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Notre Dame High School Celebrates 75 Years at the Intersection of Hearts and Minds
In 1947, a young actress took small parts in movies with the hopes of becoming a star. She called herself Marilyn Monroe.
In 1947, the Los Angeles Angels played in the minor leagues. The Dodgers were still in Brooklyn, finishing first in the National League.
Also in 1947, the Brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross came west and established Notre Dame High School in the San Fernando Valley, bringing in its first undergraduate class of men for a solid academic faith-filled education — women were welcomed in 1983.
So much has changed. And today, after more than 75 years, Notre Dame High School continues to nourish the hearts and minds of its scholars, and is considered among the preeminent Catholic coeducational college preparatory schools in the City of Angels.
“As our society grows, the school has grown with it,” said Notre Dame CEO and President Sam Laganà. “Our exciting dynamic looks at the world of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics and we’re continually thinking about how we can be progressive, on the front line of education.”
What changes, what remains the same
Over time, the Sherman Oaks school has expanded and shifted to meet the needs of its growing student body to become one of the top10 private high schools in the nation, ranked by the Academic Influence website. It boasts a 99% graduation rate, an award-winning debate team, and robust athletics — the men’s basketball team just won its state division.
Laganà notes that classrooms and how students navigate their work changes as chalkboards have given way to computer screens, but the Catholic tradition and spirituality has remained the same.
“This school has mirrored how America and Los Angeles have progressed. And we look like Los Angeles, and we're part of Los Angeles,” he said. School policy calls for nondiscrimination on the basis of “race, color, disability, medical condition, national and ethnic origin, religion, gender, or gender identity,” according to the Parent-Student handbook.
The doors are also wide open to those families who don’t consider themselves part of the faith but want the richness of a Catholic education.
“What Holy Cross has set out to do is timeless. We are constantly looking at the spiritual dignity of all people,” Laganà said. “We are literally meeting them where they are. We're diverse in ethnicity. We're diverse in talent. We're diverse in culture, we are Los Angeles. And we're locked down on this anchor in a community of faith.”
Looking to the future
Technology fluency is going to be the great differentiator for students emerging into the world, said Sabitha Chanduri, the school’s STEAM Director and Computer Science and Engineering Department Chair.
“The current job market requires students to have multifaceted skills, especially in technology and innovation, because they are going to be the heart of everything we do in the future,” she said.
Thanks to a $900,000 grant, the school will soon open its doors to the brand new Justin E. Rawlins STEAM Center, which will house a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine, 3D printers, and a competition space for the award-winning robotics team. Other features enable collaboration and learning in computer programming, robotics, science, technology, engineering and math.
“We want to empower our students to adapt and master the challenges of the 21st century,” Chanduri said. “We want to develop the skills to use the space to teach all these skills and our students so they're prepared for the future. So they can be the leaders of the future and to use their ethical professionalism to make the decisions that are good for the society. We want our students to be creators and entrepreneurs, not consumers."
The intersection of faith and academics
“The mind is not going to be cultivated at the expense of the heart,” said Laganà, quoting Basile Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He said that 99% of the students will go on to college, and it’s the school’s job to ensure they are spiritually, intellectually, and socially prepared.
“That's why we put emphasis on ethical professionalism whenever we teach any courses in computer science and engineering or any of our esteemed disciplines. We make sure that we talk about moral and ethical values and how you should use them to set the standards for professional practices and to construct the common good in the present and the future,” Chanduri added.
One of Laganà’s favorite parts of the job is watching kids hang out after school, studying, playing and practicing. He also loves the enthusiasm of the alumni, who show up to sporting events and other community functions.
“We welcome people to be a part of us. We are blessed to have people be a part of us as community members, people who are looking for a place to celebrate life together in the spirit of our Holy Cross tradition,” he said.
Learn more about Notre Dame High School and their 75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee.