PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Students at a public school in New Jersey are excelling and being recognized for their excellence despite challenges of the ongoing pandemic and crime in their neighborhood.
“I hope that it makes them poke their chest out a little bit, stand a little bit straighter and that they feel a little proud of what they accomplished,” said Cicely Warren, assistant superintendent of Paterson Public Schools.
And proud the students are at Public School 28 in Paterson after they topped U.S. News and World Report’s lists of best elementary and middle schools in New Jersey, which the magazine released on Tuesday.
“We were all just amazed. We didn’t think that we could do that,” sixth grader Xavier Colon said.
This isn’t the first time the school has been recognized. In 2018, School 28 achieved another first by being awarded the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon School Award, winning the exemplary high-performing distinction.
“I don’t focus on my surroundings. I focus what’s inside my building,” Principal Nancy Castro told CBS2’s Thalia Perez.
What’s going in the classroom, according to the U.S. News and World Report, is the students are performing well above expectations in both math and reading.
“As a parent, you want this for the community. You want the community to keep striving, and if it starts with one school, hopefully it will continue to all the schools,” parent Carmen Fontánez said.
School officials say this recognition could help with funding in the future. At Public School 28, classrooms are in need of technological devices and white boards.
The K-8 school is also home to the district’s Paterson Academy for the Gifted and Talented. It was ranked number one out of more than 1,000 elementary schools and 700 middle schools in New Jersey.
“It’s very difficult to get a kid into a good school, especially that is not surrounded by a lot of violence and especially teachers who love to teach their kids,” parent Thalia Miranda said.
One thing parents and staff proudly agree upon is that these accolades affirm the hard work of both the students and staff.
CBS2’s Thalia Perez contributed to this report.