McMURRAY – The Peters Township Middle School gymnasium was a sea of blue Friday as nearly 800 students celebrated receiving the 2013 Blue Ribbon Award for excellence in academics from the U.S. Department of Education.
The award, announced Sept. 24, was earned by 286 schools nationwide with just 22 middle schools receiving the honor, said Michael Henaghan, middle school assistant principal.
Along with the students, former administrators, teachers, school board members and district staff members joined in the celebration that also saw a representative of U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy, R-18th District, state Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, and state Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, present the school and the district with citations.
“You really do have something to be proud of,” Maher said. “This has always been a great school and now the rest of the nation knows too.”
Smith echoed Maher’s comments when he said, “You have really put yourself in an outstanding class.”
Invitations to former or retired teachers and administrators stretched back five years as the Blue Ribbon Award encompasses the past five years at the middle school.
While Henaghan said the award looked back five years, the honor was actually a culmination of many years of hard work by not only the students, but also the community, parents, staff, faculty and administrators. Henaghan asked several members of PTA groups to stand and receive recognition.
Then, the students stood and applauded themselves.
Superintendent Jeannine French, who came to the district two months before the award was announced, told students their efforts will inspire others, and that she is “looking forward to much more.”
Speaking on behalf of the students who moved forward in the last five years were high school seniors Rachel Hobbs and Max Lindsay. Both told the audience that middle school is a pivotal time in a student’s life with Lindsay saying when he entered the middle school in seventh grade, he was a shy young man who, through his experiences, became a confident young adult while at the middle school level.
Retired teacher Vaughn Dailey and current teacher Cindy Ollendyke, who was dressed from head to toe in bright blue including a garish blue wig, presented a skit outlining the importance of everyone working together to achieve the Blue Ribbon Award.
“This is a place where memories are made,” Dailey said. At the end of a rousing cheer of team spirit, Ollendyke shot off two tubes of streamers and confetti.
Middle school Principal Robert Freado told the students he hoped there would be many more such awards that are achieved with the support of everyone in the community. He singled out the students’ first teachers – their parents.
The afternoon celebration was followed by a first-ever evening dance-a-thon also in the gymnasium. More than 100 middle school students received more than $9,000 in pledges with a goal of $10,000. All of the money will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Pittsburgh. Freado said he hoped the dance-a-thon would become an annual event.
This is the Peters Township School District’s second Blue Ribbon Award. Also receiving Blue Ribbon Awards this year were schools in the Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon school districts.