Two thousand three hundred and forty days, and he didn’t miss one.
D’Ontray Johnson did something that not many people can say they’ve done by not missing one day of school from kindergarten through high school graduation.
“I just tried to stay as healthy as possible, stay focused on being able to come to school and do what I’m supposed to do to so I could go to the next level,” the recent graduate said. “You kind of have to push yourself daily.”
Not missing one day of school seemed almost fated to Johnson. Even when he did have a reason to miss school, it seemed to happen at times he was no due to be in the classroom.
“I remember in the eighth grade when I dislocated my wrist and broke my arm,” recounted Johnson. “It happened on a Saturday.”
Johnson and his mother, Tanya Hawkins-Johnson, explained that the following Monday was a teacher workday so students didn’t have class, giving him more time to recuperate from his Monday morning surgery before returning to class.
“I was still in pain but not to where I couldn’t go to school,” said Johnson.
“It was his left arm and he’s right-handed,” his mom added.
Classmates and friends helped Johnson until he was back to 100 percent, carrying his backpack from class to class for him and helping in any other way they could.
“That’s just dedication, perseverance,” she said of her son. “The responsibility that takes and being persistent, it will be looked at differently. Some people break a fingernail and miss a week of work.
“Once you start something, you’re committed,” she continued. “You don’t just quit or drop out.”
A sufferer of seasonal allergies and related sinus problems, Johnson said that he can remember having a fever in fourth grade and not letting that keep him out of the classroom.
“I went to my mom’s office and laid down and got over that much quicker than I thought I would,” he said.
Johnson didn’t restrict his activities to ensure good health and minimal injuries. He played basketball from elementary through high school, volunteered as a tutor to help younger kids read, played football and track in middle school and participated in cross country and tennis in high school.
Johnson was first to admit that his parents and his own goals kept him focused and in the classroom.
“She kind of let me know at the beginning of the year,” he said. “On the first day, she’d say, ‘Today is the first day. You’ve got 179 to go.’ My dad also encouraged me to go to school every day.
“That first day can determine a lot,” Johnson said. “You miss a certain subject or certain topic and that could be the roots to the next level. School is what you need. Think about the bigger picture, think about your future and what you want to pursue.”
Johnson’s future includes attending St. Andrew’s University in Laurinburg this fall, with a major in physical education. The student athlete will play basketball at the university.
He wants to go on to be a teacher and basketball coach.
Even though he’ll be out of the house, Johnson knows that his parents’ encouragement won’t be too far behind.
“I know it’s coming,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get a phone call or a text.”
Hawkins-Johnson is the proud parent of a recent Hillside High graduate and soon to be college student but she still has mixed emotions about her son’s impending move to Laurinburg.
“I didn’t think about the amount of days until recently, and it’s an accomplishment,” she said. “As a parent, you have to provide that environment. You are still responsible for this young person, you’re guiding them.
“It’s more than just the pencil and paper or the Internet,” Hawkins-Johnson continued. “Yes, it’s high school but you can’t just let them go. You’re the parent. You’re still responsible.”