By Fran Perritano
Contributing writer

UTICA — Alexa Durso knows how frightening it can be when attending a new school for the first time.

That’s why the Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School senior wanted to be part of the school’s Student Ambassador program.

“I know how scary and unfamiliar it can be coming to a new school, as I joined the Notre Dame community in seventh grade,” she said. “I want to help prospective students feel welcome and help them decide to attend Notre Dame as well as help students already at Notre Dame adjust to the environment.”

Alexa and fellow seniors Marina Cascini, Kaitlyn Noon and Paige Simpson have special responsibilities at Notre Dame. They lead a group of 39 students, ranging from seventh through 12th grade, in the Student Ambassador program.

“The purpose of the program is to encourage prospective students to attend Notre Dame, help them adjust to the new environment and ensure that everyone feels welcome and comfortable at Notre Dame,” Alexa said. “This applies to students who have been at the school for a while as well. We truly just want to make sure that everyone feels a part of the Notre Dame family, and we want to do whatever we can to help them.”

Paige also knows the anxiety of being the new kid on the block.

“I know what it is like to be new to a school,” she said. “I joined the Notre Dame family in seventh grade. I was very nervous and was uncomfortable with the change. Shortly after I arrived, I knew I did not have anything to worry about because everyone was so kind and welcoming. I want to be able to give new and prospective students the same feeling I had when I had walked into those doors for the first time.”

The Student Ambassador program was utilized at Notre Dame a few years ago for new student shadow days, but the program has been revised and expanded under the guidance of Carrie Byrne Putelo, director of institutional advancement, marketing and admissions at Notre Dame Schools. 

“Student Ambassadors are a group of students dedicated to the positive promotion of Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School,” Putelo said. “They will work on a volunteer basis to serve as liaisons between the current Notre Dame community and prospective students. They also provide support to new students in the Notre Dame community and are visible at many campus events.

“Students will assist in the development and execution of new student events including open houses, tours and Shadow Days, provide support to new students as they navigate their new school and will represent Notre Dame when speaking with parishes and community groups,” she added.

Putelo said this is a student-driven program with her as their guide.

Kaitlyn said she’s taking part in the program to help improve and welcome new students to Notre Dame.

I believe that the purpose of this program is to make sure all students receive and utilize the welcoming family Notre Dame has to offer,” she said. I hope to help the family at Notre Dame become stronger and help to assure that the new members have a good experience. I want to help make the adjustment to a new school for all students easy.”

Kaitlyn said she and the other ambassadors “have been trying to stay active with checking in on new students, assigning buddies to those students, and planning improvements for the entire school.”

“The best part of the Student Ambassador program is the strong group we have formed,” she said. “We are all good at communicating and coming together to improve the program as a whole with Mrs. Putelo.”

Alexa said the best part of the program is how a Student Ambassador is assigned to a new student in the same grade. 

“I feel that having someone you can directly go to is extremely helpful,” she said. “They are at the same points in their lives so they will be able to relate to each other and this will help the new student feel more at ease about their new atmosphere.”

Another part of the program is the students will venture into the community to speak about their school.

“I would share with local parishes that Notre Dame pushes the morals of the Catholic Church in a way that is ingrained in everyday life,” Marina said. “While also teaching traditional theology classes, the Catholic education also makes it easy to understand the principles of being a good contributor to society, which is something that most adults today would find comfort in.

“We could always use more interaction with outside organizations,” she said. “These organizations don’t always necessarily have to be parishes or churches. Expanding our venues where our Student Ambassadors go to share Notre Dame experiences could be a contributing factor to increasing enrollment and expanding the Notre Dame impact.”

These student leaders said the new Notre Dame students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the program — they do, too.

“I believe this program will help with my career in the future,” said Kaitlyn, who plans to go to college to become a clinical psychologist to help those who struggle with mental illness. “This program has set up many opportunities with me giving the freedom to lead certain sections and allowing me the opportunity to be the leader of certain grades. I personally am in charge of sixth-graders and seniors. It gives a sense of leadership and responsibility I work to uphold.

Alexa hopes to pursue a career in the medical field working with children. 

“I want to be an active member of my community and continue to help others,” she said.

Marina plans to receive a higher education in the field of government or national intelligence. 

“I plan on exploring as much of what this country has to offer as I possibly can while simultaneously serving others in a position where I can create change, whether massive or minute,” she said. “I feel greatly rewarded to have had the experiences I have had at Notre Dame and feel that the opportunities the school has offered me have prepared me better than any other school would have for the next phase of my life.”

Paige also plans to go on to college but is unsure of what field she would like to pursue. She does know, however, that being a Student Ambassador is preparing her for that future.

“This program will help me to become even more personable, confident and connect with people outside of the students in my classes,” she said. “In the future, this program will help me to be a compassionate leader and recognize the importance of always helping others.”

Website Proudly Supported By

Learn More