By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced Tuesday that Sundling Junior High School in Palatine is one of 18 schools in Illinois to be awarded a National Blue Ribbon this year.

Cardona made the announcement during a return-to-school road trip this week, including three stops in Illinois on Tuesday.

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“That’s a major, major, major honor. I’ve been in education over 20 years, that’s like the Oscars,” Cardona said. “I can’t think of a better way to start the school year off than with an award, and to be together in-person.”

National Blue Ribbons are awarded to schools to recognize their overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Other winners this year in Illinois include:

  • Braeside Elementary School in Highland Park,
  • Butler Junior High School in Oak Brook,
  • Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein,
  • Disney II Magnet High School in Chicago,
  • Eldorado Middle School in Eldorado,
  • Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale,
  • Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest,
  • Lincoln Middle School in Park Ridge,
  • Maple School in Northbrook,
  • Okawville Grade School in Okawville,
  • Prince of Peace School in Lake Villa,
  • Prospect Elementary School in Clarendon Hills,
  • Prosser Career Academy High School in Chicago,
  • Raccoon Consolidated School District 1 in Centralia,
  • Taylorville Jr High School in Taylorville,
  • Walter Payton College Prep High School in Chicago,
  • and Westmont High School in Westmont.
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Cardona dropped in on a few classes at Sundling to see how the return to in-person classes is going.

He watched students code, went to a class where the students were working on designs for tall towers, and even watched a musical performance by the school band.

Cardona also is scheduled to visit Chicago State University on Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on equity in education.

He’s also visiting a health center in Cicero where COVID-19 vaccinations are being offered.

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The secretary’s return to school tour makes stops in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan later this week.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff