NDP reaches ‘Gold Level’ in CRS Global High School program

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Freshmen at Notre Dame Preparatory load boxes with food for distribution at St. Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix. This is part of the school's Freshman Plunge program where freshmen students are introduced to a life of service to others. (courtesy photo)
Freshmen at Notre Dame Preparatory load boxes with food for distribution at St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix. This is part of the school’s Freshman Plunge program where freshmen students are introduced to a life of service to others. (courtesy photo)

A school known for its purple and gold now has an extra “gold” distinction.

Scottsdale’s Notre Dame Preparatory was recognized as a Gold Level Catholic Relief Services Global High School in the first official round of the program since its launch late last spring. The program helps students embrace Catholic social teaching and compassion for the poor worldwide.

“Notre Dame Preparatory has a history of dedication to both the local and global poor and vulnerable,” said Kristin Witte, Ph.D., coordinator of CRS Catholic Educational Engagement. “The school has developed a deeply-rooted Christian service program that helps to form young people committed to lives of faith and justice.”

Schools with a “gold level” distinction must complete an annual survey, participate in the CRS Rice Bowl program, hold two related school-wide events and participate in one additional Core Program. Notre Dame’s events included a Eucharistic procession and adoration, a school-wide recitation of the Rosary on Veteran’s Day and monthly service projects to help non-profit organizations in the greater Phoenix area.

Freshmen at Notre Dame Preparatory load boxes with food for distribution at St. Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix. This is part of the school's Freshman Plunge program where freshmen students are introduced to a life of service to others. (courtesy photo)
Freshmen at Notre Dame Preparatory load boxes with food for distribution at St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix. This is part of the school’s Freshman Plunge program where freshmen students are introduced to a life of service to others. (courtesy photo)

These activities help students live their faith in a supportive environment, said Leslie Gjerstad, NDP’s director of Christian Service Learning and theology teacher. She said the school’s service learning program has helped students to be aware of the world around them and helps them discover themselves and their God-given purpose.

NDP will hold a Food Fast on Ash Wednesday to fulfill its “Core Program” requirement. Students will continue the school’s tradition on that day of eating small, simple meals to unite their hearts with those who hunger.

NDP offers students chances to go beyond what is required of Gold Level schools by organizing trips to serve the poor locally, nationally and abroad. This summer groups of NDP students will travel to Lima, Peru, Gallup, New Mexico and Yakima, Washington to work in orphanages, schools, homes and food banks.

“Our world hungers for strong young leaders who are well versed in global issues and will strive to protect the human dignity of every member of the global human family from conception to natural death,” Witte said.

Catholic Relief Services recognizes the vital role Catholic secondary schools play in the Church’s mission of evangelization and catechesis in the United States.

“Being a Gold Level CRS school really means that we are maintaining our Catholic identity in all we do,” Gjerstad said. “It is nice to be recognized for that.”

Lourdes Catholic High School in Nogales was among 14 campuses in the four-year-long pilot program for CRS’ high school initiative. Those schools now serve as “Platinum Level” models and resources for Catholic schools in their region.

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