I love telling the story about one day my junior year in high school when one of my Aberdeen friends happened to be in West Point for something and came to my school to hang out in the parking lot during break.

As soon as I saw him, knowing he was one of the few people with a car phone at the time, I told him to call and check me out of school. I had two study halls after lunch that year and most Fridays spring semester I already had a written excuse to leave early to go mow grass or make it over to Columbus to goof off before meeting up with friends.

That day, the plan worked flawlessly, and I was teeing off at the golf course less than half an hour later.

As memorable as high school hijinx like that were, what happened during a normal instructional day were even better. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

I’m not trying to make this column out like a PSA for staying in school long enough to learn everything the teachers are trying to say, but I am saying the more time you miss, the more time you’ll regret not being in school.

In this week’s Monroe Journal, John Ward dug in a little deeper on a subject plaguing schools across the state – chronic absenteeism.

From an adult’s standpoint, absenteeism is seen as a bad habit that can carry adverse consequences. While I luckily don’t have to experience myself, absenteeism trickles down to those close to you later in life.

What may seem like harmlessly skipping a few days from school can set a trend that follows you for the rest of your life. I’ve seen people get dropped from college classes, and even hugged the line, myself, and there’s no partial tuition reimbursement when that happens.

When it comes to a full-time job later in life, nobody likes continually picking up the slack for somebody who never shows up for his or her own responsibilities. From a management standpoint, chronic absenteeism lasts for only so long before somebody’s going to be a without a job.

There are a lot of lessons to learn at school far beyond math, science and social studies. Please pay attention to everything your teachers are saying but please pay closer attention to all those overlooked elements surrounding lesson plans.

Deadlines, attendance, behavior, involvement, attitude – every single thing that goes with school is a string that will follow you through the rest of your life.

The schools need you to show up and perform to the best of your ability as much as you need them to shape you and push you to the best of your ability years from now.

My mom was really laid back when it came to writing an excuse to let me out of a few Friday afternoons without compromising any lessons learned. It never worked like that any other year, and senioritis didn’t prompt a legitimate fever to make me miss days in 12th grade.

I’m glad it worked that way because I would’ve missed not only the building blocks of more education and a stable career to come, but the high school memories, friendships and experiences that will last for a lifetime.

I can recall acting like I dreaded going back to school after plenty of long summers but deep down didn’t mean it.

As tough as all the assessments in your life may be, they’re making you more prepared for an ever-changing tougher world than it once was.

There’s a job market where the number of cashiers are competing with the increase of self-checkout aisles. There are jobs skills you’re probably learning for careers yet to be invented. There’s a pace of technology advancing so fast that things are obsolete before they’re even broken in good.

It’s not easy to keep up with what’s outside of your schools now, so imagine how it’s going to be 20 years from now.

I was telling somebody at work recently I come from a background of if you’re not at the station by the time the train leaves, you’re missing the trip.

Don’t let chronic absenteeism set the tone of what you could miss out of life.

Parents, I know it’s easy to tell your kid it’s okay to sleep in and even easier to oversleep yourself and just tell them they can miss school. It won’t be as easy when it all catches up though.

Like those stacks of makeup work in the afternoons made me even sicker than a stomach virus that made me miss a day, life piles up on you even more through the years.

To the students with the future staring you down, it can be everything you want it to be. Soak in the lessons in and out of the classroom but more importantly, show up so you can take advantage.

You’re at the age when everything is an opportunity, and those aren’t as easy to come by the older you get. Take advantage of them because you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Ray Van Dusen is the managing editor of the Monroe Journal. He can be reached at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.

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