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BREADCRUMB

'THE DEFINITION OF PERSEVERANCE'

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May 15, 2024; updated June 3, 2024

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here

Notre Dame Prep senior and valedictorian graduated May 19 after an "amazing" four years that included the IB Diploma Program and a swim team that taught him many other important lessons.

Diego Betancourt NDP'24 graduated May 19 as one of 23 valedictorians. He plans to study engineering at the University of Michigan.


Diego Betancourt graduated Sunday, May 19, from Notre Dame Prep. He will be heading to the University of Michigan in the fall to begin work on an engineering major. He's open to a change in direction, though, should something else tickle his fancy.

"I chose mechanical engineering because it’s one of the broadest fields of engineering study, but it might not be my final decision," said the NDP valedictorian who came to Notre Dame from St. Lawrence Catholic School in Utica. "I have no specific career dreams yet and will see where this journey takes me, but I do hope my career will allow me to make a positive impact on communities."

Community has already proven to be a big deal for Betancourt. Whether it's the friends he's made on Notre Dame Prep's swim team or the classmates he's encountered as he journeyed through the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, his time on the NDP campus is one he wouldn't trade for anything else.

"I’ve had such a great experience at Notre Dame Prep," he said recently after finishing up his finals. "I am very grateful for the friends I’ve made and the wonderful teachers who taught me." 

He said that NDP was a great learning environment for him and offered more rigorous courses than he could get anywhere else. 

Betancourt, second from left, is with his AP physics classmates and teacher Jennifer Pakkala.


"I think the IB prepared me for college by challenging me with a more advanced curriculum, which made me more well-rounded," he said. "It specifically helped me to write better essays and research papers which were not my strong suits at first. I hope all the skills I learned in high school will carry over to college."

One of the teachers teaching him those "skills" — a fave, he said — is Jennifer Pakkala. She taught Betancourt honors chemistry and physics.

"Diego stands out because he always came to class ready to learn something," she said. "And he was always willing to try something new. In my classes there generally is a lot of lab work and oftentimes students get tired of putting in the mental effort to really think about what they are doing; sometimes they'd rather someone just tell them. But Diego enjoyed finding things out for himself through experimentation and when gets to that moment where the information just clicks and it all makes sense."

Betancourt's hard work also factored into his four years as a member of the Irish swim team, the last of which he served as team captain. 

"The swim team is another thing I’ll miss a lot when I leave NDP," he said. "Some of my best memories are from swimming. The team was very welcoming as I tried competitive swimming for the first time during my freshman year, and the amazing lessons I’ve learned through the swim program will stick with me for the rest of my life."

Notre Dame Prep's swim and dive program feature prominently in Betancourt's four years at the school.


Mark McGreevy ND'76 is Notre Dame Prep's longtime swimming and diving coach and religion teacher in the middle school. He says Betancourt was the definition of perseverance in the pool.

"Swimming is a difficult sport and can be very discouraging," he said. "But Diego never got discouraged. He led his team by action, by his soft-spoken manner, and by his overwhelming humility. He worked hard every day. He never complained; he focused on what was told to him and swam whatever he was asked to swim."

According to McGreevy, Betancourt's attitude lifted his team so much so that it was an easy pick to make him captain in his senior year. 

"His work ethic was top shelf and it got him noticed by both coaches and fellow swimmers and I know it also carried over into the classroom," said McGreevy. "Diego gave his all and is now able to walk away from both the pool and the classroom completely proud of all he's accomplished."

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org

About Notre Dame Preparatory School
"At Notre Dame Prep, we inspire our students to become the best versions of themselves. We challenge them through an experience of academic excellence, focused on active, project-based learning. We invite them to explore a world of opportunities beyond the classroom. We guide them as they grow in spirituality within a community strong in its Catholic and Marist identity."

Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper 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 Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDP 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, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.