12 Perfect Years

By on August 3, 2012

Photo: Kaneland High School graduate Steven Krafft has never missed a day of school in his life. Photo by John DiDonna

Krafft receives perfect attendance, sets sights on NIU jazz guitar
by Cheryl Borrowdale
KANELAND—There may not have been a special recognition at graduation for what Steven Krafft, a 2012 Kaneland High School graduate, achieved this year, but his parents thought it was worthy of a new acoustic guitar—something the aspiring jazz musician had been wanting.

After all, Steven had accomplished what no other student in the district did: 12 straight years of perfect attendance. That’s 2,160 consecutive days of school without ever even being tardy to class, despite a daily sprint down the entire length of the high school—from the jazz band room at the east end to a Spanish room at the west end—during his senior year.

“I was really never sick, so that always helped,” Steven said. “I was just really busy and never had time to be sick.”

Yet his mother, Julie Krafft, said his attendance record reflects his dedication to his music and his studies, not his stellar immune system.
“Even when he’s had a headache or he’s been up late, and most kids would skip school, he just wanted to go,” she said.

She particularly remembers one day in middle school when he had injured his foot and insisted on going to school no matter what.

“I wanted to take him to go get it x-rayed,” she said. “My husband and I feel that school is pretty important, and we always told him that school was pretty important. But he needed an x-ray, and we tried to talk him out of (going to school) that day.”

Steven was so insistent that he couldn’t miss a day, she said, that she rescheduled the appointment for after school and he hobbled around on his foot, which was sprained, that day.

In fact, he was so insistent that he couldn’t miss a day, his parents would occasionally threaten him with it, Steven said.

“They knew that I wanted it, the perfect attendance thing, so it was a punishment basically,” he said. “They always told me to dress warm, to make sure I ate my vegetables, stuff like that, because if I got sick they weren’t going to let me go to school. It was tough love. It worked.”

It became a goal the whole family shared. So when Julie logged onto Konnect, Kaneland’s online gradebook and attendance system, to check on his grades during his junior year, she was shocked to see Steven’s first tardy.

“I told him, and he was really upset,” she said. “We had to get that straightened out.”

It turned out the tardy was a mistake. Like many Kaneland music students, Steven had P.E. on A days and jazz band on B days, but he had accidentally been marked tardy by his P.E. teacher on a day that he was scheduled to be in band. His father, Keith, called the school to get the record fixed.

Steven’s dedication to school was surpassed only by his dedication to music, which he spent an average of six hours a night studying throughout high school. He started taking evening music theory and guitar classes at Waubonsee as soon as he turned 16, trying to get a head start on college and preparing for the audition that the Northern Illinois University jazz studies program requires for admission.

He admits that his attendance record at Waubonsee wasn’t perfect, but it was for good reasons.

“I went to Waubonsee for night classes, and having that on top of Kaneland work, that was a lot of work,” Steven said. “The classes were difficult and I didn’t have time for much else. So I skipped Waubonsee classes a few times when I had finals, just because I was worried about Kaneland. They don’t really take attendance (at Waubonsee), so it wasn’t really a big deal.”

His dedication paid off: he’ll be taking that acoustic guitar with him to NIU, where he’s been admitted to the jazz studies program, one of the top 10 in the nation. To Steven, the best prize is the chance to study with Rodrigo Villanueva, the associate professor who directs the university’s Jazz Lab Band.

Although he’s giving up perfect attendance as his goal now that he’s starting college, that’s because he hopes that he’ll have the opportunity to go on tour at some point during his music studies.

“I’ll see if (NIU) take(s) attendance or anything, but I don’t really think they do that, at least not with jazz studies,” Steven said. “The professor was on tour with Sting, and because he did that, I’m sure that he understands if you want to do something like that with music, because the only way to really learn music is by doing it.”

His mother can’t see him missing class for anything less important than his music.

“He has always said that he’s going to have perfect attendance his entire life, so I see that continuing,” Julie said. “He’s passionate about his studies, so I think he’ll make it. I’ve always taught him that it’s important for every person to attend school and to put a lot of work into it, and he does that. I feel you get out of it what you put into it. He’s put a lot into it.”