For 13 years, a simple headache, stomach ache or sniffle-filled cold never kept Heather Koch from attending school.
Take some medicine, tough it out, get to class.
When Koch received her diploma earlier this month from King High School, she hadn't missed a full day of school in her life. Not in elementary school, not in middle school, not in high school.
But the crazy thing is she's not the first in her family to do it.
Her sister Britney, a 2010 graduate of King, also never missed a day.
Then there's Zack, on tap to graduate from Strawberry Crest in two years. As he heads into his junior year of high school, he has perfect attendance so far, too.
"Everybody says it's a big accomplishment," says 20-year-old Britney, who is studying elementary education at the University of South Florida. "For us, it's the norm.
"From the very beginning, my mother has always told us we're not staying home unless we're throwing up, have a high-grade fever or are literally dying."
Their mother, Lori Koch, says she tried to raise her three children like she was raised. She remembers her mother always going to work no matter how she felt.
"I just told them from the time they were little how important it was to go to school and I tried to instill good work habits in them," the mother said. "Don't take the easy way out."
Heather Koch was one of nine graduates honored by the Hillsborough County school board last week for perfect attendance for all of their public school years.
She says the family has been fortunate not to come down with chicken pox or some other malady that could sweep through the household and infect the entire family.
"We're mostly healthy people," says the 18-year-old, who plans to also attend USF and major in psychology.
Heather and Britney both were in the International Baccalaureate program at King. They both say that toughing out a day when you don't feel well is better than falling behind in the demanding work.
"It would be a lot of work to make up," Heather Koch says. "It's added stress."
Mat Romano, assistant principal at King, said having two sisters with perfect attendance for 13 years would be about as common as someone being struck by lightning and attacked by a shark in the same lifetime.
"Those odds are pretty remarkable," Romano says.
The assistant principal said Heather Koch was a very dedicated student who had great family support.
"She knew in this program she had to work extremely hard to get the grades she did," Romano says. "She knew she couldn't afford missing school. She knew she needed to be here and get the work every single day."
Britney Koch says not missing school just became second nature to the trio.
"Of course there were days I didn't want to go to school because I didn't feel good or times I had been up all night studying," she says. "But I knew that wasn't an option."
Britney received a $1,000 scholarship from Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union for her perfect attendance. Heather got a $500 savings account opened in her name at the credit union and a free laptop from Toyota of Tampa Bay.
Zack, who drags himself out of bed just 10 minutes before he has to be at the bus stop at 6 a.m., has his eyes set on those prizes as well.
"It's kind of a competition that we have around the house," the 16-year-old says. "Everybody wants to show everybody up. If they did it already, I just want to do it."
Linda Darling, senior executive vice president for Suncoast who helped honor Heather Koch and other recent graduates, believes perfect attendance for 13 years is something that future employers will value.
"This is an award they will want to remember to put on applications for work or college," she says. "It's a sign to me of character and dedication and dependability.
"It says they are willing to push through personal pain for overall good," Darling adds. "They know they are expected to be there."
PERFECT ATTENDANCE, 13 YEARS
These students were honored by the school board for 13 years of perfect attendance.
Jacob Bingham Durant
Derek Birch Alonso
Adam SkolnickPlant City
Michael SykesPlant City