City College, the nation's third-oldest public high school, whose alumni include former mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and newspaper columnist Russell Baker, added another laurel yesterday.
The high school has been named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, one of 198 middle and high schools nationwide to receive the commendation this year.
The award was announced yesterday in the school's auditorium, with cheering students packing the seats and a row of city, state and federal dignitaries sitting onstage. U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who graduated from City College in 1969, called the North Baltimore school "a great, great institution."
"This was not a simple feat," Cummings said. "City College is the first high school from Baltimore City to get this kind of recognition."
City College is the second city school to receive the Blue Ribbon award. Patapsco Elementary School won it in 1997. The honor, established in 1982, is bestowed on public and private schools for excellence in teaching, rigorous standards and other educational attributes.
Other Maryland schools receiving the award this year are Bel Air Middle School in Harford County, Plum Point Middle School in Calvert County and Paint Branch High School in Montgomery County. High schools and middle schools are recognized in even-numbered years, elementary schools in odd-numbered years.
We're breaking the stereotypes attached to inner-city students," said sophomore Julian Jackson. "It's a great honor. I think we all should be proud of ourselves."
School administrators will visit the White House in the fall to accept the award from President Clinton.
City College, which has an enrollment of 1,200, is a magnet school with a liberal-arts curriculum and relatively strict disciplinary code.
Principal Joseph M. Wilson said 94 percent of City College's graduates went on to post-secondary schooling last year, including 84 percent heading to four-year colleges.