Vandyke Elementary School in Coleraine has been selected as a National Blue Ribbon school by the U.S. Department of Education for the school year 2018-19. Additionally, the school was selected by the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) as a School of Excellence for 2018.

To celebrate, the Greenway School District held a series of activities Tuesday, June 4 with students, school faculty and elected officials.

Festivities began Tuesday morning with an All School Blue Ribbon flag raising. Next, students were treated to an obstacle course, bounce house and dance party in the gym. The Vandyke Elementary student council met with elected officials including state Representative Justin Eichorn, U.S. Representative Pete Stauber and his field representative Spencer Igo, as well as Executive Director of the MESPA Jon Millerhagen.

An official ceremony was held in the Greenway High School Auditorium in the afternoon. Superintendent David Pace began the program by thanking the students and the staff of Vandyke Elementary School.

“It’s an opportunity for us to say thank you for your hard efforts, both you as students and of course our staff who helped lead you and work with you every single day,” Pace said. “You represent Greenway school district extremely well and we’re all very, very proud of all of you.”

Student council representative Quincy Leming addressed the student body.

“I think it is amazing to be a student leader for a school that has won two awards. We won the Blue Ribbon award and the School of Excellence award,” Quincy said. “To be awarded the awards is a great honor. It took a lot of time and effort. Winning these awards was a great accomplishment. I say, let’s win more.”

Ted Olson, student council representative said, “It feels great to be in a school that won three blue ribbon awards and three school greatness awards. That means the school is awesome at welcoming kids to our school and teaching kids all they know.”

Eichorn, a graduate of Vandyke Elementary School, commended the school’s dedication to educating students.

“It makes me very hopeful for the future of Minnesota that we have so many bright, young students here at Greenway,” Eichorn commented. “In Minnesota, only five elementary schools are selected each year for the Minnesota School of Excellence and in 2018, Vandyke Elementary proved to the rest of the state that again it had the staff, students and leadership that were most committed to each other and growing together through education.”

Eichorn added, “The National Blue Ribbon award affirmed the hard work students, educators, families and communities put in to creating self and welcoming schools where students can master challenging content. You all did such a phenomenal job. It is only fitting that Vandyke Elementary is recognized as one of the country’s best schools.”

Alyssa Ohman, student council representative, was the last of the student speakers to address the crowd.

“I have so many memories, and if you asked me what one was my favorite, I wouldn’t have one because all of them are so amazing,” Ohman said. “I am very proud to be a part of Vandyke student council and to be a part of this school.”

Millerhagen presented the school with the MESPA School of Excellence Award. He noted some of the specific reasons Vandyke Elementary was chosen for the honor.

“One of the strengths that Vandyke was recognized for was that it focuses on closing the achievement gap for students living in poverty while promoting high levels of learning for all students,” Millerhagen said.

Vandyke Elementary School has also worked to bring more arts education into the school. The school has hired a part-time music teacher, created a partnership with a local art studio and hired a full-time social worker.

The day ended with a rock concert performance for students from the Twin Cities music group, The Bazillions.

For more information about how schools are selected for a Blue Ribbon award, visit. https://nationalblueribbonschools.ed.gov/faq/. To read about the MESPA School of Excellence award, visit https://www.mespa.net/SOE/.

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