The mayor of Thousand Oaks, a Ventura County supervisor and a U.S. Congresswoman were among distinguished guests attending La Reina High School’s Thousand Oaks campus celebration Nov. 25 in honor of its selection as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education.“This is the U.S. Department of Education’s highest honor, so this is indeed an extraordinary accomplishment,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley, during the program’s presentation of civic proclamations that included congratulatory remarks by Thousand Oaks Mayor Claudia Bill-de-la-Pena and Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks.“This is a coveted award and recognizes the exemplary teaching and learning that takes place on this campus every single day and, clearly, for the last 50 years (in the all-girls’ school founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame). This is a really big deal,” said Brownley.Notre Dame Sister Anncarla Costello, provincial superior and alumna from La Reina’s class of ’69, noted in her welcoming remarks to a packed gymnasium filled with students, faculty, friends and family members that founding principal Notre Dame Sister Mary Ralph Fahey wrote in 1964: “The young women of the Conejo need a high school of high standards and excellent curriculum, but most of all they need a quality education based on Catholic faith and values and a school where the individual student is valued and respected.”“That vision has become a reality,” said Sister Costello, a former La Reina teacher.“Each Sister of Notre Dame in our province is proud that collaboration with our partners in mission in providing quality Catholic dedication has received such a high level of recognition. Thank you for your dedication and tireless efforts for the students entrusted to your care,” she added. “We welcome the future with a grateful eye that embraces those whose own futures will be shaped by their educational experience at La Reina High School.”Before formally presenting the Blue Ribbon plaque and flag received by La Reina representatives in a mid-November U.S. Department of Education awards ceremony in Washington D.C., La Reina’s board chair, Dr. Chris Tolcher, shared his observations on being a school parent to two current students and an alumna.According to Tolcher, the La Reina experience “takes our girls and helps mold them into young women of courage, confidence and character.” He described La Reina as being “more than a school of great teachers and great academics” which “helps our daughters grow spiritually and morally as well. …Our daughters learn to be givers, and not just takers.”Dr. Shannon Gomez, principal, noted in her remarks after being presented with the Blue Ribbon plaque by Dr. Tolcher, that among this year’s 286 Blue Ribbon elementary and secondary schools, La Reina was one of only two Catholic High Schools out of 53 nationwide to receive this award. Applause ensued when she added that the other winning Catholic high school, located in Arizona, is also an all-girls’ school.“The application process was an opportunity to tell our story: the story of a quality academic program in an atmosphere dedicated to Catholic principles,” said Gomez. “Where 21st century skills are integrated into the curriculum and where the school shares in the mission of the church to participate fully in prayer and liturgy, fostering community; where all are invited, educated in scripture and traditions of the Catholic church; where parents are recognized as the primary educators of their daughters; where service to others is fostered and celebrated and where leadership is encouraged. “We gather today to honor the memory of those who have gone before us, whose shoes we fill, in whose footsteps we follow — and we honor those who now fill those shoes,” said Gomez.Before students were invited to come forward to receive a National Blue Ribbon School pin, eighth grader Kristin Chen and Devin Montgomery, junior, spoke of what the award means to their fellow junior high and high school “Regents.”“As I come to school every day, I know first-hand how great La Reina is; I know from my experience, excellence is a way of a regent’s life,” said Chen, extolling La Reina’s teachers who “encourage us to overcome challenges and realize our highest potential.” She commended the school’s high tech computer lab and its new 1-to-1 iPad program, which “has given us a creative way to study and to incorporate the use of technology in everyday life.”“Though this is an incredible honor,” said Montgomery, “it’s more than just how our test scores compare with other schools in the country. It’s not merely a culmination of our achievement; it’s a challenge for the future. It’s a challenge to apply what we’ve learned in our years here at the school, to take the spiritual foundation we’ve developed here and the values we’ve come to cherish out to the community. “As we each come forward to receive our Blue Ribbon pins,” she continued, “we need to make a commitment, not only to ourselves but to each other, that we will take the spirit of this blue ribbon of excellence and bring it to our own lives and our surrounding community.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1206/lareina/{/gallery}