The teaching of values, the conviction to follow through on dreams and visions and a firm belief in God are what made Archbishop Spalding High School worthy of national recognition this year, Bishop William C. Newman, of the Baltimore Archdiocese, said Friday.
At the assembly in the auditorium, the school received its official banner from the U.S. Department of Education, which honored the school this summer by naming it a Blue Ribbon school -- the first Anne Arundel County school, public or private, to receive the honor.
"You have to have leadership, with a clear vision," said the bishop.
But he also praised the school for showing pride in the Gospels "by living it daily" and for believing, as Pope John Paul II said, "that 'God is confident in his young people.' "
"Archbishop Spalding High School has taken these two messages from the pope and integrated them into excellence in academics," Bishop Newman said.
Valerie Pajak Polyniak, a 1972 graduate who returned for the Blue Ribbon celebration, said she was moved by the words and the honor bestowed on the school.
"This truly is a special school, and it will always remain so," she said. "Coming here from public school was the best decision I ever made. It's made me a better person. Dreams can be met, and this is a good starting point."
Pat Hart, her economics teacher in 1972 and the only teacher who has been at the school since it opened in 1966, says the
best thing about Archbishop Spalding High is that "we don't need to wait until somebody else does something. We open the door. And we expect a lot from the students."
But they don't mind.
"This award means we're getting the best education possible," said 14-year-old Kevin Angelis, a freshman. "I plan to go to college; I want to be an architect, and I take my studies very seriously."
Karina Wzientek, a 17-year-old senior, said the award has given her and her classmates a renewed sense of pride in the school. "Even outside the school, people are commenting on the award," she said.
That recognition is not to be taken lightly either, said Al Sanders, the WJZ-TV anchor who was the main speaker Friday. Nor should the lessons students are learning about the importance of setting goals and following their dreams be forgotten after they've earned their diplomas.
"Being here takes me back to the dark ages when I was in high school, in 1957 in St. Louis, Mo.," Mr. Sanders said. "And a young Annie Mae Bullock sang the national anthem, and we held our ears because it was so bad. We were a school of dreamers, and the speaker that day told us not to be afraid to dream. I want to tell you that it's important to walk out of high school in pursuit of something -- to have something to work for. . . . Annie Mae Bullock did. Her name now is Tina Turner."