Hawks Rise Elementary is the latest Leon County School to receive a national award. The school has been named as one of the federal governments Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. .
The cafeteria at Hawks Rise is packed with kids as Chiles High School’s drum section and cheerleaders join in for a big pep rally. Principal Evy Friend says that’s not at a usual occurrence at her school, and the kids are hyped:
“Oh those little elementary schoolers, they don’t know what to think about this," said Hawks Rise Principal Evy Friend.
Hawks Rise has been named a national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. The federal honor is won two ways: high academic performance, or narrowing the achievement gap. Hawks Rise won for academics, a feat that comes as both federal and state education standards have grown increasingly complicated.
“I think continuing with our vision of challenging children, supporting children, working with our parents, our community and mentors—recognizing that our children, if they are supported they will rise to the occasion," said Friend.
Hawks Rise was also a winner in 2000—and it joins Killearn Elementary and Kate Sullivan as a two-time winner. Past recipients include Sealy, Deerlake Middle Schools Desoto Trail and Gilchrist. The Blue Ribbon program recognizes public, private and charter schools. Last year, the honor was given to Gadsden County’s Crossroads Academy, a charter school where most of the students are from low-income families.
Leon County’s winning schools have mostly been from the more affluent neighborhoods, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Superintendent Jackie Pons.
“We’re closing the achievement gap" he said. "But even when you do that, it is much more difficult for those schools to get over the bar... So our goal is that one day, all of our schools will be Blue Ribbon Schools.”
Hawks Rise’s recognition in the Blue Ribbon program comes as the county begins to work on a concept called community schools. It’s a school where students can get healthcare, and social services—increasing the supports that Hawks Rise principal Evy Friend says are critical.