RIDGWAY — The Ridgway Area School District convened the entire student body and staff on Friday to honor the Ridgway Area High School staff and students for earning the National Blue Ribbon Award for Exemplary High Performance.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, state Rep. Matt Gabler, members of the school board, the Elk County Commissioners, Johnsonburg Area School District representatives, the county district attorney and sherriff, the Ridgway Main Street program manager, Ridgway borough manager and members of the Ridgway steering committee all joined in the celebration.

Kyle Gordon’s communication class opened the program with a tribute video to the high school students and staff. WELK showcased what makes Ridgway Elkers special. The Mighty Elker marching band played the National Anthem and the choir sang the alma mater.

Brice Benson, middle and high school principal, reflected on the process for being nominated for the award. Specifically, the National Blue Ribbon program was created by Terrel Bell, secretary of education under former President Ronald Reagan. The award is the “highest honor that any public or private school can achieve.”

Ridgway High School was nominated by Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera in 2017. Following a rigorous review of performance criteria and submission of 2018 test data, Ridgway Area High School was notified in October 2018 that theywould be the recipient of the National Blue

Ribbon for Exemplary Performance.

The application process required that the school demonstrates exemplary performance not only in academics but across all facets of a students’ educational experience.

“For being a small rural high school in Elk County – this is a tremendous achievement,” Benson said. “We have ordinary, small town kids that do extra

ordinary with what we have.”

He cited the award as evidence that “motivated kids from rural communities can, with the leadership of good teachers and supportive parents and staff, achieve results on par with anyone, anywhere.”

Karen Brown, RHS English teacher for grades 9 and 10, reflected on her experience of accepting the award in Washington, DC.

“During all of the excitement at the ceremony, I began to wonder what all of these educators gathered at this event have in common,” she said “The answer was simple: They all have passion and commitment. Not only at the high school, but across the entire district, I see these same traits. Each one of our staff has an unceasing commitment to our students and the flexibility to keep up with the ever changing demands of the profession. But most importantly, a genuine love for what you do every day. That love shows through the time and energy devoted to the students”

Cole Salberg, senior class and student council president, reminded his peers and teachers that the honor the high school received was

also a tribute to “the elementary and middle school faculty” who “led them where they are today” and helped to “prepare them for

overwhelming success.”

He noted Ridgway’s history of success and reminded his peers to never “think coming from our small town will affect your life’s potential success or achieving of dreams.”

Superintendent Heather McMahon-Vargas thanked the students and staff for bringing such an achievement to the school district and community.

“This is an incredible accomplishment that took commitment, perseverance and hard work,” she said.

In addition to the National Blue Ribbon School award, Ridgway High School was awarded a silver medal by US News and World Report in 2018,

ranking 92nd in Pennsylvania out of 1,501 public and private high schools. RHS is ranked 2,412th nationally.

“We are a stronger community because of our youth.” She McMahon-Vargas said.

She added the achievement “was not magic, happenstance, luck or the single effort of one person alone. (They) “earned this achievement because they were committed to doing their very best for the last ten to thirteen years in the classrooms; on the courts, fields and stages; and at their jobs throughout the community.”

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