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A Pretty Special Story

I am often asked “why should we, as a potential family, select Notre Dame?” “What makes Notre Dame different from other schools?” In an attempt to answer that, let me share this story with you:

Earlier in the week I was approached by two juniors. The young ladies were inquiring as to the balance owed for an upcoming class trip to Boston for one of their classmates. Their friend, about whom they were inquiring, had just lost her mother. They wanted to help cover the balance of the trip so their friend had one less thing to worry about during this understandably very difficult time.

Fast forward a few days – the same students checked in again and after having time to go through some paperwork, I provided them with their answer. Within three hours they were back in the office turning over singles, fives and tens. See, they took up a collection among their friends and teachers and quickly hit their goal. But they said they were going to keep going so the student “had some spending money too”.

Well – there’s your answer to the question asked by prospective families. Our students looking out for each other. The Notre Dame Family. It’s why I do what I do everyday. They make it all worth it. Bravo, ladies. Bravo.

Construction is Underway …

If you’ve driven down Park Avenue recently, you probably noticed that construction on the new turf field is underway. So exciting to see forward progress … the goal is to have the field ready for play in September (at some point). Here are some pictures from Monday afternoon before the thunderstorms rolled through: 

The Spirit Continues …

I always like to hear about the successes of our graduates. I like to think that a Notre Dame education gives a person the skills and tools needed for a successful future in both college and in life. But, honestly, the stories I enjoy the most are those about a graduate completing a service experience after their days at ND. Whether that be a week long domestic or international service trip in college or a post-graduate year of service, I love to hear the stories of our former students continuing to help those in need – both near and far.

I strongly believe that service is a very important component of the high school experience, and I hope that students realize the true value in serving others while still a teenager. (It’s not just a requirement each year.) I often tell my own personal story that I didn’t have the opportunity to learn this important life lesson until I was well through college. I look at our students as being very fortunate to have that experience at a younger age. Well, I’ll get off my soap box now, but the reason for sharing these thoughts was to highlight the group of 19, including 13 graduates (the other six are former student trip chaperones) who returned to Neon, Kentucky this past week for a special alumni Appalachia trip. We organized this trip in honor of the program’s 25th anniversary, which was celebrated a few weeks ago.

For three of us (myself, Joanna and Paul Marzik), we were just here 10 days ago with the annual student trip, but for the rest of the group, they returned to Kentucky after a few years away to continue to spread the ND spirit of service and to help make a difference here in Letcher County, Kentucky.

Our small group was divided up into four this week, each with a very different task. (Two groups returned to the same work sites our students served last week.) The worksites included: building a porch and roof on a framing site, installing floors for an elderly resident, installing insulation in a crawl space under the HOMES volunteer quarters, and completing quite the large landscaping project for HOMES. Personally, I was on the crawl space worksite and it gave me an appreciation for working in an office at school. We were on our hands and knees crawling around the “basement” all week and at times had to do an “army crawl” since the space was so tight. Needless-to-say, we finished our task, had a lot of fun in doing so, and have a new appreciation for the opportunity to walk upright!

Here are some pictures from the week:

Here’s a roster of our group:

Class of 2010: Paul Marzik, Eleni Stefanatos

Class of 2011: Joe Solomene

Class of 2012: Geissy Bitencourt, Victoria Schnaufer, Jacqueline Rzasa

Class of 2013: Steve Cavallo, Annie Dunn, Lauren Jones, Aly Furguiele, Jen Mezzapelle

Class of 2015: Michelle DeLeon, Becky Stefanatos

Chaperone Alumni: Joanna Cipriano, Janet Cordova, Dorrine Sopko, Fr. Peter Cipriani, Jessica Medoff and myself.

After a long week in the heat and many hours at the worksites, I can say that it was another successful ND service trip to Appalachia. It is so wonderful to see our graduates come back to¬†continue to give of themselves. These kids (and so many more who weren’t able to be here this week) definitely learned that valuable life lesson of serving others.

The ND Appalachia Tradition lives on …

Here Comes The Turf

I’m sure some might not believe me at this point. But, in what has been five years in the making, I received word late last week that construction on the new turf field – to replace the grass Park Ave. field – will begin on Monday, July 11! This field is the result of the sale of some land to Sacred Heart in 2011 and will be used by both schools’ athletic programs. The Sacred Heart construction team is optimistic that the construction of this field will move quickly and be ready for fall teams to use. But whether it’s done in four, eight or twelve weeks, the field will serve as the new home to the ND soccer, lacrosse and softball teams. I certainly appreciate the efforts of our educational partner, Sacred Heart University, the hard work of many people behind the scenes to get us to this point, and I know we all look forward to seeing our teams in action on the turf.

In addition to the turf, we will be announcing very exciting athletic field improvement plans to our campus (and the associated fundraising campaign) in the very near future. In the meantime, take a last look. The field won’t look like this for much longer: 

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the progress…

Appalachia 2016 – More Pictures!

So Father Luke sent me a whole mess of pictures this morning. I thought I would share some of them here. He was on the framing site, as you can see, but some other fun shots from the camp are included. Enjoy. 

Appalachia 2017 – Day 8


As I type this, we are crossing Maryland and should be at our hotel in under an hour. Today’s drive took us – thanks to the GPS – a different route out of KY and up through West Virginia. The drive seemed to go quickly (even though it was just a few minutes shorter on paper than our usual route out through Virginia) but that’s apropos for our week. As I mentioned yesterday, this week absolutely flew by. It seems like we were just leaving ND to begin our journey and in less than 24 hours we’ll all be home. I really do attribute the speed and success of this particular trip to a great group of students – all 24 of them – and our 11 fantastic chaperones. Kudos to everyone on a great week and for their commitment to make our 25th annual trip such a tremendous success! 

As we look forward to arriving at the Hampton Inn in southern Pennsylvania shortly, everyone will have some time to relax and enjoy a hotel shower before Fr. Luke celebrates our final mass together. Everyone will receive their trip t’shirts, crosses and warm fuzzies (or sweet tweets in a shorter version) and then we head out to Fudrucker’s for dinner. Tomorrow morning we’ll be on the road by 8:30 and, fingers crossed, back to Fairfield around 2pm. 

A big thanks to everyone who kept tabs on our journey via the blog and social media and for all the prayers and well wishes. A truly heartfelt thanks to our group of 37 who helped to make this 25th anniversary trip so wonderful. A special shout out to all for welcoming our boys Owen and Dylan on the trip again. (They had a fantastic time!)

It is examples like this week and seeing our students and chaperones “in action” giving tirelessly of themselves to help others that reminds me how special our Notre Dame community truly is. I couldn’t be prouder to be apart of this Appalachia program and to serve ND as principal. 

As we wrap up this first trip tomorrow, please keep those participating in our special alumni Appalachia trip in your prayers. Three of us from this trip (Joanna, Pauly Marzik and myself) along with 16 others will leave this coming Saturday for another week in Neon. 

The ND Appalachia spirit certainly continues on …

Appalachia 2016 – Day 7

Wow. It’s Friday night already. This week has absolutely flown by. All Appalachia trips seem to move quickly but this trip went especially fast. It’s certainly a result of the great group we had and the great work they accomplished. 

It’s pretty late right now as I type this on my phone so I’m going to give you a quick rundown on the day. 

The framing site finished up the deck, moved soil to fill in around footers (they put Owen and Dylan to work during our visit) and put all the trusses on the roof up. The roofing/rehab site moved down off the roof and into Iva’s house helping prep for new floor installation. The demo crew wrapped up clearing their site by lunch and spent the afternoon at HOMES completing some inventory organization. 

Friday evening is always a busy night. Following dinner (refrigerator review), we had lots of cleaning to complete and our final (teary eyed) reflection was held. Mass was celebrated and more ice cream was eaten. 

Tomorrow morning we plan to be on the road by 8 and hope to be at the hotel in PA by 4:30. I’ll give you one final update tomorrow. At this point, I’m exhausted and heading for one final night’s sleep in Kentucky. Until tomorrow …