An exemplary educational experience is the gold standard at Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy. And this Catholic school in Pontiac, which serves a wide diversity of pre-K-12 students, has excelled for 25 years now.
Its beginnings, however, are humble. On Aug. 28, 1994, Notre Dame Prep began its first year with a meeting of teachers, administrators and staff around four small tables in the library of a former high school building.
Drawing on a mission conceived by Society of Mary Founder Fr. Jean-Claude Colin in 1829, Marist priests Leon Olszamowski, Jim Strasz and Joe Hindelang formulated a vision: Notre Dame Preparatory School would be “the school of choice in Oakland County.”
The following day, the faculty and staff welcomed 183 teens to a new school, and students first heard the defining phrase in Notre Dame’s mission: “With God, we form Christian people, upright citizens and academic scholars.”
A ‘miracle school’
Twenty-two seniors crossed the stage as Notre Dame’s first graduating class in the spring of 1995.
Its middle school – which began with a principal and not much more than a desk, a pad of paper and a pen – arrived soon after. In August 1996, Notre Dame drew 162 students to its new sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
In four short years after opening its doors, Notre Dame was thriving, prompting then-Archbishop Adam Maida to declare it a “miracle school.”
Growing against the tide
The school’s story took another strong turn in 2003. In an era when closing and consolidating Catholic schools was commonplace, Notre Dame found itself opening an elementary school in Waterford. On Sept. 2 of that year, the school welcomed 110 new students.
Before long, Notre Dame’s lower school students began to outperform their peers on the Iowa Tests. More importantly, they brought to life the mission of being “good Christian people and upright citizens” in a learning environment that challenges students in academics, art, athletics, service and prayer.
In 2013, Notre Dame’s lower school, which includes students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, moved to a brand-new facility in Pontiac across the street from the high school and middle school – making the campus complete.
These early successes provided a foundation for the tremendous growth to follow.
Since its founding, Notre Dame has developed one of the most respected arts programs in the area. It has been recognized as a “Top 50 Catholic School” by the Catholic School Honor Roll four times and received the prestigious Exemplary Athletic Program Award from the Michigan High School Athletic Association. And, notably, it is the nation’s first Catholic school to offer all three levels of the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
In 2016, Notre Dame Preparatory School was named the top Catholic school in the state of Michigan, according to Niche, a national organization that annually ranks colleges and K-12 schools across the country. Niche also rated Notre Dame the state’s seventh-best private high school, religious or non-religious.
Most recently, in August 2019, Niche again ranked Notre Dame the top Catholic high school in the state.
In August 2018, school officials, students, parents and faculty and staff celebrated the opening of the school’s new science, art and technology wing – made possible by the most successful capital campaign in the school’s history.
The new facility, called the “Timothy J. Easterwood Science, Art and Technology Wing,” augments the shared middle and high school wings and includes science laboratories, collaborative-learning classrooms, a robotics lab, a state-of-the-art greenhouse and two fine arts studios.
Strong future at hand
The Marist priests and brothers continue to infuse the school in Pontiac with a spirit and philosophy of education rooted in a long history of teaching not only in metro Detroit but around the world.
A vibrant alumni association with 10,000 graduates also continues to share their gifts as teachers, coaches, parents, volunteers and donors. In fact, Notre Dame’s roster of faculty, staff and coaches currently includes 17 alumni.
With a solid foundation rooted in faith and academics, Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy has come far in 25 short years. And the next 25 years promise to be just as exciting.
For more information on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit ndpma.org.