'Every day Bryan Ray'
VILLA GROVE – In August 1994, a wide-eyed and excited 3-year-old Bryan Ray began his first day of preschool.
This week Ray, now 15, will start his sophomore year at Villa Grove High School without having missed a single day of attendance since he started that first year.
"He's never gotten up and said 'I don't want to go to school' – I've never heard him say that," said his mom, Robin Ray. "Bryan likes school. He likes seeing his friends."
In the early days, going to school was special because Ray's dad, Roger, would take him to the Playtime Cooperative Nursery School in Villa Grove.
The enjoyment and attendance record continued into elementary school, where end-of-year recognition is given to students with perfect attendance.
Ray said that is when he started trying to make sure he got the award year after year.
"He is a wonderful role model," said Jane Faust, Ray's sixth-grade teacher. "We try to talk about that when they get their certificates for perfect attendance at the end of the year. It sets a great example for other students."
Faust also attributes Ray's personality as a secret to his success.
"He has a love for life. He's 100 percent full of energy every day," Faust said. "Always happy to be there."
Sheila Greenwood, Villa Grove high school principal, agrees.
"There's not too many times you'll see Bryan without a smile on his face," Greenwood said. "He likes being at school and interacting with students and adults."
Greenwood thinks it's great that other students see Ray's commitment to school.
"I'm happy and proud. It's a neat thing to be doing," Ray said of his perfect track record.
"I can learn everything as they tell me. I just have to worry about today's homework. I can get it all done that way."
That is beneficial considering Ray is also on the track, basketball and football teams.
Faust also credits Ray's parents with instilling the importance of education into Ray and his brother, Greg, 20.
"I believe if you've committed to something you should be there," Robin Ray said.
Robin Ray has made sure her boys believe the same thing. She even had to argue with the school office at the end of Ray's seventh grade year.
The school claimed he had missed a day, but his Mom knew better.
She ended up being right – and the streak lived on.
It also helps that Ray has never been sick during the week.
His mom said all of his illnesses have usually started on a Friday afternoon and are over by school time on Monday morning.
"He's a very healthy kid and he's a very happy kid," she said.
Ray's other long-term commitment comes during the summertime. He can boast perfect attendance at the Villa Grove Summer Recreational program run by the city park board for kindergarten through sixth-graders.
Ray attended as a participant for the first seven years. After he became too old to participate, he kept showing up as a volunteer.
Finally this year, Lee Hoffman, who runs the program, hired him as an official assistant.
It should surprise no one –Ray never missed a day.
Hoffman refers to Ray as "Every Day Bryan Ray."