When Steve Garvey was honored as major league baseball's "iron man" last summer for playing in more than 1,000 consecutive games, a certain Roosevelt High School student in Washington was unimpressed.
"No, I wasn't impressed. I mean, he does get paid to play baseball. I don't get paid anything for going to school," said Gary Troxler, a young man with an "iron man" statistic of his own. The Roosevelt High senior is the only 12th grader in the city this year who attended classes every school day since kindergarten.
That's right, every day--2,208 of them in 12 years, to be precise--a feat that even surprised Troxler, who was recently informed that he would be honored along with 93 other D.C. students for perfect attendance over four-to-12 year periods. "I was shocked," Troxler said. "It was not planned."
Troxler is proof that you don't have to be a medical marvel to have perfect attendance. You just have to be willing to suffer. In fact, Troxler said he gets sick often. "I keep getting colds. Every time the weather changes . . . ," he said.
"Even when I'm sick I go to school. I've had toothaches, I still went to school. I had laryngitis once. I couldn't talk. I still went to school," Troxler said. "I'm the only one in the city. It makes me feel proud of myself. I didn't give up. Most kids give up, I just kept going."
One frigid Monday morning last December was the biggest challenge, he said. The bedcovers were warm, and he felt as if the Washington Redskins were playing Dallas in his stomach.
"I was feeling bad. I felt like I was going to die," Troxler said. "But I had to take a test. I told myself 'Just get up and go on in.' "
Troxler says he sits by himself when he's sick so he won't bother other people. "I like school very much because you get to understand so much," he says. "A lot of kids are just dropping out and giving up, but you've got to get that education."
"A youngster who has been to school every day for 12 years is fantastic," said Marilyn Tyler Brown, assistant superintendent for student services. "Attendance and achievement go hand in hand."
Roosevelt's principal, Carl J. Hymes, says his 1,400 students have an attendance rate of about 75 percent, meaning that on any given day one of four is absent. "Many people have talent, but how consistent are you? Our young friend . . . does utilize his talents to the fullest . . . he certainly makes the effort," Hymes said.
There have been times when Troxler's mother has suggested he stay home because he didn't look well, but "he just kept on going. You can look at a child and tell when they don't feel good. It's amazing," said his mother, Lydia.
His father, H.J. Troxler, says, "I guess he just loves school."
Troxler has maintained a cumulative C average, loves bowling (a former girlfriend gave him a choice of bowling or her--bowling won in a rout) and plans to enlist in the Air Force. But his ultimate career goal is to become an undertaker and open a funeral home with his cousin, Columbus Eaves.
"There are plenty of people dying," Troxler said. "I'll never have to worry about work."