Andrea Collins, a recent graduate from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, shows off her diploma at her home in Palmetto Bay, Friday, May 31, 2012.
A running joke in Andrea Collins’ home is that even if the high school senior were bleeding from her eye sockets, her mom would just wipe them off and send her to school.
That determination paid off for Collins, 18, when she graduated last month from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Coconut Grove with perfect attendance for four years. The Palmetto Bay teen finished with a 4.25 grade point average and will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., to study civil engineering.
“Andrea is the kind of girl who will always do what is expected of her,” said Maria Kesti, her mom, “No matter what, school came first, and she knew that.”
Sister Kathryn Donze, principal at Lourdes, said Collins is the only student in her class who did not miss a day of school in four years. Collins follows the example of her mother, who has had perfect attendance in the Rotary Club for 19 years, and her older sisters, who only ever missed two days of school — due to the death of their grandfather.
“My mom has always instilled in me the importance of education,” Collins said, “even when I was sick I just took medicine and went to school.” On top of her perfect attendance record, Collins has been an active member of her community. She started helping her mother in the Rotary Club when she was 5 years old, and has put in over 1,500 hours of community service for her high school.
One of the things Collins has done for her community is start an organization called Caps 4 Cancers, after learning that cancer was affecting many of her family members including a grandfather, a grandmother, and a cousin. “This is something that is very dear to my heart, because I have known so many people who have passed away from cancer. After doing so many hours of community service, I wanted to do something that was personal to me.” This organization provides caps for cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy at the University of Miami’s Sylvster Comprehensive Cancer Center, instilling in them more confidence, as well as providing protection from the sun.
Collins’ favorite subject in school has always been math, but after being invited to participate in the Junior National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., Collins found herself interested in political science. She later attended the National Young Leaders Conference in Boston as well, where she participated in workshops on leadership and met students from all over the country. Because of her interest in political science, Collins spent the past summer interning for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami-Dade, and gained more experience.
“Her consistent attendance at school is one of the things that enabled her to be such a great student,” Donze said.
Her mother’s insistence on the importance of education fueled Collins to do as well as she could, even when she felt like there were things holding her back.
“It was hard at times, but being able to see my friends every day definitely made it all worth while,” Collins said.