Mt. Notre Dame High School provides students unique opportunities to learn and grow.
Mt. Notre Dame High School in Reading is more than the sum of its numbers. The all- female Catholic high school currently has 650 students, evenly distributed among the grades, and its students come from all over the Tristate, with students from 50 different zip codes. However, Karen Day, associate head of school and dean of academic development, says what sets the school apart is what she calls the Mt. Notre Dame experience. It’s a feeling that comes from being educated in a school that has existed since 1860, fosters female friendships and encourages its students to become leaders both in and out of school.
“In our mission, we strive to have every student learn, live, lead and serve so that she can be empowered to make our world a better place,” says Day.
It’s this experience that unites the many aspects of the school, from its multiple AP classes and intervention specialists to its athletic teams and service program.
Part of that experience comes from how MND educates its students. Mt. Notre Dame specializes in educating a wide range of students, from the top of the class to those who need assistance.
The school has a four-block school schedule that gives students the opportunity to focus on their classes while spending time with the same group of students.
“We’re known as having such a strong sisterhood because everything that we do kind of plays into that. This ability to kind of remain with a group of people for an extended amount of time not only benefits the student curricularly but also helps develop those lasting relationships because they’re spending more time with the same people,” Day adds.
Mt. Notre Dame is a one-to-one tablet PC school, which allows students to enhance their educational experience with technology. Day says that the school is even planning to offer a coding class in the coming year.
There are also many options for advanced students. The school offers 20 different Advanced Placement classes, including art, social studies, science, math and English.
MND is in the process of expanding its College Credit Plus, or CCP, classes. According to Ohio law, high school students can take collegiate courses if they are deemed college ready by colleges.
“The way we’re expanding it is we are bringing courses onto our campus because we are big believers in the Mt. Notre Dame experience and part of that experience is being here in our building. The best way to marry those two things—the Mt. Notre Dame experience and the College Credit Plus opportunity—is to have the classes here,” says Day.
MND has previously offered two engineering college courses on its campus, but in the coming school year it will also be offering U.S. history, physics and public speaking. There are also plans to offer world language classes in the near future.
“It really allows students who come to still have that Mt. Notre Dame experience but also be working toward getting some of those foundational college classes with our teachers,” adds Day. “That’s really exciting because it doesn’t cost any extra money and it provides that college experience as well as the Mt. Notre Dame experience.”
While many of the school’s students do excel at academics, MND’s intervention programming is designed to assist students who may need more help. The school has an intervention specialist, a speech and language pathologist and a math specialist who meet and work with students within the school so that they can receive the help they need.
“Our mission calls us to serve all students, and that’s the philosophy of our intervention programming,” says Day. “When a student needs extra support, to be successful in a college prep environment, we have staffing to help her, be it from organization to time management to certainly special learning needs.”
Creating a Sisterhood
Another important aspect of the school is its focus on building relationships between its students. One way it does this is through its athletic program and clubs.
“We’re at 26 [classes] of graduates who have experienced a state championship, which is just surreal. We consider ourselves blessed to have had that kind of success,” says Day. “What we love about that [is] the spirit that our school has during those times of success that we can all come together to support a team.”
Students can participate in cross country, field hockey, golf, soccer, tennis, volleyball, basketball, bowling, swimming and diving, lacrosse, softball and track and field. They can also choose to join any of the 25 or so clubs that the school has. These range from academic clubs like the National Honor Society to extracurricular groups like the knitting club.
“[Clubs can be] whatever it is that would allow students to come together and have what we call shared experiences, because that is how they can form those relationships that really carry them through the high school years. It’s important for the young women to feel that sense of belonging,” says Day.
Another ways students can join together is through service.
“As women in a faith-based environment, we’re believers that we have to not only develop ourselves but also make the world a better place, that we’re called really to put our faith into action,” says Day. While the school does not have any required service hours, MND incorporates service into the culture of the school and encourages students to serve in ways that interest them.
“We have opportunities that we call in-house opportunities for students or IHOP. Those are the smaller opportunities that we bring inside our building. They take place either before school, after school or sometimes even during the day like at lunches for any student to participate. For example, earlier this year we did a letter-writing campaign for servicemen,” says Day. Students can also participate in larger, community-based initiatives, like tutoring or making snacks for underprivileged students.
The Extra Step
Ultimately, MND looks to make students into well-rounded young women before they leave the school. One way it does that is through its Billiard Scholar program. Students who excel at the high school placement test are invited to join their freshmen year, but they must reapply each year after that. The program works with students to develop what Day calls the three “C”s: communicate, create and collaborate “with an emphasis on the not-for-profit environment, being an ethical person, finding your niche and learning how to place yourself at an advantage within that niche.”
While not all students join the program, all students are required to participate in the My Action Plan, or MAP, program.
“Probably the most familiar things with people when you hear about this MAP program is senior capstone experience. The MAP program is our way as a high school to make sure that every student who goes through here over four years is working toward becoming an empowered young woman and Mt. Notre Dame is tracking that through specific experiences,” says Day. “That culminates in a senior capstone experience, which is a service-based leadership project that every senior implements.”
If you or your daughter is interested in the school, Day recommends that you visit the school and interact with the faculty and students. You can also visit mndhs.org to learn more.