Four Decades of Penny Queen Traditions

Each year, Notre Dame Preparatory School hosts Penny Queen, a nearly four-decades old tradition and a defining activity of NDP’s Christian Community Awareness Program, or CCAP. Each Upper Level class elects a Penny Queen who acts as a representative for one week of fundraising. These intrepid volunteers wear crazy costumes, perform silly stunts, and come up with class challenges, all for a great cause—NDP Service.

Through bake sales, raffles, and other creative events, Penny Queen allows the entire NDP community to get involved and support three important programs:

  • A scholarship program for high school and college students in Ignacio Ellacuria Community in El Salvador. We have partnered with the community for 28 years to empower students through educational opportunities.
  • Umoja, which means unity in Swahili, is a year-round mentorship program for children from Baltimore City. Penny Queen week provides financial support for our summer camps and monthly events that are held at NDP.
  • The Josanna Abromaitis Service Endowment is a fund that provides support for our service programs, delegations and service trips, and special community outreach projects at NDP.

Penny Queens are chosen for their energy, enthusiasm, and sense of humor. These organized and strong leaders coordinate the many volunteers who will bring in and sell food, count money after school, and participate in the events. Oftentimes these qualities run in the family, and this year, we have not one, but two mother-daughter legacy Penny Queens!

Ellie deFries and her mom, Meg Young deFries

Senior Sarah Sudano has been a Penny Queen for the past three years. Her mom, Kate
Gaburick Sudano ’87, was Penny Queen twice during her time at NDP. Sophomore Ellie deFries has been a Penny Queen twice and her mom, Meg Young deFries ’84, was Penny Queen twice as well.

We interviewed these mother-daughter Penny Queen duos to find out what has and hasn’t changed throughout the years![

Why did you decide to run for Penny Queen?

Kate Gaburick Sudano ’87: I decided to run because I was involved with CCAP and I thought it would be a great experience while raising money for the less fortunate.

Sarah Sudano ’19: My mom always told me stories about her time as Penny Queen and I was really excited to run. I know what an honor it was and that it all supported such a great cause.

Meg Young deFries ’84: I decided to run for Penny Queen junior and senior years. I was too shy during my first tw years. After seeing what it was, I decided it would be something fun to do.

Ellie deFries ’21: My mom always told me how much fun it was while I was growing up. And being Penny Queen fits my personality! I love how quirky everything is—I especially like the dares.

What is the craziest thing you did during Penny Queen week?

Kate: Either laying on a dining room table during mod 11 and acting like a piece of bacon heating up in a pan or the time I sang AC/DC to Mr. Waters during lunch.

Meg Young deFries during her days at Penny Queen at NDP

Meg: Singing to Mr. Ciattei during lunch in my gym tunic. I remember the entire cafeteria being full and everyone crowding around the front to watch. I didn’t know all the words to the song and my heart was pounding out of my chest. During the song, I spun around and tripped…thankfully, I didn’t fall!

Sarah: Last year I ate the hottest wings you can get from Buffalo Wild Wings. They were so hot, I had to go to the nurse!

For our students, what are you most looking forward to during Penny Queen this year?

Sarah: It’s really cool to see my whole class step up and work together. Knowing that we’re supporting these important causes, it’s great to see the money add up throughout the week

Ellie: All of the dares! And even though we are technically competing with the other grades, we are all working together to support the same goals.

For our alumnae, how has Penny Queen changed (or not) over the years?

Kate: It has evolved a lot! When I was at NDP we literally collected pennies and change for doing dares or challenges. Once I didn’t wash my hair for a week! Today, it includes so much more. Between restaurant nights and raffle baskets and daily bake sales, today’s Penny Queen is a far larger commitment. These girls raise thousands compared to our hundreds.

Meg: Penny Queen is (and has always been) a fund raiser. Each class elects someone to do dares and organize small events to raise funds for a charity.

For our alumnae, what is your biggest piece of advice to the current Penny Queens?

Kate: Have fun!!! Don’t get overwhelmed or stressed by the week, it was created as a fun way to raise funds.

Meg: Make sure you include the Middle Level girls, because they are “unbiased” population. And, be creative…don’t be afraid to stretch your imagination!

Senior Penny Queen Sarah S. as Steve Irwin

For our students, how would you describe Penny Queen to someone who has never heard of it?

Ellie and Sarah: It is an NDP tradition and competition between all four classes to coordinate creative ways to raise money. Penny Queen is a fun week of crazy things, dares, and selling items to raise money for great causes. Even though it is competitive, the entire school is all working toward a really important goal.

We are also blessed with the amazing generosity of our entire community and grateful for another successful year of Penny Queen! We are so proud of all four Penny Queens. Thank you to Isabella C. ’22, Ellie D. ’21, Caroline B. ’20, and Sarah S. ’19!

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