BARSTOW — As a technology-focused school, Barstow STEM Academy has a natural edge in preparing students for 21st century careers, which has led to its recent state honor as a Gold Ribbon school.

Last week, the state announced recognition of 275 middle and high schools with the California Gold Ribbon Schools Awards, an honor in place of the Distinguished Schools Program, which is on hiatus while the state’s school school systems are changing.

“These terrific schools are leading the way in embracing our new rigorous academic standards and showing others how to help students succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said.

Schools applied for the award based on a model program or practice that they’ve adopted that includes State Board of Education standards-based strategies that can be replicated by other schools; Barstow STEM chose their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, according to Principal Vinney Williams.

Barstow STEM is a Google Apps for Education school, and students bring their own devices — often laptops and tablets — to school on a daily basis.

“Having access to technology at that level has increased the things that students can do,” Williams said. “They’re not limited … They can work independently or collaboratively.”

According to Torlakson’s statement, the Gold Ribbon awardees “represent examples of not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaborating, but also highly successful school climate efforts, ranging from real time conflict resolution to positive behavior intervention.”

Williams said their school fit this mold naturally “because of the collaboration that we expect from students.”

“It’s a very fluid process — they’re constantly researching and updating various projects,” Williams said. "Students struggle at our school the same that they would anywhere else, and we teach them that it’s part of the process, and if it’s something that is difficult, it will be worth it in the end.”

Williams credits both the teachers who are “incredibly demanding” of themselves and students, and the parents who choose to send their children to Barstow STEM Academy.

“The parents step out of their comfort zone too. A lot of them don’t know a lot about technology, and they want their students to be challenged,” Williams said. “It’s the families and the teachers that really come together to work hard.”

Barstow STEM was also named a Title I Academic Achieving School, recognizing it as a school receiving federal Title I funds that assist in meeting the educational needs of students living at or below the poverty line, according to the state news release.

Several school representatives and administrators of the Barstow Unified School District will attend a regional ceremony in Costa Mesa in May.

“I get to see the work that the students and teachers do every day and I’m always very proud of their progress, their creativity and everything that they do in the classroom,” Williams said. “I’m glad to see them recognized by the state for the great work they’re doing up here in the desert.”

Charity Lindsey may be contacted at clindsey@vvdailypress.com or 760-951-6245. Follow her on twitter @DP_Charity.