Prestigious honor awarded to just the second Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Detroit in the past decade; one of 15 statewide in 2020

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — For the first time in the school’s 60-year history, Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills has been named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. 

The rare and prestigious award, announced Sept. 24, is the highest honor given by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Brother Rice is one of two Catholic schools in the state of Michigan to receive the honor this year, and one of just 50 private schools nationwide. Only 367 schools across the U.S. received the designation, and 15 in Michigan. 

According to a press release from Brother Rice, the Blue Ribbon award “affirms the hard work of educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.”

Historically, Blue Ribbon recognition has been given to schools where students’ achievement is high — as measured by statewide standardized testing — or where the achievement gap is narrowing. 

Brother Rice High School offers a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, complete with a 1:1 iPad learning program. Students can participate in 38 honors and advanced placement courses and 25 student-led clubs. 

“We are blessed to have a rigorous curriculum and a history of high academic success at Brother Rice, but it is our people who make the difference and deserve credit for this honor,” Brother Rice principal Ed Okuniewski said. “Our success begins with our teachers, is due to the hard work of our students, and would not be possible without the support of our parents. This is a prideful moment for our entire community.”

Founded in 1960 by the Congregation of Christian Brothers of Ireland, the all-boys school educates more than 600 young men in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum inspired by the vision of Blessed Edmund Rice.

The school offers 38 honors and advanced placement courses, 25 student-led clubs and 27 interscholastic teams, in addition to domestic and international service opportunities and peer leadership programs. Over the years, Brother Rice’s athletic programs have been recognized as some of the best in the state, with 74 state championships across multiple sports. 

The school’s distinctive “Achieve Plus” program offers one-on-one, student-focused tutoring services, and the “Band of Brothers peer leadership program is the centerpiece of a robust co-curricular offering bolstering self-confidence, forging leadership skills, and nurturing social-emotional well-being,” the school’s press release said.

In 2019, almost 20 percent of the student population achieved an ACT score of 30 or higher, and 99 percent of the school's graduates are accepted to four-year colleges.

Brother Rice football players kneel for a team blessing in 2017. The school prays twice a day as a student body, in addition to prayer at the beginning of each class and school-wide Masses. 

Students also pray twice a day as a student body, and at the beginning of each class.

“As a Catholic high school, our graduates bear the responsibility to live lives of service, leadership, and good in the world today,” the release said. “Rooted in the Essential Elements of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother Education, a Brother Rice student is empowered by dynamic teachers, engaged parents, and accomplished alumni to employ his God-given gifts in the pursuit of an authentic, impactful and meaningful life.”

Because of COVID-19, this year’s awards ceremony will held virtually on Nov. 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C.

The last time a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Detroit won the coveted award was in 2016, when Everest Collegiate High School and Academy in Clarkston earned the honor. 

A historical list of Blue Ribbon winners in the Archdiocese of Detroit is as follows:

  • Bishop Foley High School, Madison Heights (1984)
  • Mercy High School, Farmington Hills (1984)
  • De La Salle Collegiate High School, Warren (1993)
  • St. Clare of Montefalco School, Grosse Pointe Park (1994)
  • St. Joan of Arc School, St. Clair Shores (1994)
  • Guardian Angels School, Clawson (2003)
  • Shrine Grade School, Royal Oak (2004)
  • St. Paul on the Lake School, Grosse Pointe Farms (2006)
  • Holy Name School, Birmingham (2008)
  • St. Hugo of the Hills School, Bloomfield Hills (2009)
  • Everest Collegiate High School and Academy, Clarkston (2016)
  • Brother Rice High School, Bloomfield Hills (2020)