JACKSON TWP — Years of hard work paid off for the staff and students at the Seneca Valley Middle School when it was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. More than 100 teachers, administrators, students and others came together Monday afternoon in the cafeteria for a ceremony honoring all those who had a part in winning the prestigious award. Principal Andrea Peck said the middle school is now in the top 1 percent nationally in terms of highest achieving schools. She said the school is the only one from Western Pennsylvania this year to get the award. Only 296 schools out of more than 100,000 in the nation were awarded a Blue Ribbon this year, and the middle school is only one of eight to be awarded in Pennsylvania. “The highest achievement a school can receive has made its way to Seneca Valley,” Peck said. The principal also brushed aside any honor or praise bestowed upon her. Rather, she focused on the people who came together to make the recognition possible. After all, the school's motto is “Where Teams Make a Difference.” “I'm just one member of a very large group that puts their heart and passion into education and children every day,” she said. The school is “extremely deserving” of the recognition, Peck said, especially because students' test scores have consistently increased in the past decade. The 1,200 children who attend are “top-notch students,” she said. The middle school was recognized as an “exemplary, high performing” school for being among the state's highest performing as measured by state assessment tests. Cranberry Township Supervisors Chairman Bruce Mazzoni also spoke, saying the school should be proud of its “prestigious and well-deserved recognition.” Mazzoni said the community is showing its pride in the achievement on the electronic message board at the intersection of Routes 19 and 228. More than one million cars pass that intersection every week, and drivers who will see a large message commending the school for its honor, the supervisor said. “Quality schools drive the growth of our community,” he said. “Your success is our success.” Superintendent Tracy Vitale, a former principal of the middle school, praised the teachers and staff as being some of the most caring and dedicated professionals she's met. Vitale said her heart remains in the school and she's overjoyed to see such an honor come here. “Hard work and passion are the key ingredients in any great school,” she said. Peck said the award is an incredible achievement, but not one that means teachers and administrators are going to become complacent. “This is a strong affirmation that what we're doing is working,” she said.