LINCOLN SQUARE — Queen of Angels was decked out in blue on Friday, with the school's official color taking on added significance now that the Catholic elementary is an official Blue Ribbon school.
The winning hue was on display everywhere — blue balloons, blue cookies and even blue teeth courtesy of one student who got creative with the rubber bands on his braces — as the community prepared for a celebration that included a visit from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
"You feel you've achieved academic excellence. It's very much of an honor," said Julia Byrns Kelly, Queen of Angels principal for the past 16 years.
Queen of Angels, 4520 N. Western Ave., is one of only 50 private schools in the U.S. to earn a National Blue Ribbon from the Department of Education for 2013, having placed in the top 15 percent in the nation in both math and reading standardized tests. Two-hundred eighty-six schools in total received the designation, including 21 from Illinois.
"We're not just a successful school, we're a great school," said Monseigneur Jim Kaczorowski, pastor of Queen of Angels Church, 2330 W. Sunnyside Ave. "People who are great make a difference and we've made a difference in this community for 103 years."
Academics are just one aspect of a Queen of Angels education, he said, citing emotional, physical and spiritual development as additional cornerstones.
Quinn, whose son Patrick formerly coached cross-country at Queen of Angels, praised the leadership of Kelly, the principal — "You've gotta have a good quarterback" — as well as the dedication of the school's parents and teachers.
"You sacrifice some of your present for our kids' future," he said.
For her part, Kelly credited parents, students and staff for "building an environment of learners." Even if the significance of the award was lost on the school's youngest students, "They all know something special has happened," she said.