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June 30, 2021

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Notre Dame continues its journey to a more just and equitable campus by using focus groups as part of its Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) initiative.

One of the Zoom focus-group sessions as part of the self-assessment portion of Notre Dame’s Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) program included alumni, faculty, staff and coaches.

In February, during Black History Month, Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy Head of School Andrew J. Guest addressed lower school students after one of their regular Wednesday Masses.

He talked about the importance of diversity.

“As a Catholic school, we believe there is room here for everybody,” he said. “We were all created in the image and likeness of God and that we are all different for a reason.”

He told the Pre-K through fifth graders that God made every person in the world unique for a reason.

“We are all special. Some of us are tall, some of us are short. Some of us are old. Some of us are young. Some of us can sing. Some of us play an instrument. Some of us like sports, and some of us like creating and inventing.”

He concluded by challenging the children to embrace Black History Month and use it as an opportunity to learn more about each other.

“Learn more about American history,” he added. “Embrace our differences, and most of all, let us use this as an opportunity to be nice and make our school the best school in the world.”

For the youngest students at Notre Dame, it was another touch point for the school’s ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative that has at its core the third encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti (All Brothers), or “on fraternity and social friendship.”

NDPMA’s DEI program most recently has been focused on determining where exactly the school stands on fraternity and social friendship as well as its diversity journey through the lens of all constituents.  

Kala Parker, who is Notre Dame’s director of diversity and inclusion, has worked with a school Board committee on sponsoring the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM), which is being used to learn more about the school climate from every member of the community: students, parents, alumni, faculty/staff/coaches, and administrators.

“AIM will provide school leadership with the necessary data to identify school needs, set goals, and track progress towards improvement, and allow for the development and prioritization of diversity, equity and inclusion strategic goals and objectives,” Parker said.

Notre Dame’s AIM has two parts: a school self-assessment (qualitative element) and an online climate survey (quantitative element). The desired outcomes, according to Parker are:

• Define diversity, equity and inclusion goals;

• Provide data to begin developing diversity and multicultural programs and initiatives;

• Identify the school’s current level of inclusivity as perceived by multiple constituencies;

• Identify areas of need, whether in curriculum, infrastructure, governance or services; and

• Facilitate an engagement process that illuminates patterns, multiple perspectives, and opportunities for improvement.

A few months ago, Parker and other school officials on the DEI committee, including board member Mia Burbank, wrapped up the self-assessment portion of AIM. It involved a number of intense focus groups conducted through Zoom.

“We believe it’s critical to get all perspectives and having everyone ‘in the same room,’“ Burbank said. “We went to great lengths to get diverse representation from every constituency on the Zoom sessions. For us, our entire community, past, present and future, has a stake in the work and the safe, equitable, affirming and just community we want to become.”

In all, seven Zoom calls were assembled with school community members representing the following categories or groups: parent/guardians; faculty and staff; admissions and financial aid; student life; teaching and learning; alumni; and school governance/leadership. Participants were encouraged to be open and honest during the sessions and, according to Parker, many were very spirited.

“Our Zoom facilitators said they had no problem getting people to open up about diversity and inclusion issues within the context of our Notre Dame/Marist school,” she said. “It also was very clear that all were extremely passionate about DEI while at the same time recognizing the need to prioritize this important work.”

Parker said that her team’s focus also is on data from the second phase of the school’s AIM initiative, the climate survey.

“We launched the survey on April 12 and look forward to presenting our findings along with the overall comprehensive AIM report and recommendations at an upcoming Board of Trustees meeting,” Parker said.

Board member Burbank affirms the importance of this work.

“I’m so glad that DEI is a priority at Notre Dame and within our Marist leadership,” she said. “We have done an amazing job educating our students, but I believe, just as importantly, we need to prepare them for a highly diverse world in which we are all accepting and tolerant of other views and perspectives.

“Additionally, I believe affirming diversity, equity and inclusion in the NDPMA community is core to our mission of being Christian people and upright citizens. We must practice what we preach when it comes to creating an environment where there is a sense of fairness and belonging for everyone. Our mission’s values, including DEI, should be evident in our curriculum, policies and culture. I also believe it’s important to measure our progress in this work to ensure that there’s continued growth in our student body, staff and leadership.”

A current parent at Notre Dame’s upper school and participant in the self-study agrees.

“We’re big believers in valuing all types of diversity, its importance in teaching our kids to admire and respect all people, and its crucial role in fulfilling Notre Dame’s mission and the Marist Way,” he said. “We firmly believe that recognizing and appreciating diversity is one of the greatest assets our kids can have in becoming generous contributors to our community and successful in all their goals.”

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions?

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at