The community at Hoboken Catholic Academy celebrated their new designation as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Thursday morning during a special assembly.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos designated Hoboken Catholic Academy as a Blue Ribbon School on Sept. 28, joining 342 other Blue Ribbon schools from across the country.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program was established in 1982 and recognizes school with exemplary programs. Of 342 public and non-public schools recognized nationally in 2017, 17 were from New Jersey. To apply, student achievement in English and mathematics must be in the top 15 percent as measured on a national test.
“It validates the hard work on the part of a lot of people in the Hoboken Catholic community,” said principal Matthew McGrath, including the faculty, students, and families “who stuck with HCA following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.”
The school, at 555 Seventh St., on Hoboken’s west side, was flooded when the storm hit in October of 2012 and needed $2 million in repairs to reopen in September of 2013.
During the repairs, students found a home, with the help of the diocese, at St. Nicholas School in Jersey City.
During the assembly, local officials congratulated the students and staff, including Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Freeholder Anthony Romano, and Assistant Superintendent of Catholic School for the Archdiocese of Newark Barbara Dolan.
History and process
“The application process is lengthy and extensive,” said McGrath. “We had to not only show test scores and enrollment figures but answer multiple narrative questions before we could submit to the Council for American Private Education, which acts as a sort of clearing house for applications from across the country.”
The CAPE forwards only 50 applications to the US Department of Education.
“This is a proud moment, not just for the Hoboken Catholic Academy community but really for the city of Hoboken,” said Bhalla. “It’s an expression of our growth as a community.”
He said more families who are choosing to remain in Hoboken have “faith in our community and faith in our schools.”
Dolan said 22 other blue ribbon schools in the archdiocese have been recognized since 2011.
She said part of her job is to help review the applications. She praised the resilience of the school after the hurricane, and also in terms of “the history of Catholic education here in the city of Hoboken.”
She said Hoboken used to have five Catholic schools, and was reconfigured in the 1990s.
“We won this incredible honor by working very hard each and every one of us as a team.”— Benjamin Bevington
Several students spoke about their school.
“We worked very hard to achieve this goal and we are so happy that we did,” said sixth grader and resident Adam Misyak.
Seventh grader Benjamin Bevington said, “We won this incredible honor by working very hard each and every one of us as a team. Every team needs a fearless leader, and we have that in Mr. McGrath. We also have a fantastic faculty who taught us almost everything we need to know, from literature and grammar to algebra history and science.”
He added that the faculty treats the students like family.
Fifth grader Juliette Vergara said HCA “excels academically,” “it is rich in extracurricular activities,” and “its values of kindness and service.
Eighth grader and Student Council President Nanki Nagpaul, who has attended the school for eight years, said HCA not only taught her to be a good student but also, “It has shown me what it means to be honest faithful and kind. I believe that every child who comes to our school leaves as a better person over all.”
She said the school has provided her with a strong academic foundation as well as several after school activities.
“Even though I’m not Catholic, I never felt as though I didn’t belong,” she said. “My favorite thing about HCA is that everyone here is a part of my family everyone at HCA boosts each other up.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.