Meet six freshmen who are adults

Freshman year isn’t just for ninth-graders. Administrators and coaches at three Catholic high schools are embarking on their first year on campus too. Meet them:

Bourgade Catholic High School College Preparatory

Kim Higginbotham, athletic director

Fun fact: graduate of Seton Catholic Preparatory in Chandler including time on two state championship softball teams and three state soccer champs

Brief bio: Higginbotham has nine years experience as a coach and educational leader plus experience teaching an Advanced Placement class. She revived a waning softball program at Chandler High School and led it to four State Tournament appearances. She also accumulated the most wins in Chandler High School’s softball history and has experience coaching at the college level.

Higginbotham, a former Sun Devil and PAC-10 Academic All-American, played in the 2006 College World Series.

“The role of the Athletic Director is to ensure that there is the right balance between academics and athletics,” Higginbotham said. “I have learned and completely appreciate and honor the fact that student-athletes are students first and the priority is the classroom.  However, the skills learned in both arenas complement each other and allow for the development of well-rounded individuals.”

Marcel Lopez, varsity football

Fun fact: attended St. Agnes and graduated from St. Mary’s High School where he also served as co-offensive coordinator for the football program

Brief bio: Lopez has 10 years of experience as a head varsity football coach at a college prep charter school where he inaugurated and built a varsity football program and led his team to five state championship appearances. He was also named Coach of the Year in 2007, 2009, and in 2013.

“Motivation, simply defined, is the ability to initiate and persist at a task. Student athletes should be motivated by trying to become the best version of themselves and exemplify this through their actions on (and off) the playing field,” Lopez said. “They have to understand that when they put on that jersey they represent so much more than themselves. They represent their school, their family, their community and their team. At Bourgade Catholic they are also called to represent their faith… not everyone has the ability to do what they are asked to do …(our student athletes) are held to a higher standard because they have chosen to take on the challenge of competing at a high level while also meeting their academic requirements. Mediocrity is unacceptable when you have the ability to be great.”

Notre Dame Preparatory

Jill Platt, principal

Fun fact: She has held various roles at Xavier College Preparatory and spent six years as the educational technology administrator at Brophy College Preparatory. As a student, Platt attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale and Sacred Heart in Prescott.

Brief bio: Platt’s education and experience have formed her well for her role at Notre Dame Prep. She received her Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication with Emphasis in Business from Northern Arizona University, her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, and her Master of Education in Instruction Leadership from DePaul University.

Platt comes directly from La Jolla, California where she was a principal of All Hallows Academy and was an assistant principal at a Jesuit high school in Indianapolis.

Mark Cisterna, director of athletics

Fun fact: He has more than 30 years of experience in education, administration, athletics and facilities management and is thrilled to be in his freshman year at a Catholic school.

Brief bio: Cisterna is the current director of athletics for Maricopa Unified Schools and has always fostered physical growth and a sense of fair play in the students he served. He is excited to work at Notre Dame Prep where he will have the opportunity to inspire student-athletes spiritually as well.

“I’m excited about becoming a part of a school with a strong Catholic identity,” Cisterna said, calling his new school affiliation “something to be proud of.”

“I want to bring my experience to the school and make an impact, not just in athletics, but in the school in general.”

George Prelock, varsity football coach

Fun fact: He was part of the football staff under legendary NDP coach Scot Bemis and has taught English at the school since 2004.

Brief bio: Prelock has spent most of his Notre Dame Prep career as the junior varsity coach and the last three seasons working with freshmen posting only four losses for the underclassmen. The 2014 freshman team was the first undefeated freshman team in school history.

Prelock also directs Notre Dame Prep’s St. Aloysius Gonzaga Program, which provides academic support for incoming students who display academic promise but demonstrate deficiencies in basic skills. Through this program, Prelock has helped many students achieve academic success.

“George is passionate about his students and the game of football. He looks forward to working with our athletes and will be putting together a dynamic coaching staff,” said NDP Athletic Director Monica Barrett. “He will continue the NDP football legacy with integrity, humility and continued focus on the formation of great young men.

Seton Catholic Preparatory

Victor Serna, principal

Fun fact: He is completing his third master’s degree in instructional leadership and has Catholic leadership training through the Principals’ Academy in the Notre Dame University’s Alliance for Catholic Education and the Salesian Leadership Institute for Ministry with the Salesians of Don Bosco, Western Province.

Brief bio: Serna has deep roots as a student and administrator in California where he graduated from two universities with three degrees including a pair of master’s degrees in secondary education and educational administration.

Before coming to Seton, Serna was Master Principal in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, personally chosen by the Director of Catholic Education to form, advise, and train Catholic leaders. He spent the last seven years as an elementary school principal and before that was both dean of students and assistant principal at Bishop Mora Salesian High School, his alma mater.

He has also held administrative roles in athletics for a Catholic elementary school and family youth center.