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Radio Park Named National Blue Ribbon School

When Kristin Miller announced to her first-grade students the news that Radio Park Elementary had been selected as a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School, their reaction was natural.


“They were like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome,’” Miller recalled. “But then they asked, ‘So, everybody gets blue ribbons?’” 


That may not happen — at least not from the U.S. Department of Education, which recently bestowed the honor — but Radio Park’s students, faculty, staff and families can instead wear smiles at being in select company. Only 13 schools in Pennsylvania received the blue ribbon designation this year, and it’s just the third time a State College Area School District school has been recognized as such, after Lemont-Houserville Elementary, now Spring Creek Elementary, in 2017 and State High in 1993.


“The honorees for our 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award have set a national example for what it means to raise the bar in education,”  U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “The leaders, educators and staff at our National Blue Ribbon Schools continually inspire me with their dedication to fostering academic excellence and building positive school cultures that support students of all backgrounds to thrive academically, socially and emotionally.”


Radio Park will be further honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., Nov. 16-17. 


“I'm very proud of my team for receiving this prestigious award,” Radio Park Principal Alex Raup said. “The faculty and staff here are so committed to their work and daily come alongside their students and colleagues to create a positive learning environment. As a Radio Park alum myself, I've known that this school is special since I was a kindergartner and it's great to see all of the hard work of the educators I work with every day paying off in the form of this national designation. It's a great time to be a Mini Lion!”


Specifically, Radio Park was named an “exemplary high performing school” for being among the best performers on state assessments or nationally normed tests. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program award recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve at high levels or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap among student groups.


“We have a ton of hard-working teachers and paraprofessionals and staff, across the board,” kindergarten teacher Marianne Garlicki said. “And we have a lot of parents who support us as well. That’s an awesome thing. To me, that’s what this recognition is about. The kids win when they have a situation like that, all of the people supporting them and working together. We are proud of what we do here. We are all in, all the way.”


For Miller, the award reinforced that “Radio Park is a great place to be.”


“It’s like a pat on the back for us,” she said. “Our teachers think, ‘Hey, we’re working hard. We want these kids to learn and grow. We love our kids,’ and here’s one of the rewards we get as a community, that it shows that our staff works together and we're a school family.”


First-grade teacher Tiffany Brushwood looks forward to an all-school celebration at some point down the road. She said many of her colleagues, while feeling surprised and proud, initially took the news in stride with most of the week ahead.


“Honestly, we were like, ‘OK, onto the next day.’ We just do the work because we care about the kids,” she said. “It’s great that we’re being recognized, but I feel like teachers all over the district and country are doing the same things we’re doing. But this is very cool.”


With a current enrollment of 429, Radio Park is one of 353 National Blue Ribbon Schools nationwide in the program’s 40th year. SCASD Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Danielle Yoder called the blue ribbon award “an absolute honor.”


“The faculty, administration, parents, students, staff, and community have all played a key role in the success of this elementary school, and I want to personally thank them for their dedication to the success of their school,” Yoder said. “The focus on individual students throughout our entire district is what makes our district so unique and highly successful.”


By Chris Rosenblum

Photos by Nabil K. Mark