Seniors in Trenton Catholic Academy talk to eighth-grade students in the Lower School about the benefits of the Hamilton high school. Photo courtesy of Trenton Catholic Academy

Seniors in Trenton Catholic Academy talk to eighth-grade students in the Lower School about the benefits of the Hamilton high school. Photo courtesy of Trenton Catholic Academy

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

Notre Dame junior Abigail Vernon has some sage advice for prospective high school students.

“Keep an open mind. Just because your friends/family go to a certain school does not mean that you have to go there as well,” the Lawrenceville high school student said.

“My parents let me have an open mind when choosing, because my sister was already at Notre Dame as a sophomore. I chose Notre Dame because when I walked into the school, I had an immediate, overwhelming feeling that was telling me this is where I belong, and where God wants me to be.”

Vernon is just one of many Catholic students around the Diocese who often accompany their school admissions staff on visits to local Catholic elementary schools to provide a firsthand account of high school life. This is especially true during October, when Catholic high schools host open houses, make visits and share information on curriculum, clubs, activities and graduation rates.

Renee Rogers, Upper School admissions officer in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, sees the value of having high school students visit the eighth-grade students in the Lower School.

“Although many of the students in the eighth grade have been in the school since kindergarten, life in high school is different,” she said. “The students provide a unique perspective about daily life to the middle school students that an adult may not be able to share.”

“The students tell our story better than anyone else,” she acknowledged. 

What story would Sarah McDermott, a sophomore in Notre Dame High School, tell?

“Just be yourself and don’t be afraid to talk to people,” she said. “I’ve met some really amazing friends who I would have never talked to if I didn’t speak first. Especially at a Catholic high school – everyone forms one big family. Connect with the people around you. You will create bonds that could last a lifetime!”

Notre Dame senior Sam Ponticiello says he looks forward to sharing information that may not be widely known about the high school.

“A great fun fact that I tell students is that Notre Dame has such a strong and positive impact on your life that many of our teachers and administrators are alumni who come back to the community they fell in love with as 15-year-olds,” he said.

Student ambassadors from Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing, often accompany Colleen White, director of admissions, on school visits.

“I think a prospective student could learn from the incredible success stories of fellow students,” said Meghan DiMercurio, a senior at the all-girls school. “While these stories may not be mentioned by a teacher or counselor, each Villa girl has her own story of how [the school] truly shaped her into a confident, Catholic woman.

“For example, I used to be so shy and scared to talk to other people,” she said. “Villa taught me how to come out of my shell and how to interact with others. Now, I am a student ambassador, I do the morning announcements over the intercom, and I have even had the pleasure of receiving several lead roles in our annual school musicals. Villa takes even the quietest of girls and transforms them into young women who are capable of reaching their full potential.”

Fellow student Alyssa Romano, a junior, said the camaraderie at the school fosters friendships while “also growing in our own abilities.”

“The most important thing that I want prospective students to know about Villa is that no matter where you came from, you will find not only lifelong friends, but also sisters,” she said.

Leigh Machion, a sophomore, aims to provide insight on extracurricular activities when she discusses the school’s opportunities.

“At Villa Victoria, you can do it all,” she said. “You can be the star soccer player, a lead in the play and class president, all while still focusing on academics. You get to be a leader. Villa offers many opportunities that help us explore new things and prepare for college.”

Students from Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran, not only visit local elementary schools, they stop by parishes, too, to recruit possible Lancers.

Sophomore Bridget Donachie said she hopes to ease some of the fears an eighth-grade student may have about attending high school. “Everybody’s really supportive about coming to a new high school. Even the older students are really helpful about getting involved in clubs and other things.”

Her sister Annemarie, of the Class of 2020, shared her thoughts as well, saying, “It’s a really great community of people, and you really get to know everyone in your class.”