Students, teachers, staff and families of St. Peter School on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. were all smiles Sept. 27 as they gathered in the school courtyard to celebrate the school’s recognition as a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School. 

“We know how special St. Peter’s School is,” Principal Karen Clay said, announcing the news to the school community. “The rest of the country now knows.” 

This was the second time the school received the recognition, with the first time in 2013. 

“Not only did we do it once in 2013, but we did it again in 2019,” Clay said, congratulating the teachers, students and families who all played a part in the school’s success, she said. 

She also shared words of congratulation to the three other Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington that were recognized as 2019 Blue Ribbon Schools: St. Joseph’s Regional Catholic School in Beltsville, Maryland; Blessed Sacrament School in Washington, D.C.; and St. Raphael School in Rockville, Maryland.

Students at St. Peter School on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., celebrate the news that their school has been designated as a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Bill Ryan, the superintendent and secretary of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Washington who was present for the school’s announcement, said that St. Peter School was one of 50 non-public schools throughout the nation that were recognized with the Blue Ribbon School distinction.

“You can’t be a Blue Ribbon School if you don’t work hard yourself,” Ryan told the students, commending their school’s commitment to the faith. 

Father Gary Studniewski, the pastor at St. Peter’s Parish on Capitol Hill in Washington, said he wasn’t surprised that the school was an “exemplary, high-performing school.” 

“We have the most exemplary principal...the most exemplary teachers and staff, the most exemplary students, and the most exemplary parents and alumni,” he said. 

Above all, Father Studniewski said, the school exists to serve the “most exemplary person...Jesus Christ.” 

“That is everything that makes Saint Peter’s so special, to have Jesus at the center of our mission,” he said.

St. Peter School on Capitol Hill celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018, and both Clay and Father Studniewski spoke about the school’s legacy of serving families in the Capitol Hill neighborhood for generations. 

“It wasn’t always easy for schools to exist,” Father Studniewski said. “Families made sacrifices...It’s our turn to build upon the legacy of what has been handed on to us.” 

He noted the school is “bursting at its seams” with an outdated facility in need of repairs so that the school community can continue to expand and grow, Father Studniewski said. 

“We are the school advancing the presence of Jesus Christ on this hill,” he said. 

Father Studniewski used the National Blue Ribbon announcement to formally launch a public capital campaign to raise funds for an expansion of the school’s current facility. He encouraged families present to start praying about how they can be a part of the school’s continuing legacy. 

Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who was present at St. Peter School for the Blue Ribbon announcement, said that in his few minutes at St. Peter’s during what was his first visit to the school, he noticed that they were “a family.”

“You are a big family,” Archbishop Gregory said. “One that cares about each other and wants one another to be happy.” 

Archbishop Gregory shared words of gratitude to the staff, administration and teachers of St. Peter’s School, recognizing their work of creating a strong home and school community.

“Thank you for entrusting your little ones to St. Peter’s School,” he said to the parents present. “As you can see here, your trust is well founded.”

In support of the capital campaign, Archbishop Gregory said that he hopes the legacy of St. Peter’s School can continue. 

“You have a wonderful heritage, and lots of little ones before you went to school here and played here, and we want to make sure little ones can in the future,” Archbishop Gregory said. 

Principal Karen Clay of St. Peter School on Capitol Hill meets with members of the school's student council moments before Archbishop Gregory arrived to join them for the celebration marking the school's designation as a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)