Flint, MI—Twenty-four Freeman Elementary students were drafted into the NBA on Feb. 28. 

Okay, not really. But they were honored for perfect attendance in an NBA draft-style celebration during their lunch period. 

“This is celebrating students from the first semester that had 100% attendance. Schoolwide, we have 24 students that have not missed a day whether it’s virtual or in person,” Jordan Munerlyn, community school director at Freeman, said. 

The event featured music by DJ Hype and prizes. One-by-one students were called to the front of the gym where they received a McDonalds gift card, a goodie bag, and a certificate with their attendance statistics.

“Students have gone through so much, a pandemic, virtual learning, in-person learning. We just wanted to come up with a with an idea or strategy that keeps them motivated,” Munerlyn said. 

The party was kept a secret. 

“Nobody knew it was happening,” 11-year-old Journee Ford said, who was among the students with perfect attendance. “Everybody was just like, ‘What’s that?’” 

Principal of Freeman Anna Johnson said surprises can motivate good behavior.  

“We try to acknowledge just randomly. We don’t want kids always thinking that what they do is earning them something. But we want them to also know that we’re watching and we’re acknowledging when things do happen,” Johnson said. 

The average attendance rate is 77% districtwide, Superintendent Kevelin Jones said. At Freeman attendance averages around 85%, Johnson said. 

The school is also encouraging attendance in other ways, like allowing students to earn “reward points.” Once they accrue enough points, they can “purchase” a prize of their choosing, Johnson said. There are also plans for teachers to award prizes for good attendance and academic achievement. 

Ford said it wasn’t hard for her to show up to classes. “I’m just here,” she said. “It wasn’t too hard.  I mean it kind of was, but I still did it.” 

Below are the names of the children who received perfect attendance:

Dayla A. Chalmers 

Keasia T. Frazier

Sincere D. Moore 

Emily M. Schlender 

Jeameine J. Thompson Jr

Journee M. Ford 

Desmond Hutton Jr 

Dominick Liggins 

Carter Robertson 

Brady L. Bissonette 

 Markel Rice Jr

Amiah D. Theadford 

Nevaeh Smith 

Zionaye M. Hearns 

Marcellus J. Henry Jr

Mar’Zhan D. Henry 

Naomi C. Smith 

Caydon M. Chalmers 

Robert E. Gully 

Lydia E. Herron 

Demetri O. Story Jr

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...