A high school winning a state award is considered an exceptional accomplishment. Winning a national award is a feat on a much higher level.

This year, Washburn Rural High School received the National Performing Arts School of Excellence Award from the National Federation of State High School Associations for its theater, music, speech and debate programs.

WRHS athletics and activities director Penny Lane credited tradition as a key reason the school was selected.

“We’re very fortunate to have instructors, teachers and coaches who have been here for a long time,” she said. “So, word of mouth, siblings involved in programs and, in some cases, parents were involved when they were here at WRHS. They provide the encouragement and support that’s so important for their students to be involved.”

The national federation noted the school’s accomplishments: WRHS has finished second in the Kansas State High School Activities Association state speech competition the past two years and first the past two years in the four-speaker state debate tournament. The school has registered Superior 1 ratings in choir and orchestra for five consecutive years, and four of the past five years in band.

“We have over 120 kids involved in speech and debate,” Lane said. “Our marching band has over 215 members. Our choirs have great numbers. We now have three different orchestras.

“The more and varied opportunities that you can offer to meet the interest of the kids, I think the more successful your programs and your school are.”