By Megan Mann/SCVNEWS.com
Students, parents, and educators celebrated the academic success of McGrath Elementary School Thursday during a ceremony at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center.
Last September, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that Newhall School District’s Dr. J. Michael McGrath Elementary School had been named a National Blue Ribbon public school.
McGrath was one of only 21 California schools to receive the prestigious award and was the only school in Santa Clarita to be selected.
On Thursday, nearly 700 McGrath students, the entire student body, were bused to College of the Canyons to attend a celebration ceremony at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center. They were joined by their parents, teachers, district administrators and Santa Clarita Mayor Laurie Ender who, on behalf of the City Council, presented McGrath Elementary with a scroll that honors their achievement.
During the ceremony, teachers presented the stories of three outstanding McGrath students, each of whom exemplify “outstanding qualities” like “character and determination”.
Omar Alzate, Omar Medina and Ahtziry Cruz were each joined on stage by all of their teachers from kindergarten through sixth grade.
“These three students ‘represent the story of many of our students who come from another country and don’t speak English’ but because of their hard work and dedication and because of the dedication of their parents and teachers, the students are able to achieve great academic success,” said Joseph Soqui, sixth grade teacher at McGrath Elementary.
“No matter what your background, no matter what your challengers are, each of you have the opportunity and the ability to achieve your dreams and to be successful,” said former Newhall School Board member Mike McGrath, son of Dr. J Michael McGrath, whom the school is named after. “Mr. Heath and the entire staff at McGrath, both past and present, have implemented that inspiration and have reached that pinnacle today because you have achieved it. From our family to yours, we want to congratulate you.”
Kindness, compassion, determination and positive attitudes were recurring themes among many of the stories that were shared about each student, as was taking responsibility for their own education.
“Congratulations for being a great example of what is possible,” said Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger who told the students that they now belong to a very “rare club” of National Blue Ribbon Schools.
“This celebration marks a really big day in the life of your school,” Winger told the students. “But you know what? It’s not the most important day. Every day you continue to do your best, you look forward to a bright future that you create. Not the school, you do it.”
Despite its being labeled a “school of poverty,” McGrath Elementary has consistently raised their national test scores and has earned four consecutive Title I Academic Achievement Awards.
In 2010 McGrath received its first California Distinguished Award. Last year, the school rose to the top, garnering the 2011 National Blue Ribbon Award.
There were one of 304 public and private schools throughout the United States to earn the award.