DELISLE, MS (WLOX) - It was a proud day for education in South Mississippi. On Tuesday, four schools from across the state won the National Blue Ribbon Award. Three of the winners are from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Oak Park Elementary in Ocean Springs is now a Blue Ribbon school, and so is East Hancock Elementary. DeLisle Elementary also received the coveted award. On Tuesday, DeLisle brought all the students and staff together to announce the exciting news.
More than 400 students filled the cafeteria at DeLisle Elementary, thinking that the morning assembly was just about their great MCT-2 scores.
"All I saw was blue balloons. I didn't know what those meant," said third grader Kailey Owen.
The suspense started building as Pass Christian Superintendent Beth John compared DeLisle Elementary to the popular book "The Little Engine That Could". She explained how DeLisle started off as just a "successful" school, and even though 69 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch, their test scores kept climbing year after year.
"You wanted to go even higher, so what did you say?" John asked the students.
"I think I can. I think I can," they chanted in response.
That determination and hard work made DeLisle an A-rated School.
"DeLisle had one of the highest QDIs in the whole state of Mississippi," John announced proudly. "I have a surprise!"
For achieving academic excellence, DeLisle is officially a "National Blue Ribbon School".
"I was like, 'Oh my goodness, that is such a surprise! How did I not know that?'" asked Kailey.
"I was jumping up and down, because I couldn't believe it. It was a very shocking moment," said fifth grader Keon Farmer. "This is amazing, because I knew how hard we had to work just to get this."
"I wanted to squeal this morning. I was so excited. But we kept it so we could have a grand celebration here," said DeLisle Elementary Principal Desiree Lizana.
To top off the celebration, Lizana told the students, "You're going to have blue snow cones and blueberry snow cones!"
Students took turns lining up so they could savor the sweet taste of education success.
"They're a title-one school, but they excel academically in spite the poverty level of many of their students," said John. "It was so exciting! We've been holding this in for months and months, and to finally let the cat out of the bad was great."'
"It was fabulous! I was so excited! They were getting the recognition that they have worked so hard for, and just thrilled to see how happy and excited they were as a team," said Lizana.
On Wednesday, the school will hand out blueberry muffins to parents to thank them for their support. The schools were nominated by the State Department of Education.
East Hancock Elementary will have its Blue Ribbon Rally Wednesday afternoon, and Oak Park Elementary will celebrate on October 9th. Lovett Elementary School in Clinton, MS, was also selected as a Blue Ribbon School.
The winners will be honored in Washington, D.C. on November 18-19. They will receive a plaque and a flag to display at their school.