It has been nearly two years since I was first invited to create a blog for Notre Dame Prep. What began as a marketing tool for NDP quickly became a labor of love for me. What a great gig. I spent the better part of the past 24 months interviewing those people who represent the best of Notre Dame: the dedicated leadership who are fervently committed to progress while remaining faithful to mission; the devoted faculty who are experts in their fields and – more importantly – passionate about teaching; and the vibrant student body who are enthusiastic about…well…everything… and give one great hope for the future. As with all my professional endeavors, I got far more out of writing this blog than I put into it (our little secret). But then, you always learn more by listening.
So just what did I learn while at the helm of Bluenote?
As an alumna, I learned that the 21st century NDP is light years ahead of the 20th century NDP. And that’s a good thing. If NDP was a great school while I was a student here in the late 60’s, early 70’s…it is a superior school of the highest order today. Exemplary, cutting edge, state of the art in every way: curriculum, teaching methods, technology, facilities. It has strategically cultivated the perfect environment in which a young woman can develop, thrive and become her best self.
It has remained steadfastly true to itself and its mission. While the campus and course load may look quite different – and thrilling – to someone who comes back for a visit, the spirit is the same, instantly recognizable and wonderfully familiar. And its mission:
Where girls become women who transform the world
has taken deep root and manifested itself in thought, word, and deed over these many decades. There is no other school in the greater Baltimore area that puts such an emphasis on service to others. Nor, I would venture to guess, is there another school whose alumni carry on that mission as they go out into the world – and long after they’ve left NDP. One only has to read back over some of the blog posts of the past two years to know that’s true.
I’ve learned that being faithful to mission and values isn’t always easy, either. Sometimes other voices or false dichotomies can trip us up. But, I have to give NDP credit, they keep an open mind and always try and get it right, even if it means making a few adjustments in policy or thinking.
I’ve also learned that NDP is a happy place. Yes. Happy. Not in a trivial way. But in a consistent, ongoing, intentional way. You can’t fake that. Without fail, whenever I visited the campus for one interview or another I felt that vibe. Palpably. It was in the air and in the ethos. There wasn’t a single day when I wasn’t greeted with warmth and welcomed by anyone and everyone I passed by, from students to teachers to staff. And as I observed and listened, I couldn’t help notice how joyful the girls seemed to be…in and out of class. At a time in their young lives when drama, anxiety, and emotional turmoil is to be expected, there was very little indication of it as I roamed the halls and sat in on classes. To be sure, it exists. That’s only natural. But I can’t help but think that NDP has created a safe haven for these young women. A place where they can conquer fears, face challenges, manage expectations, and explore possibilities without the threat of judgment or peer pressure.
By the same token, however, I also learned that NDP nurtures but doesn’t coddle. And there’s a big difference. The girls aren’t protected or saved from failure. That’s part of life. And they aren’t taught to take the easy route to achieve their goals. They are challenged to try harder, go further, explore more. As a result, I can’t tell you how many alum I’ve spoken to who have told me college was a breeze compared to NDP.
I learned that NDP is nothing if not all about Opportunity. The depth and breadth of subject matter, extracurriculars, sports, clubs, and experiences offered to any given girl is breathtaking. Far more diverse, challenging, and expansive than in my day. And all the better for being so. It would be very nearly impossible for any young woman to not find her comfort zone – or… have an opportunity to move out of her comfort zone – at NDP. What a privilege. What a gift.
I learned that to a person, the NDP faculty love what they do. And, when asked what the best part of their job is, again – to a person – the answer is always, “The Girls.”
Call me biased, but indeed, NDP girls do seem special. I often ask the leadership at NDP, “Do you think you just attract a certain type of girl who shares your values and vision of the world or do you think you bring that out in her when she arrives?” Invariably, the answer is always, “Both.” Either way, it’s important for places like NDP to continue to exist. Because we will always need strong institutions that nurture a thirst for knowledge, envision a just and loving world, and offer opportunities to all who enter to become their very best selves. Notre Dame has been doing just that for centuries.
Yes, I am biased. My best friends in the whole world are 5 of my classmates from NDP. And though we left the institution a long, long time ago, the institution never really left us. Some alum will say, “It’s not the relationship with the institution I care about, it’s the relationship with the girls (now women), my friends, that really matters.” But what if we hadn’t had that opportunity? What if our paths hadn’t crossed? What about making sure others who come after us have the same chance? The same opportunity to learn and grown, bond and love? If there is still a little piece of NDP left in you, isn’t it worth ensuring its future? An institution is created with a social purpose that is made possible by and serves individuals but that – in the end – transcends the individual. Not in the sense that it is more important or powerful than the individual. It is not. But in the sense that the total is greater than the sum of its parts. And the parts…are us. Each individual member of the NDP community. Past. Present. And to come. Yes, institutions are important to society. The world would be the worse without them. And one way to find out if that is true…is to do nothing. To not lend support. And then see how it survives. If at all.
Yes, I’ve learned all this and more during my tenure at Bluenote. It has been a pleasure and a privilege. And now, it is time to turn it over to the real voice and spirit of NDP…the faculty, staff, and students of present Notre Dame. So stay tuned next academic year for their entertaining, timely, and insightful posts. I know Bluenote will be in very good hands. Until then, have a great summer! And thanks for the opportunity. CH