By Jonah Van Why
St. Anthony Park Elementary School’s lunchroom doubled as a place of celebration May 18, as students, teachers, parents and school board members were joined by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter to recognize the school’s achievement of being named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2017.
Last fall, the school was one of eight Minnesota schools to secure the prestigious award from the U.S. Department of Education. The annual award recognizes outstanding public and nonpublic schools throughout the country for excellence in overall achievement and in reducing the achievement gap between student subgroups.
On the wall of the lunchroom hung a giant banner that read, “We all had a hand in making SAP a Blue Ribbon School.”
Throughout the lunch periods, students enthusiastically took turns adding their own thoughts to the poster describing what makes St. Anthony Park such a special place. The answers were a testament to the honor the school now claims. Variations of “We’re kind,” “Teachers,” “All the different people” and most important, “Recess,” were written across the banner.
The students weren’t alone in their thinking. Principal Karen Duke, and her predecessor Ann Johnson, introduced Mayor Carter, who took to the stage with a message that echoed the student’s sentiment.
“You are what makes this school excellent!” he exclaimed. “This school could not be excellent if it weren’t for all of the amazing students that come here every day to learn from and teach other.” However, it doesn’t stop with the students, Carter said. “Even amazing students can’t make a school excellent alone. I think you have some excellent teachers in this school, some excellent teacher’s assistants in this school, some excellent custodians in this school!”
As he closed, Carter acknowledged those responsible for raising such extraordinary students. “Let’s not forget about your parents,” he said to cheers from the students. The message was clear: It takes a community to produce such a special school.
The school year ended on June 8, but St. Anthony Park Elementary School will continue to see a lot of activity as construction on a $12.4 million remodel of the school nears the finish line. The project is on schedule to finish in late August, just in time for another batch of excited students and teachers to grace the halls next fall.
Jonah Van Why once graced the halls of St. Anthony Park Elementary School. He was a member of the 2006 sixth-grade class.