About The Blue Ribbon Award

With much pomp and revelry, the Brook Forest school community celebrated its National Blue Ribbon Award on Monday, Nov. 17.

The students began the celebration parading into the gym waving smiley face sticks and wearing a Brook Forest t-shirt festooned with a blue ribbon. As parents, community members, staff and dignitaries looked on, Principal Kelly Voliva then took “attendance” from each class, kindergarten through 5thgrade, asking them to cheer to show their pride in Brook Forest. “That’s the only time you’re able to scream like that in school,” she joked.

Indeed, the students were excited. Voliva asked staff and faculty to stand and students gave a lengthy applause to their teachers. Voliva told the students, “the teachers love and care for you and want the best for you.” The students saluted Board President Alan Hanzlik who noted, “you all have a lot of spirit.” He said that the award, which has been given to less than one percent of all schools in the nation since the award’s inception in 1982, recognizes Brook Forest’s past performance and awesome journey.

They paid attention when superintendent Dr. Heidi Wennstrom read congratulatory messages from President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner and Regional Office of Education Director Darlene Ruscetti.

"We learned from Secretary Duncan that the National Blue Ribbon recognition is awarded to less than one percent of schools in America,” said Dr. Wennstrom. “We are honored to be among an elite group of schools focused on securing results, innovation and creativity. We are deeply committed to a continuous improvement model in which parents and educators partner to achieve successful outcomes for each and every student."

Dr. Wennstrom also told the students that the Blue Ribbon will not be their only award. “My goal for you is to love learning, develop compassion and teamwork, choose goals worthy of making a difference for humanity and strive to do your very best,” she told them. Three students -- Akshay Badlani, Sara Kumar and Shivani Rao -- read essays about what the award means to them and students from each grade level read a sentence about why they believe that Brook Forest won the coveted award. “The teachers are awesome and there is great diversity in our school,” said Blake Edmonds. “We take pride in our work and treat every body like family,” said Ellie Rios. The culmination of the ceremony was a balloon launch, where each student and staff member simultaneously released biodegradable balloons. The launch was sponsored by the PTO.

Both Wennstrom and Voliva and Assistant Principal Lisa Owen traveled to Washington D.C. Nov. 10-11 to officially accept the award. “I could not be prouder of you, and we were honored to bring this back,” Dr. Wennstrom told teachers, community and students.