Kansas City school becomes first charter school in Missouri to receive Blue Ribbon award

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a huge honor -- and a first for one Missouri school.

In this week's Reaching 4 Excellence, we're featuring University Academy. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently named the upper school a Blue Ribbon school, an award based on outstanding achievement.

Less than one-third of percent of all public and private schools get this honor each year. University Academy is the first charter school in the state of Missouri to ever win.

"It makes me feel really proud," said University Academy senior Kellan Owens, who is part of the first graduating class that's been at the school for all 13 years. The charter school opened in 2000, but the first kindergarten class started in 2005.

"It makes me like feel that we accomplished something as a team, as a family since we have stuck with each other," said senior Raven La Barrie, who was also part of that first kindergarten class.

The school is on cloud nine after learning it's the first charter school in Missouri to receive the Blue Ribbon designation.

"We benefit from having a focus on college prep from day one," Superintendent Tony Kline said.

He said the school has a big focus on improving test scores, but at the same time, makes sure students get a well-rounded education. University Academy students have the opportunity to travel abroad, get outdoor learning credit and even have 24-7 tutoring support at their fingertips.

"They provide a code for us all year where we can actually get help on our homework," La Barrie said.

But it's about more than just access for Owens -- it's about time.

"The teachers, they actually show a sense of investment in your education," he said.

The Blue Ribbon award is presented by the US Department of Education. A school can receive the accolade only once every five years, so University Academy will have to wait until 2022 to apply again.