Sailing away from port on a Carnival cruise, Lakewood Ranch's Madison Abbacchi, then 14, didn't hit the pool, or the sun deck or even the buffet.
As always, her parents had purchased internet access on the ship so she could check Focus, an online portal that allows students and their parents to access grades, progress reports and attendance.
Madison checked it every day, even on a cruise ship.
Madison, who admits she "worries about everything," seemingly had no reason to worry. After all, she had recorded an A in every class since the school system had replaced S for satisfactory with the mark of excellence — the A — in third grade.
This was different, though. She looked into the computer screen. There, in the box where her most recent assignment had been recorded, was a "0."
She had done the assignment, but somehow, the instructor had lost it. Worse yet, she was at sea.
She grabbed a cell phone to straighten out the mess, but the passengers had been called for a muster drill in which they explain what to do in case of disaster. Madison was in the midst of a bigger disaster than anything associated with a 134,000-ton ship. She attempted to call the school during the drill, but eventually she had to stow the phone or risk being thrown in the Carnival brig.
Fortunately, Madison was able to contact the school. She straightened out the mess, and continued driving her A train down the academic tracks.
On Dec. 12, Madison graduated from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee a year-and-a-half early with a degree in risk management and insurance. She was presented the King O'Neal award for recording a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout her college career. It also capped an academic career where she never got anything but an A, in any class, ever.
"Approximately 17 years ago, a little girl showed me her first kindergarten report card and said, 'Look, I got a perfect report card," said her father Mark Abbacchi. "I smiled and replied, 'That's great, let's see if you can make straight As all the way through high school."
Mark said he was joking at the time, but Madison didn't understand the humor. Through her years at Gilbert W. McNeal (K-5th), R. Dan Nolan (6-8) and Lakewood Ranch High School (9-12), she went on an A roll.
"I have an innate need to be perfect," said Madison, who was sitting at home with Mark and her mom Tina. "I always needed to strive for perfection."
Now 21, she said anything less than an A wasn't an option, especially after she moved to junior high and began to understand the scope of what she was trying to accomplish.
"It wasn't an accident," she said of her run of As. "I worked hard."
Although both parents were rooting for her streak to continue, they also wouldn't have minded if a B materialized.
"I almost wanted her to get a B, so she could feel what it is to fail," Mark said.
"B isn't failing," Madison said with a smile.
While Madison doesn't profess to have Einstein intelligence, she credits a "crazy memorization" ability and relentless note-taking for her success. She held up one of her notebooks, every line filled from front to back.
"I write a crazy amount of notes," she said. "Oh Lord! Who writes this much?"
Her note taking now can take a vacation. She has no more classes.
She continues to work part-time at the Publix in Lakewood Ranch on Market Street as a cashier. She picked up the job when she was 14.
She is studying to take her real estate license test and she hopes to soon become a top producer in the Lakewood Ranch market. She's likely to ace that test, too.
Tina said she still has lessons to learn about the working world. She noted her daughter is too easy to trick on April Fools Day. Consider her senior year (2017-18), as her streak of As seemed to be assured as she headed toward graduation. Again, the family was on a cruise, this time headed for the home port on a Monday. That particular Monday was scheduled as an off day for the School District of Manatee County students.
Mark told his daughter that while they were cruising, the school had decided to cancel the off day since the students had so many days off for Hurricane Irma, which had hit in 2017. He said he had received a note that any students who didn't show up that Monday would lose 10% of their semester grade.
Tina approached them to find her daughter crying and Mark laughing.
It took a while before Madison realized she had been duped.
"I've got to work on that," Madison said.
Mark and Tina are confident in their daughter's future success, but they know she will face challenges in life that don't always hold the opportunity for an A. They just want her to be prepared for imperfection. They celebrate her accomplishments, and give their advice for the future.