Erica Cousins believes that if you show up, you show people that you care.
She did it. Erica Cousins had perfect attendance from kindergarten through senior year at Flagler Palm Coast High School, and she even showed up at campus the following day, May 21, to be interviewed for this story.
Cousins is a determined student, according to her mother, Jennifer Harris. “When she does something, she goes above and beyond. She takes pride in everything that she does.”
Cousins, an accomplished dancer, is also dedicated to serving the community through the Student Government Association and with her church, Mount Calvary Baptist Church.
Harris said she has tried to teach Cousins that, "In life, people will listen to you for a while, but after a while, there are no excuses."
Showing up lets other people know that you care, Cousins said, and that “you’re trying to get stuff done.”
There are a few examples when most people would have felt justified to take a day off. For example, one of her grandfathers died, and she stayed home and attended school that day instead of attending the funeral.
“She’s very disciplined,” Harris said. “When she has her schedule set, she doesn’t deviate from it. She does what she says she’s going to do.” Harris believes Cousins is uncomfortable around funerals, and she didn’t blame her for choosing school instead.
Another close call was an ankle injury that put Cousins on crutches for two weeks in high school. She still got up and took the bus every day, sometimes having friends helping to carry her books or helping her on the stairs.
“It was really hard to move around, but I had this goal of perfect attendance,” she said, adding that she didn’t want to be a burden on her parents by asking for a ride to school.
There were days when she learned of threats at FPC. “I wanted to run with my friends off campus,” she recalled, “but I would call my mom first, and she would calm me down, and I would think, ‘I’m good, I can do this.’”
There were also days when it seemed that most other students skipped school.
“During practice SAT, when I didn’t have to be there, and my friends would be at the beach, I was like, ‘Dang, I wish I could have stayed home,’” she recalled. Instead, she visited her favorite teachers on campus, which she felt was time well spent.
What not to do
Cousins, who also took classes at Daytona State College, said she was partly inspired to attend school every day because of what can happen if you don’t. She saw friends going to in-school suspension, and she knew they had additional makeup work to do as a result.
Also, Harris’ job, at the Department of Juvenile Justice, gives Harris experience to see what can happen with other teens who typically aren’t attending.
In her experience as a dancer, Cousins has seen the importance of being present for every bit of instruction. When she was on crutches, she still went to dance practice and watched so that she wouldn’t fall behind. She knew her teammates were counting on her.
That’s just part of who she is.
“She understands that knowledge is power,” Harris said, “and even on her bad days, she still gets up and goes.”