A Message from the Head of School: A View from My NDA Office
Dear NDA Family,
Today is June 2nd, 2021. As I sit at the desk in my NDA office, my windows are open and the sun is shining; Mia and Bianca are home, undoubtedly anxiously awaiting my return for our evening walk; I enjoy the sprouts from the newly planted seeds on my windowsill; and as I sip my cup of tea, I exhale knowing we made it! The signs indicating the colleges this year’s graduates will be attending lining the entrance to 425 Salisbury Street are a sure sign that the end of the year is upon us!
The entire NDA community made it through a difficult year. We zigged and zagged as we navigated so many unknowns. It certainly wasn’t easy, but the year seemed to fly by! On the first day of school, we had bubble machines at the entrance prompting students to “mind their bubbles” and use social distancing. On our last day of classes, bubbles once again welcomed students into the building. A sign of having come full circle.
Tomorrow marks the last day of finals. As we approach the end of the remarkable school year, I have spent a lot of time reflecting. Despite being a difficult year in many ways, one that could leave us feeling like we didn’t do enough, didn’t teach enough, didn’t connect enough, didn’t celebrate enough, I am confident that we did have an extremely successful year as measured by the growth and involvement of our students. So many young people today are experiencing epidemic levels of isolation; however, especially in the last month of school, our campus was as vibrant as ever.
No doubt the neighbors knew it was the annual NDA Beep Day on May 13th. After their last day of classes, Seniors enjoyed the traditional few minutes in the parking lot with cars decorated, music playing, and their final “beeps” as they headed out the NDA gates. On May 14th, Arts Day showcased some incredible works of art in the form of dance, visual arts, music, and theater. The chalk mandalas in the parking lot were absolutely beautiful! May 20th brought all of the NDA Student- Athletes together in person and virtually for our 37th Annual Athletic Awards Night. The evening included a special presentation from Mayor Petty who honored Coach Provost with a key to the City for her 600th field hockey win.
On May 21, 22, and 23, I am sure you could hear the cast of High School Musical from miles away. I still found myself singing “Get Your Head in the Game!” in the grocery store aisle this week. Though we worried about the impact of weather on the outdoor venue, the rain held off until 5 minutes after the last show (and then the downpour came!) Bravo to the entire cast and crew! The sun was certainly out the afternoon of May 26th when the Seniors were inducted into the NDA Alum Association and then enjoyed a BBQ and ice cream truck, lawn games, photo booth, and music outside. And again on May 27th, Class Day 2021, we were fortunate to have perfect weather as many Juniors and Seniors received Academic Awards and each class honored the Seniors in very special ways. Every bit of Class Day was wonderful, but after being in an NDA Junior Skit in 1987, and watching an NDA Junior Skit in 1988, I can now say, in 2021, I was a character in an NDA Junior Skit. Congratulations to the NDA Class of 2022, especially Edith who made a wonderful Ms. Mancini in the skit as she wrote “A View From My NDA/Home Office.” It was a wonderful parody and certainly received the desired comedic effect! Bravo ladies!
The cold weather and rain did alter our plans for a traditional graduation on the graduation lawn this past Sunday; however, the ceremony in the theatre still allowed for students and their families to celebrate the momentous occasion and cross the stage to receive their diplomas in a very special ceremony. I was honored to present the Foundress Award to Senior Mabel McDonald. This award was established by the Mother's Guild in 1983 to honor a senior, chosen by her class, who best represents the spirit and tradition of St. Julie Billiart in faith, devotion, commitment, and kindness. As the recipient of this award in 1988, I know what an honor it is!
Samantha Gulachenski was chosen by her “sisters for life” to deliver the Senior Speech. Sam’s words were poignant and meaningful as she shared her experience of being instantly welcomed into the NDA family as a Junior transfer student. I share her parting words, “Today, we will pass through the iron gates out into the world for the first time as graduates. As our paths begin to branch off once again into new directions, we will all take one thing with us wherever we go.
Each other. We are all a mosaic of the people in our lives. Aren’t we lucky that this family shaped us to be who we are today? A piece of each and every one of us will be within us forever. No matter where your path leads you, take with you your NDA family. The lessons you’ve learned, the values instilled in you, and the people who lived it with you. Go out and show the world who you are and what it means to forever be a part of the family that has helped you grow. Do great things. I know we will…because we are and will forever be NDA.”
Jo Massarelli, NDA Class of 1975, was this year’s Graduation Speaker. Her message that “in this wildly changing world there are some constants in life, and if we can discern them amidst all the noise and chatter, we are in a much better place to frankly maintain our personal sanity, be a nurturing presence for those we love, and make a positive difference in this world.” was profound and inspiring. She brought her NDA uniform to share with the graduates and their families and left them with a very important sentiment, “And as I wrap up here, I'd like to speak to you as a woman. Don't let anyone tell you that the only difference between men and women is anatomy, or preference, or sensibility. All wisdom traditions tell us that there are deep-seeded aspects of our souls as women that complete us. Our spiritual identity as life-bearers, present in us whether we have children or not, is what distinguishes us as necessary beings in the world and distinct from men. Yet so often we are encouraged to be caricatures of men: the high-powered businesswoman, the hard-bitten politician, the gun-toting detective, the fists-swinging lawyer… These are the archetypal images we are told make up the successful woman.
Certainly, strive for excellence in whatever you do, but bring compassion with you. Appreciate your womanly nature as life-bearer in the broad sense, as sister, as auntie, as listener, as gentler, as healer, as nurturer, all so vital in this iron-bound, chilly and troubled world.
Dostoevsky said, ‘the world will be saved by beauty’ and that is us! So, appreciate that. And one another. Cherish the friends you have made at NDA. Stay close to one another and to the school. And hang onto your NDA artifacts. Who knows? Maybe in 40 years, you’ll get to be the graduation speaker.” It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if one of the graduates will be.
Tomorrow we will celebrate our 8th graders with their Promotion Ceremony. This special outdoor ceremony with their family marks a milestone as we acknowledge their transition from middle school to high school. We are hopeful the weather will cooperate.
This week we also shift the focus from current students and 2021 graduates to new incoming students and alum! This Saturday, we will be welcoming back members of all NDA graduating classes ending in 0, 1, 5, and 6. I am so excited to be able to spend time with the 175 alum who will be coming back through our gates to reconnect, re-engage, and reaffirm their support of the Notre Dame Academy experience! I have no doubt it will be a wonderful event. During the event, we will also be celebrating two classes that have responded to the Reunion Challenge.
The Reunion Challenge celebrates the entirety of each class’s philanthropy to the Academy during their respective milestone year. Although the fiscal year ends on June 30, we encourage our reunion year alums to make their contributions before the Reunion celebration. The Reunion Class Gift includes all contributions to the Academy received in the current fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) and allows classmates to support the priority of their choice. The classes that have reached the highest participation and the greatest impact by June 5 will be recognized during the reunion celebration, however, the challenge will extend through to June 30, 2021. As of today, the class of 1986 leads the way in participation, with 22% of the class making a gift to the Academy this year, and the class of 1960 has collectively donated $26,900. After we cross the finish line, the final results will be shared with each reunion class. Then on June 9th, we shift gears, and we will welcome new incoming students to NDA, many of whom have not been able to explore the campus in-depth, due to COVID.
The week of June 7th begins NDA Summer Hours with the Main Office open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9 am to 2 pm. However, the campus will remain vibrant with a prolonged sports season, campus rentals, and our AICS Summer Programs! Be sure to check out the great offerings for students in grades 7-12. There are a number of programs strongly encouraged for any rising and incoming Notre Dame Academy 7th and 9th-grade students and there are many other programs open to the public. Spread the word!
I will continue to share this communication with you in July and August as we prepare for the new academic year. As you may know, The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has announced that all COVID-19 related health and safety requirements will be lifted for the 2021-2022 school year. That means students will be able to return to NDA without physical distancing requirements. Current Parents will also receive communication from Mrs. Susan Butler, NDA Principal, and Ms. Emily Haley, NDA Dean of Students as it relates to books, schedules, the first day of classes, etc. throughout the summer.
I hope each member of our community has an opportunity to truly enjoy some lazy days of summer. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Live in the Sunshine, Swim in the Sea, and Drink in the Wild Air.”
Grace and Blessings,
Lisa Mancini ‘88 P‘18
Head of School
Notre Dame Academy