New Year, Renewed Spirit

Nov. 18-Dec. 1, 2004
New Year, Renewed Spirit
By Notre Dame Jr/Sr. High School/ SUN contributing writers
Utica’s Only Catholic High School Looks to Bright Future

UTICA — It’s been one exciting year for Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School. The school has initiated an undertaking of excellent proportions with support from Superintendent John Cataldo, Principal Kathleen Donovan, the faculty, students, families and the community. As the only Catholic junior/senior high school in the greater Utica area, Notre Dame’s tradition of a safe and productive learning environment is centered on innate Catholicity. This tradition is the focus and springboard for the comprehensive program for progress that is being initiated by the school, the institutional advancement team and the school community of parents, faculty and students.

Even before the students filled the halls in early September, Notre Dame was building community spirit. The first new initiative took the form of building up the athletics teams — literally. The first annual Speed Camp featured speed and agility training from physical therapist and trainer Joe Martin of Function Better. Following this running start, Notre Dame’s Family Day brought together 400 family members and friends of the school for a day filled with the music of Target, food and games for parents and students.

The 2004-2005 school year is one with a refocused and balanced approach to programs, new initiatives and events. From the athletic standpoint, it’s been an outstanding year. The boy’s varsity soccer team had their best season in Notre Dame history and made it to the semi-finals. Girl’s varsity soccer made it to the quarterfinals. The football program expanded this season to include a junior varsity team for the first time since 1979. New weight training equipment and the expertise of strength and conditioning coach Sal Licari were also brought in to ensure that Notre Dame’s teams would be stronger, faster and more ready than ever for competing. Student activities are growing quickly and are inspired by student-driven approaches. A jazz club has been established by Juniors Christopher and Max Coyne and Anna Mammone. Their goal is to create an environment where students can learn and expand their talent on their instruments. Mike Dimeo, a retired New Hartford Senior High School music director, will be leading the jazz band in its musical endeavors. A portfolio program with Pratt at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute will allow those students in grades 10-12 who are artistically inclined to build their portfolio and grow as artists under the expert tutelage of Pratt professors, who are considered the best in the nation.

The school is being blessed by friends and families who support Notre Dame’s programs both with financial and moral support. Coach Jim Boeheim was the guest of honor at the annual fall dinner on Oct. 26, which welcomed over 300 guests of the Notre Dame community and raised $11,000 dollars. There was resounding support from coaches, parents and staff as all joined to give a boost to Notre Dame’s extracurricular activities: the music, art, athletics and campus ministry programs.

From a spiritual standpoint, it’s been a winning year as well. Notre Dame welcomed David Kaczynski, brother of Uni-bomber Ted Kaczynski, who spoke to juniors and seniors about the importance (and at times, difficulty) of doing what is right. This endeavor was part of Notre Dame’s series on morality. “We teach morality in the classroom,” said Carol Troy, director of campus ministry, “but hearing what David Kaczynski had to say brought this kind of decision making into real life.” This type of presentation is quickly becoming the norm for the students, with retreat days and special speakers highlighting issues, from the dangers of substance abuse to ethics and character. Charity and giving, which have always been the fabric of the Notre Dame value structure, are alive and well today in the school. In just three days, the students and their families contributed 35 plastic bags full of fall and winter clothing to be given to Hospitality Row, part of an outreach of St. Francis de Sales Church in Utica. The annual canned food drive is commencing as well, with students racing to collect canned goods, money and even turkeys for the needy of the area.

The physical plant is becoming more attractive every day. With the dazzling refurbished gymnasium floor, sporting the blue and gold and the Notre Dame logo, fill all who walk in with the Juggler spirit. A pep rally held last week to christen the gym’s spirit-filled makeover had students cheering for their peers, jumping in the stands and clapping along with mascots. A masterful façade is being erected in the foyer with the help of Gary McSweeney (ND’69), Bill Gaetano (ND’65) and John Petrone (ND ’77), to hold trophies and display school pictures and inspire all who walk through the doors, reminding the Notre Dame community of the Utica Catholic Academy, St. Francis DeSales and Notre Dame legacy. With the help of Mike Forstythe (ND’84) and Kevin Neegar (ND’68), a bronze memorial plaque of Brother More has been added to remember Brother More’s immeasurable contribution to the life of “his boys” and to all of the stellar athletes that have called Notre Dame home.

With the goal of “Excellence in All We Are, In All We Do,” Notre Dame is moving forward with determined focus. With the rest of the school year ahead and the vision of building on the tradition that Notre Dame has established, the Notre Dame community is moving forward with excellence.

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