One of the things I am most impressed with whenever I visit Notre Dame is the joyful energy of the school. It’s always buzzing with activity and the kids seem genuinely happy and engaged. I’ve visited on many occasions over the years and my experience is always the same. I’ve even been back to film Gym Meet, unquestionably the most spirited event of the school year. And yet, none of these visits quite prepared me for the electricity of last Saturday, October 13th. That was the day Notre Dame held its annual Open House for prospective students and their parents. And let me tell you…the joint was jumpin’! When I arrived at 9AM the parking lot was already packed. Cars lined the driveway, bumper to bumper, and some were even parked on the lawn. Outside, staff members greeted the visiting girls and parents as they arrived. Inside, some 70 current NDP parents functioned as ambassadors and registrars. Another 150 NDP students served as tour guides. In most cases, there was one NDP girl for each visiting family. The visitors were treated to an ongoing concert performed by the extremely talented NDP string ensemble, which was set up in the fishbowl. In another room, the jazz band entertained the guests. In the auditorium, the girls’ chorus sang a variety of beautiful tunes. All the school clubs were set up in the cafeteria, represented by both club monitors and student officers. And the entire faculty was on hand throughout the school to show off their respective departments and answer any questions. Prior to touring the school, the parents listened to welcoming speeches by Sr. Patricia McCarron, the Headmistress; Ms. Katie Goetz, the Director of Admissions; Senior Meghan Levis, President of the Student Council; and 8th Grader, Emily Cooper. They also screened the new admissions video which gave them an inside look into the day to day goings on at NDP. After all that, they went off with their assigned student guide to tour the school. They visited the Knott Performing Arts Center; the pool; the sports center and new playing fields; art studios; language, computer and science labs; the Doyle Library and technology center; math, humanities, and English departments, and more. Over the course of the morning, each student guide gave several individual and personalized tours for a total of nearly 400 tours and answered thousands of important questions from the girls and their parents! The guests also enjoyed a lovely catered breakfast and upon departure were given a nifty little packet of NDP information and a custom wrapped NDP chocolate bar!
So why would NDP, a school that over the years has had more applicants than it can accept, go to such lengths? One obvious reason is that NDP is justifiably proud of all that it has to offer. Open House is the perfect opportunity for this Blue Ribbon School to showcase its state of the art facilities, exceptional programs and course offerings, highly qualified faculty and staff, and extremely talented, poised, and accomplished students. Another reason is because the NDP staff is genuinely committed to its mission and truly believes that, in Sr. Patricia McCarron’s words, “Your daughters are NDP’s greatest gift and the center of our world.” And it’s not just talk. NDP nurtures each child, helps her discover her own unique gifts and challenges her to do her best throughout high school. By doing so, it lays the groundwork for continued success in college. Of perhaps greater interest to prospective parents is the fact that NDP grads receive a tremendous amount in college scholarship money. As an example, the most recent NDP graduating class received over 21 million dollars in scholarships last year! If each girl in the class of 2012 won a college scholarship, that would be an average of more than $160,000 per NDP student! Another way to look at it is: if NDP offers a family a scholarship of $3,000 a year for 4 years, that investment in effect multiplies more than 13 fold by graduation! If Notre Dame is your first choice, then Notre Dame wants to do everything possible to make sure you go there.
These are all good, and noble, and practical reasons to pull out all the stops for Open House. But perhaps there’s another, even more basic reason. Maybe it’s simply because, as Katie Goetz said, “We want our visitors to catch the NDP spirit.” The kind of school spirit displayed at Open House cannot be faked. It is one thing to have one or two students offer to give tours. It is quite another for 150 of them to do so! It is one thing for one or two dedicated parents to volunteer. It is quite another for more than 70 of them to give up their valuable Saturday morning to help out. It is one thing to trot out one or two talented students. It is quite another to have a hundred of them perform impeccably for 3 and a half hours!
The thing is, you can stage an event, but you can’t stage love or loyalty. If Saturday’s visitors did not catch the NDP spirit, it is likely they are immune to its infectiousness. But from all I observed…the fever was spreading.
If you attended Open House on October 13th, what were your impressions? Bluenote welcomes your comments.