really put forth the effort.”

Burbage was among 72 students in the class of 2013 statewide who never missed a day of school during their entire academic career. One of those students also graduated from a Berkeley County school, Ronni Turnball of Stratford High.

In Charleston County, two students had perfect attendance: Michael Freeman Bazemore of West Ashley High and Josh Perez of School of the Arts. No Dorchester County students made that list.

Seniors with 12 years of perfect school attendance have been recognized by the state Department of Education since 1979. They receive certificates and congratulatory letters from State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.

For some students, perfect attendance has been a longtime goal. Once Bazemore finished elementary school without missing a day, he decided to try to do the same throughout middle and high school. Having that target made it easy to get up and go to school on days when others wouldn’t, he said.

“I knew that it would be a great accomplishment to achieve,” said Bazemore, who plans to attend Charleston Southern University and hopes to become an oral surgeon.

Burbage said knowing she wanted perfect attendance made it easier to go to school, especially when her classmates weren’t. Her school’s prom was on a Friday and most seniors skipped that day of school, she said. Not wanting to ruin her perfect attendance record, she said she showed up at school and was among the few seniors in class.

As for that bet she made 10 years ago about being valedictorian, her brother followed through on his end of the deal: he bought her a new remote-control car.

Still, Burbage will end up with a new ride. When she made the bet with her brother, her dad also promised to buy her a new car if she finished No. 1. They’ve been looking, and they’re probably going to wait until the 2014 models arrive.

“I’ve waited 10 years, I can wait a few more months,” Burbage said.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.

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