With love and gratitude…

Dear Students, Parents, Alumnae and Friends of NDA,

As I prepare to begin my new role as Executive Director of the SND National Sponsorship and Network Office (NSNO) on September 1st, I wanted to send a note of gratitude to all of you. While my days at NDA are nearly over, this incredible experience has left an indelible mark on my heart. As I wrap up some key projects and pack boxes, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the last 15 years. I always knew I was blessed to be a student and graduate of Notre Dame Academy, but to have had the opportunity to also serve as a teacher, principal and president has certainly been the highlight of my professional life. Because of my experiences at NDA and the many rewarding opportunities I have shared with so many of you, my life has been made much richer and I feel well prepared for this next part of the journey.

NDA is also well prepared for the next phase of our school’s journey as we transition to new leadership. I am truly grateful to Mr. Jack VonHandorf for taking on the role of interim president while he also serves as principal. I know he is supported by our very dedicated and generous Board of Directors who have always served our school well in their strategic governance. In my work with Mr. VonHandorf, I know how much he values teamwork and this will continue as he leads our talented faculty and staff in collaboration, with our outstanding associate principal, Amber Grayson. Together they will continue to ensure the tradition of excellence that is NDA!

Our SND tradition remains at the core of this experience of excellence. As our founders, the Sisters of Notre Dame created a school that is always ready to make the most of the present even as we prepare for the challenges of the future. The SND USA leadership model is a perfect example of that as the SND sponsorship promotes and supports our success as a Catholic school dedicated to educating young women to make a difference in our world. NDA is not only blessed to be sponsored by the SNDs, we also enjoy membership in a network of SND ministries dedicated to serving others in response to the needs of God’s people. In my role with the NSNO, I look forward to working with these ministries to promote effective governance and mission integration – at the heart of SND sponsorship and key to sustainable futures.

Our Board is hard at work on the search process for our new president. As you know, they have engaged a search firm and established a President Search Committee to assist them in finding a permanent president of NDA who will assume the position of president sometime prior to July 2022.

There are an overwhelming number of wonderful memories from these last 15 years and one of my favorites will always be our young women singing our school song – NDA We Honor Thee.  The generations of women who have shared this song at school events and alumnae gatherings speaks to our rich legacy as a school sponsored by the SNDs. It has always been a joy to see these young women smile joyfully and sing proudly – forever NDA. That will always stay with me and as an NDA alumna I am ever grateful to always be a part of this beautiful and life-giving community.

God’s goodness is with us each and every day at Notre Dame Academy and may that also be true for you.

With love and gratitude,

Laura Koehl, Ed.D. Class of 1975

The NDA Legacy Carries On

Our NDA class of 2021 graduated on May 28 and, as they walked confidently across that stage, it was clear they were prepared to journey forth with hope and confidence. As a class, they have been offered over $18 million dollars in scholarships and will be attending 46 different colleges and universities in 19 different states and two international countries. The NDA class of 2021 is ready for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead and to use their gifts to make a difference.

In their personal stories as NDA students they embody our tradition of academic excellence and our fundamental belief in God’s goodness and provident care. While the history of their high school years will always include the realities of living through a worldwide pandemic, who they are as NDA graduates will always be defined in terms of their resilience. In the face of many challenges they persisted and prevailed. They are not only ready for college they are ready for life. God is good indeed!

Shortly after graduation we celebrated our Women Making a Difference luncheon. We honored five incredible women who have embraced our Notre Dame Academy mission in their life’s work and truly made a difference in our world. Years ago these women walked across the graduation stage not knowing what would lie ahead yet they ventured out with hope in their hearts, turned challenge into opportunity, faced pain and hardship with faith and made their love for others a priority. Their stories are the stories of faith, hope and love and they have given life to these virtues by using their Notre Dame Academy education to make real the provident care of our good God.

Years from now we will surely be celebrating women making a difference from the class of 2021.  There is no doubt they will make a difference by excelling in personal and family life, community engagement and professional expertise. As our 2021 salutatorian reminded everyone in her speech – to whom much is given – much is expected. These young women will share their God given gifts with our world and we will all be better for it and the NDA legacy carries on in each of their journeys!


God of hope,

help me to live joyfully in the imperfect world,

The world of good, the bad and the ambiguous.

May I live in this real world with enthusiasm,

and not become disheartened

by some of the negative things I see and experience.

May I daily choose to have hope because I have a vision

that goes beyond the immediate or the readily visible.

May I bet with my whole life

that a better world is not only possible,

she is on her way.

Give me the quiet grace to hear her breathing.


Melannie Svoboda, SND



What Would Mary Do?

Women’s History Month presented a special opportunity to celebrate our mission as a school dedicated to Mary and committed to educating young women to make a difference in the world.  While we acknowledged many accomplished women this month – as a school community we paid special homage to Mary and her exemplary life. Mary graciously said yes when she was called by God and during Holy Week we are especially mindful of what this journey must have been like for her. It’s hard to imagine the pain she felt as she stood at the base of the cross.

Based on what we see in scripture, Mary was a woman of few words. But her actions speak volumes. Her life conveys the spectrum of human experience ranging from the deepest of sorrows to the greatest joy. It speaks to the value of quiet and loving service to others. It instructs us on how to have the courage to say yes to God’s calling and trust that we can do all that God asks of us. As we contemplate the choices and opportunities of life, we wisely ask – what would Jesus do – we can also challenge ourselves to ask  – what would Mary do. 

In this Easter season, we are reminded and live again the journey of renewal and redemption that can follow life’s darkest moments. Mary realized that too. Mary models this for us and so do many others in each of our lives. We are in the midst of difficult times with a worldwide pandemic and much division in our country, especially in the form of racism and hatred towards others. The Easter story and Mary’s life inspires us to imagine a world where we can conquer this darkness and make a better world for all. 

Scripture tells us that “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  She carried many burdens but also the love, faith, courage and strength to lighten the burdens of others.  As we celebrate the joy of Easter and the Resurrection story – may we embrace the loving heart of Mary and pay her homage with loving hearts that bring hope to a world in need. 

Happy New Year!

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) brought about many significant changes impacting every aspect of our lives this past year – including how we educate our students. As a school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame, NDA was well prepared for the countless challenges brought about by COVID-19 in 2020. Leading the way in educational technology, Notre Dame Academy was well positioned to take on the task of virtual instruction and COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Committed to academic excellence, our dedicated faculty members have worked tirelessly to keep our students on track throughout this monumental shift in education. Most importantly though, as a Catholic high school dedicated to Mary, this year at Notre Dame Academy, we have focused on our deep faith and living the Gospel message of Jesus. 

As 2020 draws to a close, we would like to thank the Sisters of Notre Dame who, for well over a century, have prepared our community of learners for whatever life has to offer. They have taught us that even in the darkness, God is there for us, lifting us up and giving us hope. We would also like to express our gratitude to our faculty for providing a rich education, grounded in the SND tradition and charism. We would like to show our appreciation for our NDA families, alumnae and friends who have continued to support our school in so many ways this past year. Finally, we would like to thank our students for being beacons of hope to a world in need. We are very proud of these young women and the maturity and courage with which they have handled this past year. They have been flexible, adaptable and creative and they have done what NDA Pandas are prepared to do – they have persevered trusting in the good God and finding  grace and joy in lifting one another up.  We are amazed and inspired by the resilient young women of Notre Dame Academy each and every day.

We wish our entire Notre Dame Academy community a very healthy and happy New Year!


Dr. Laura Dickman Koehl ’75

Merry Christmas from NDA

Merry Christmas NDA families, alumnae and friends!

Christmas is a little different for all of us this year as we plan for smaller gatherings and rush to send packages to loved ones who won’t be coming home to visit. It is different here at NDA as well – without all of our students and teachers in the building to share in our Christmas traditions as a school community. Nevertheless, our reason for Christmas joy is certainly ever present and well worth pondering. We are still giving gifts and sharing joyful greetings because we have all been given the greatest gift of all – the birth of our Lord Jesus – who brought redemption, joy and hope into our world!

We embrace this great gift as people of good will and I see this happening each and every day here at NDA – in person and remotely! We are so blessed to be a school community sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame. Their dedication to Mary and commitment to sharing God’s goodness with all continues to challenge us and lift us up!

The Sisters of Notre Dame shared this beautiful reflection in their Christmas cards this year – Mary held in her arms the God of love, that we might hold in our hearts and give to others the love of God. By their example, we are called now and throughout the year to look beyond ourselves and find ways to bring Christ’s message of good will and hope to others we encounter in our lives.  This is a Christmas message we can embrace this season and throughout the year no matter what is happening in our lives.

As 2020 comes to a close, we may all be tempted to say “good riddance!” Yet I have heard many comments about the ways this year has challenged us to connect with one another and not take each other for granted. In so many ways, we can see God at work in our lives. May this be the takeaway for 2020 and may it carry us into 2021 with much gratitude and hope.

One behalf of our NDA community, I wish you much joy this Christmas Season. Enjoy this Christmas greeting from our Honor Choir. May you experience many people of good will sharing the love of God – and find joy, hope and peace in the days and year ahead.


Dr. Laura Dickman Koehl ’75

With Grateful Hearts

Last weekend I was sitting outside on our patio enjoying a socially distanced fireside chat with my neighbor Susan when she said, “You know – good things did happen in 2020.” I am from a large family and have siblings and grown children who live out of town, so our Thanksgiving table is usually a reunion of a large number of loud, boisterous, talkative people who have a lot of catching up to do.  While I was bemoaning the fact that, this year, we would not be surrounded by all those loving family members, her simple statement struck me as quite profound. In spite of all the ways this year has been so challenging, Susan is right  –  good things did happen in 2020. Here we were talking about our Thanksgiving plans and at that point we were able to really focus on giving thanks.

I do not want to dismiss the fact that so many are struggling greatly- especially those who are sick (over 85,000 Americans are hospitalized) or who have lost loved ones to this virus. It is incomprehensible that we have lost 258,957 in our country to COVID19. And so many are making great sacrifices to care for others who are sick and grieving. Not only do I have much to be grateful for, but I owe it to all of these good people to act with a grateful heart.

Here is a start to my gratitude list;

  • A loving, fun and close-knit family
  • An incredible husband and adult children with partners who love and support them
  • Our NDA community filled with dedicated educators, eager learners and supportive families
  • Generous benefactors who help us advance the mission of NDA in all we do
  • Notre Dame sisters ever inspiring us through example and prayer
  • Alumnae who really do make a difference in the world, especially those who are parents, educators, healthcare workers, first responders and community leaders

One of our family traditions is to begin our meal prayer with our “I’m thankful for (family member) because…” That tradition is on this year when 30 of us will meet on Zoom (of course!) and two of our youngest cousins, Nate and Cameron, will read each of our expressions of gratitude for another family member. There will be laughter, a few tears and a lot of love.

Just as my friend Susan opened my heart to being thankful, so too does our gratitude open our hearts to God’s goodness and love. In giving thanks we focus on all we have been given and our gratitude becomes a gift not only to others but to ourselves as well.  I hope you and your family enjoy a very special Thanksgiving this year and, while your table may be small, may your celebration overflow with shared gratitude and an abundance of God’s goodness and love.

I am thankful for each of you for being a part of our NDA community!

2020 Open House Experience

This Sunday, Notre Dame Academy kicks off our first ever Open House Experience week. For the last several months, NDA has been finding creative ways to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic so that we can keep our young women engaged in meaningful learning. Our Open House is no exception and we have innovated and put together a number of ways to share the Notre Dame Academy experience with our prospective students and parents, alumnae, donors and friends of NDA – all week long! Our week features a new interactive virtual tour of NDA, Panda Sneak Peek in person Information Sessions, Virtual Interest Sessions, individual tours and more!

We will kick the events off with our Open House Panda Parking Lot Pep Rally on Sunday, November 8, from 1-2 p.m. Drive through campus where you will be welcomed by the Sisters, faculty, staff and students of Notre Dame Academy and experience the uplifting sounds of our NDA/CCH Band. We will also have some NDA gifts for those prospective Pandas who come by as well.

As Northern Kentucky’s only Catholic college preparatory high school exclusively for young women, we are excited to offer a variety of opportunities to learn about Notre Dame Academy. You can find the link for these events during the week at our website. One of the highlights of this experience is a new interactive virtual tour of NDA. Please take a few minutes to click on the link and learn about the many features of our campus, as well as information about our programs that support the academic, personal, physical and spiritual development of our students.

A century ago the Sisters of Notre Dame came to the greater Cincinnati area and, in 1906, opened the doors of Notre Dame Academy for the very first time.  From that campus on 5th street in Covington, Kentucky, to our current location in Park Hills, the NDA tradition has continued to grow and flourish. Our Pandas have been ignited with a passion for learning ever since the days of our founding. We welcome all to our 2020 Open House Experience at NDA and we are excited to share that legacy and all it has meant to our school as we work to educate young women to make a difference in our world.

Autumn Gala Time!

I believe it was Plato who said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I am sure in each of our lives we are finding that adage come to life all around us. It is certainly true at Notre Dame Academy where we continue to problem solve and innovate in order to provide our many NDA traditions in these challenging times. That includes holistic educational opportunities for our students as well as the ways we enlist others to help us meet the costs of providing excellence in education at NDA. And so it is Autumn Gala time and the show must go on!

I hope you can join us this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. as we Zoom through an hour of Gala fun and excitement. You can join for some special guests, our silent auction, cash raffle and much more. Our Autumn Gala Committee has been hard at work planning a fun event and gathering exciting auction items and prizes.  You can find more information about the Gala here and start bidding today!

Each year our Autumn Gala features a special Panda Paw event where we ask for support in funding special projects and initiatives at NDA. There is no doubt that support for our Panda Paw over the last several years was instrumental in our move to Remote Learning @ NDA and in accommodating in person learning while meeting all the safety requirement in this time of COVID-19. This year, our Panda Paw request will fund innovation at NDA and the technology, materials, supplies and training that are so needed right now as we continue to meet the needs of our teachers and students. Please take a moment to view a brief video HERE about the culture of innovation at NDA.

We have been so blessed with dedicated students, teachers and staff who are, to this day, making in person school a reality while doing all we can to keep everyone safe and healthy.  Over the years we have been also blessed with many generous alumnae, parents and friends who support the needs of our programs and help make our NDA education possible for so many deserving young women. What a great partnership! The Autumn Gala event, our largest fundraiser, is a central to this effort.

I hope you will join us this Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m. for our first ever virtual Gala as we come together to celebrate our NDA community and lift up our students, teachers and staff in all the good work they do each and every day. I look forward to seeing you online!

Please register for our Zoom event by going to this link.

You can start bidding on so many wonderful items and pledge to the Panda Paw at this link.

Foundation Week at NDA

This week at Notre Dame Academy (NDA) we celebrate our Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) Foundation Week! On October 1,1850, the Sisters of Notre Dame were founded in Coesfeld Germany. (CLICK HERE to watch a brief video highlighting the foundresses and all the good works the Sisters have done and continue to do today.) Here we are 170 years later living out the vision of two courageous young women, Hilligonde Wolbring (Sister Maria Aloyisa) and Elizabeth Kuhling (Sister Maria Ignatia), to ensure a holistic Catholic education for your women in our community. The vision of these young women of Coesfeld, resulted in numerous ministries across our world thanks to the dedication and loving work of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Since 1906, Notre Dame Academy, the first ministry of the SND Covington Province, has carried out this vision through our mission to educate young women to make a difference in the world.

In 18th century Germany, the challenges were many and young girls had to sacrifice educational opportunities to the boys in their family. Poverty and cultural discrimination made for a very difficult life for members of the community. Hilligonde and Elizabeth responded to these challenges and made a difference in their world that extended across the globe and into our present day. They responded to the needs of their time which has been a persistent theme of the SNDs in applying their spiritual gifts in service of others and sharing God’s goodness and love with all they encountered. That charism lives on today in the work of so many Notre Dame Academy alumnae, students, teachers, staff and administrators who embrace the Notre Dame Life.

Today we face many of our own challenges especially in light of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on our families, schools and communities. In recent months, tragically 150 Catholic schools across our country have closed permanently in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At NDA, we have seen our community come together to innovate and collaborate on ways to make our school thrive. Remote Learning @ NDA and our 2020 Pandas Return to Campus Plan have exemplified the ways that we, as a community, have followed the lead of the SNDs and responded to the needs of our time. As always, our SND legacy is an inspiration and model for success.

Celebrating SND Foundation Day is way to honor and give thanks for this legacy that is at the core of who we are. Today our young women of NDA will join teachers and staff as we kick off Foundation Day week. The SND mission has and always will be at the heart of our mission and work at Notre Dame Academy. Since their founding in 1850, the SNDs have continued to meet the needs of the current times and in doing so ensured the relevance and effectiveness of their mission. As we are all responding to the realities of our times, may we take a moment to reflect on the great gift the SND’s are to our community – the Sisters have taught us well! 

“…the most important in all our work is the uniting of all our actions with the works of the divine Savior. Thus we make gold out of stones…” Sister Maria Aloysia  (Hilligonde Wolbring, 1828 – 1889 ) foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

The Common Good

“Seek what is good for others and for all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

We are finishing week three of school at Notre Dame Academy and things are going well so far! That would not be possible without the commitment and contribution of so many. Our faculty, staff and students are all working hard to make the best of all the protocols we have in place to keep NDA a safe and healthy environment to come to school. Key to our success is embracing the idea that we have to take care of ourselves and one another!

This year we are celebrating the 2nd Educational Principle of the Sisters of Notre Dame – the Human Dignity of Each Person as an Image of God. Our school theme, Uniting Humankind as Reflections of God’s Love, is most appropriate for the time in which we find ourselves. This theme reminds us to accept others for the persons God made them to be and to extend our kindness and care to each person we meet. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in many ways – and perhaps most importantly in this fundamental way. We make sacrifices such as wearing masks and social distancing because we know this can mitigate the spread of the virus and that this is the right thing to do for others and for all.

The path to resolving this pandemic is guided by science and our commitment to the common good. The science tells us that the mask is a game changer and our commitment to the dignity of our fellow humans requires that we wear one out of respect for the lives of others and our own. God’s goodness and provident care is certainly at work in our community as rise to the many challenges we are facing.

Of course, these challenges go beyond our school building – to the many homes and communities of our 535 families of NDA. As we head into this Labor Day weekend and all take a break from work and school, we wish our students and families a safe and healthy weekend. Please know that the care that is taken by each of our families contributes to the success of our work at school as we all seek to do what is right for the common good – keeping everyone healthy and safe!

Good and Provident God,

We praise you for the gift of community, the gift of Sisterhood here at Notre Dame Academy.

We thank you for the community in which we work, study and live.

May we use our bonds of sisterhood to bring about peace and justice for all our brothers and sisters uniting us as one HumanKind, made in Your image.

Fill us with Your Spirit so that, as one, we reflect your light and love to each other and to the world.

In Christ’s name, we pray.