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Thirteen Years, A Perfect Record

Now that 17-year-old senior Emi Schaufeld has completed her 13-year long attendance “project” at Great Neck South High School, she’s ready to begin her next important project at NYU’s Tisch School in the fall.

Schaufeld will graduate on June 20 with perfect attendance, an unbroken record that began when she was a kindergartner at E.M. Baker in September of 2000, and continued when she entered South Middle School.  She will pursue a career in writing and directing film at NYU after spending the summer making a film version of her original screenplay, Frolic: The Musical.

Of her unique attendance achievement (spanning almost 2,300 school days), Schaufeld says, “In elementary school, the first couple of years, it wasn’t on purpose. I never actually got sick enough to miss school and when I got a cold or something I said ‘I might as well keep going.’” At a South High awards ceremony earlier this month, Schaufeld received a standing ovation when she received a special trophy and certificate recognizing her accomplishment.

Schaufeld first realized that she had a growing perfect attendance record when she was at Baker. “After going three years with out missing a day,” she recalled, “I said ‘what? Everyone else is sick all the time!”

Was there ever a time when Schaufeld felt she might be too sick to go to school? “In the ninth grade she had the most horrific cold, “ her mother Caryn, a marketer recalled.

“I never really had that close a call, “ her daughter countered. “I never got that sick.”

Her friends and classmates were aware of her record as she neared its completion. “The kids thought it was cool but they were a bit confused,” she said. “They said,  ‘How can you do that?’ And I got so used to them questioning me about it. ‘How can you not miss a single day of school? What if you really get sick and can’t come to school?’ Then I’d tell them that I’d have them drag my body to school.  They weren’t making fun of me. They just didn’t understand how it’s possible.”

Traditionally, high school seniors have lighter schedules than in their earlier years, but that didn’t stop her from reaching her goal. “Toward the end of the year,” she said, “My ‘senioritis” was really kicking in. I was only one of seven seniors in school the day after prom. I went to my classes. I was the only one there.”

“I think it’s a tremendous achievement,” said her father, Bob, an attorney. “It shows determination. Whenever Emi put her mind to something she would just see it through. She’s involved in a lot of things which show just how determined she is.”

Their daughter’s interests in writing and directing and the media have lasted almost as long as her attendance streak.  She had her own weekly TV show (Round Town: 30 Minutes) on Great Neck public access TV when she was in the fifth grade and secured an internship at the station when she was an eighth grader.  Schaufeld directed her first show at Levels at the Great Neck Library the following year and recently directed Sondheim’s Assassins there. She also served as stage manager for South High’s Tommy production this year.  Frolic, her film project, inspired by Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and written with collaborator Russell Katz, was first performed at Levels this year.

About studying film Schaufeld says, “It’s something I’ve always connected with. I find it easy to communicate through the form. I’m more interested in writing than directing.”

Schaufeld actually did miss several days of school when she was a pre-K student at The Community School.  “But,” she protested, “that didn’t count. It wasn’t a public school.”