For NDP Seniors, a Strong School Community Helps Prepare Them for the Future

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Photo: Liz Erisman (left) in Panama, where she volunteered last spring during one of NDP’s Holy Week Service trip.

“I don’t have senioritis,” says Marla Varnado. Varnado, an outgoing girl in her final year at Notre Dame Preparatory School, is senior class treasurer and a member of the basketball team; she also juggles commitments to various service and a rigorous academic schedule. And she loves every minute of it.

Marla Varnado, NDP Varsity Basketball Shooting Guard

As seniors, Varnado and her NDP classmates are looking toward the future – she’s hoping for a career in global health and development – and they also have the benefit of hindsight as they look back on their high school years. Even while she’s still in the thick of classes, sports and other extracurriculars, Varnado can take a step back and see how NDP has helped shape the girl she is today and the woman she’ll become.

Marla Varnado, NDP Varsity Basketball Shooting Guard


“I’ve done a lot of things I don’t think I would’ve done without the support at NDP,” she says, explaining that it was the support of friends and teachers that encouraged her to run for class treasurer.

When NDP seniors talk about what they love about the school, support and community are common themes.

Senior Liz Erisman

“Everything you’re involved with at the school has a big sense of sisterhood,” says senior Liz Erisman, an academic powerhouse who also runs track and is involved in a variety of service programs. “I think some of the friendships I’ve made help me just as much as the teachers. Girls make you feel more confident about who you are and can show you different ways to do things or challenge you.”

That kind of supportive environment helped Allie Charney, a senior involved in numerous honor societies and service projects, plus several choral groups, and who plays the lead role in this fall’s musical production of Cinderella, discover her passion for musical theater.

Allie has been a mainstay in NDP musicals, including last year’s Sister Act.  This year she is starring in the school presentation of Cinderella.

“I came to NDP and hadn’t been in a play before,” she says. “I joined the play and it was the best thing ever – I found what my passion was. I knew I had a passion for music, but NDP brought that to the surface.”

No matter what that passion turns out to be, “Everyone here is rooting for everyone,” says Varnado.

That’s especially true during Gym Meet, an annual competition between the classes that has been taking place for over 80 years. Girls look forward to Gym Meet all year long – and it’s just one of the long-standing traditions they say define their time at NDP.

Other traditions include choosing class colors as a freshman and the unveiling of the class banner later that year and getting class rings junior year.

“Every year, there’s something different,” says Erisman.

Traditions like Gym Meet and class banners help foster that sense of internal community, but NDP also encourages an appreciation for community that extends beyond the school’s walls.

“NDP helps students get a larger sense of global responsibility – how we’re part of a greater community, not just NDP or the US,” says Erisman. “It helps us become more aware of other cultures and other countries.”

For Erisman, that awareness translates into a desire to study international relations and possibly, after college, join the Peace Corps.

The importance of service is a key thread that runs through all the seniors’ reflections on their time at NDP.

“At NDP, service is a big part of the school’s atmosphere,” says Varnado. “That made me want to go into global health and development in college and help people around the world. It’s taught me to help people less fortunate than me.”

Charney agrees. “Even though it’s a competitive school, grades aren’t everything and extracurriculars aren’t everything,” she says. “It’s about you and how you are going to grow and help other people.”

Notre Dame Preparatory School is a Catholic, independent college prep school for girls, educating just over 830 girls in grades 6 through 12. For more information about NPD, please visit

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