Grad aces perfect attendance
At the early age of 6, Wanda Nettles became determined to have perfect attendance in school.
The West Nassau High School Class of 2019 graduate achieved that goal before commencement May 20. She received recognition for her achievement during the school’s Senior Awards Assembly.
Nettles was a kindergarten student at Callahan Elementary when she announced her plans.
“I told my mom, ‘Mom, I don’t think I ever want to miss a day of school,’” she recalled. “And then it stuck.”
Jan Nettles never doubted that her daughter could pull off the feat.
“Oh yeah, I knew she would,” she said. “She’s very strong-willed, strong-headed and when she says something, it normally happens.”
Dad Al Nettles, Sr. and other family members were there to ensure she stayed on track.
“Of course, without her dad, we couldn’t have done that,” Jan Nettles said of his encouragement of their daughter.
Many of her teachers assisted along the way. CES teachers Amy Calhoun and Sonia Chancey helped Nettles when she was in first grade.
“They always let me go to sleep on the bean bags when I was sick,” Nettles recalled.
“I would literally be having a 102 fever and they would let me go to sleep so that I wouldn’t have to go home and mess up my perfect attendance.”
Jan said that Wanda’s former teachers inquired about her progress through the years.
“Every time we see one of them, they ask, ‘Is Wanda still (at) perfect attendance?’”
As Nettles grew older, she fought the temptation to stay home, saying, “There would just be random days where I really just didn’t feel like waking up or I was tired and I’d say, ‘I don’t want to go.’ And then high school hit and it would be senior skip day and I was like, ‘Nobody’s even going to be here, so I really don’t want to go.’ But I went anyway.”
She described the challenges of staying true to her mission.
“When you get to high school it gets harder, because there’s a lot of senior skip days you can’t go on,” Nettles said. “There’s things you can’t do because during the day. There’s homecoming parades you can’t go to because of an excused absence. You get sick during the day and you can’t leave so, I mean, it was a big struggle – but worth it.”
Her friends encouraged her, too.
“My friends are more like, ‘I can’t believe you did that. I could never do it,’” she said. “I’m like, ‘Well it’s happening now.’ It wasn’t easy. But it was worth it in the end.”
She encourages other students to strive for perfect attendance, saying, “Just set your mind to it and do it. It’s not as hard as you think it would be, but it’s not as easy as you think it would be either.”
Her persistent nature propelled her to accomplish additional goals.
Since December, the 18-year-old has worked the night shift as a certified nursing assistant. She napped before attending a fourth period gym class each school day.
An all-around athlete, Nettles played basketball, ran track and participated in flag football.
Sherrie Crosby coached Nettles for four seasons in flag football.
“She’s very energetic,” she said. “She has a great sense of humor. She’s a great all-around kid. She has it together. She knows what she wants. She’s a go-getter and she always accomplishes what she sets out to do. She’s a pleasure to coach. She was one of my captains. She’s going to be missed on and off the field.”
Jay West, Jenna Kish and Madison Pinkston were always there to rally for her during sports competitions, according to the teen.
“I love y’all,” Nettles added. “Thanks to my bestest friends. Thanks for being my sissies. Thanks mom and dad for adopting them all.”
In recent years she has participated in various clubs, including Teens for Change, AVID, French Club and Future Business Leaders of America.
She and friend Bailey Allen were instrumental in leading The Tribe cheering section during football games.
“We were always doing the cheers with the cheerleaders or we were cheering on the football team, so that was fun,” Nettles said.
Joining clubs and participating in sports allowed her to build friendships and immerse herself in school activities.
“I’m too outgoing not to be doing anything,” Nettles said. “I like meeting new people and making new friends, so I got to do that with all the clubs and sports and stuff I did.”
She would like to become either a traveling registered nurse or a social worker. She plans to attend Florida State College at Jacksonville so that she can stay close to home.
Nettles expressed her gratitude for AVID teacher and senior class sponsor Leanne Ludvigsen.
“She’s the only reason I stay sane at school,” she said.
“Wanda’s had a big family and a lot of support,” her mom added.
Nettles joined the family when she was four days old to share life with siblings Tonya Hughes, Al Nettles, Jr., Jennifer Sweat and Raymond and Mark Staine.
As the youngest, she’s the last to leave the nest.
“It’s breaking mine and dad’s heart,” her mom said. “When the rest left, I knew I still had another one to go. But this is it.”