When Bensalem’s Tom Barrett makes up his mind about something, there’s simply no stopping him. So when he challenged himself to have perfect attendance for 13 consecutive years, never staying home because of a sickness or hitting the snooze button one too many times, it was pretty much a given that he would succeed.
Even when his ride’s muffler fell off the car and into the middle of Knights Road, he made it with moments to spare through the doors of Northeast Philadelphia’s Archbishop Ryan High School, where he graduated from on June 3.
Barrett admitted to The Times that earning a perfect attendance award doesn’t garner many cool points. But, as he prepares to embark on his college journey in the fall at Penn State Abington, where he plans to study accounting, Barrett said he’s proud of this impressive feat. It’s something not many kids are able to accomplish.
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” he said. “I feel like I got a lot out of being there every single day. I never had to worry about making anything up.”
According to Barrett, never missing a day of school wasn’t something he initially set out to do during his elementary and middle school years at Bensalem’s St. Charles Borromeo School.
“When I was younger, especially in the first few years of grade school, I would complain about being a little sick or not wanting to come in for something minor. And my parents would always tell me how important it was that I go in, just so I wouldn’t have to make anything up and still be on top of everything that I did,” Barrett said. “And then as time went on, as I kind of stacked up the years, it became important to me, too. I figured I made it six or seven years, I might as well finish it.”
Like any lofty goal, Barrett had his occasional doubts as to whether it would happen. One such instance occurred on a seemingly normal morning in junior year. A friend of Barrett’s was driving the pair to Archbishop Ryan in his seemingly-trusty car, when they heard a loud “thump.”
“We were on Knights Road on our way to the Academy intersection, and his muffler fell out from under the car,” Barrett said, adding how his father Ray came to their rescue and drove them the rest of the way. “That was a rough one. We barely made it that day.”
Throughout his academic career, Barrett was never one to do the bare minimum. In the first grade, he joined Boy Scout Troop 82, headquartered at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Penndel. Barrett made Eagle Scout in January after completing his project – transforming 2,000 retired flags into small mementos for veterans, firefighters, EMTs and police officers.
Additionally, he is a member of Archbishop Ryan’s varsity volleyball team, serves as president of the National Honor Society, is a Connelly Foundation Neumann Scholar, and ranked in the top 12 percent of his class, with his courses comprised of all AP and honors.
“I do my best,” Barrett said humbly.
Despite his hectic schedule, Barrett consistently gave his all in every class and activity, something Archbishop Ryan’s principal Joseph McFadden took note of.
“Tom is an amazing young man, hard-working and committed in everything he does,” McFadden said. “From high academics to being an Eagle Scout to president of National Honor Society, this drive that is evident in his attendance is evident in his other commitments. I am also fortunate to teach Tom in an AP English Literature class, and Tom’s strong academics are evident in that class and others.”
At Temple University’s Liacouras Center, Barrett’s perfect attendance was recognized in front of his peers during Archbishop Ryan’s commencement, where he was gifted a commemorative award. With the next phase of life – college – on the horizon, Barrett sees this achievement coming in handy.
“It’s definitely something that helped me with my work ethic, and it makes it a lot harder for me to quit things now because I feel like I’m just sticking with them,” he said. “But at the same time, college is a totally different thing than high school. I’m more worried about doing my best and completing courses and stuff like that, rather than just being in every single day. I’m excited for the future, and I can’t wait to see what it is, what it holds.”
In the meantime, Barrett provided some words of advice for incoming freshmen who may think a slightly runny nose calls for a vacation day.
“Stick with it. Although it might seem impossible to make perfect attendance, and even though it is a crazy thing to do and it’s not exactly the coolest thing either, it helps with your work ethic,” he said. “And more than anything else, being there every day means you can stay on top of things and it makes it a lot easier to get everything done when it needs to be done.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com