Notre Dame Fairfield offers a challenging academic program for high school students

Gaetano Marra, Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid for Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield, left, with Monroe students, from left, Gemma Grech, Veronica Rrapi and Sarah Lardi.

Gaetano Marra is well known in town as a top broker for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gaetano Marra Homes in Monroe, but he is also Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid for Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield, where he came aboard as an English teacher in 2009, before working his way up to Guidance Counselor and Director of Admissions before his latest assignment.

Notre Dame of Fairfield’s incoming class enrollment of 86 kids in 2009 nearly doubled during Marra’s involvement.

“It’s been a great few years in enrollment at Notre Dame,” he said. “Working alongside Karen Guastelle, former director of admission at Sacred Heart University, has  been nothing short of amazing.”

Over the past few years, Marra said the high school had to start a waiting list for families who want to enroll their children there, while still remaining small and “delivering what we promise.”

“Monroe has among the best school systems in all of Connecticut,” Marra said. “Notre Dame hopes to be an option for students who might just be looking for something different.”

Teenagers from around the region make up Notre Dame’s student body, including students from Monroe.

“I chose to come to Notre Dame for a couple of reasons,” said Sarah Lardi, a student from Monroe. “When I shadowed in eighth grade the faculty and students made me feel so welcomed. I wanted to go to a smaller high school that valued the importance of both academics and athletics and Notre Dame does just that.”

Lardi is a member of the girls varsity soccer and lacrosse teams. “I also am in Link crew, Campus Ministry, Spanish Club and Culture Club,” she said.

“I will forever remember the friendships I have made at this school,” Lardi said. “I will also cherish all of the amazing memories I have made with my teammates such as winning SWC’s and the fun bus rides.”

Veronica Rrapi is another Monroe student.

“I decided to come to Notre Dame because I loved the school and the soccer team,” she said. “Everyone was very welcoming and from the second I toured I immediately pictured myself here.”

Rrapi is part of Campus Ministry and has played soccer and lacrosse the past three years at Notre Dame.

“Through my time spent at ND, I will always remember how nice and united everyone was,” she said. “We were all very close and it was so easy to get along with everyone.”

“I chose Notre Dame because when I toured the school I loved the atmosphere and everyone was so nice,” said Gemma Grech of Monroe. “I was able to meet the soccer team and I instantly felt like I belonged.”

Grech is part of Link Crew and Campus Ministry.

“I also belong to both the soccer and lacrosse team, where I met my best friends,” she said. Of her time at Notre Dame, Grech added, “I will never forget the people I was surrounded by, everyone was always so encouraging and supportive of each other and bonds were so easily made.”

A Sunday open house

“Notre Dame prides itself on a strong academic program that challenges students and encourages them to develop critical thinking skills,” Marra said. “Our students leave here prepared for college and the world beyond. Fueled by an intellectual curiosity and a strong sense of ethics, they’re ready to learn, ready to serve and ready to lead.”

Families can apply to enroll their children at Notre Dame of Fairfield for next school year.  Those who are interested are welcome to attend a fall open house on Sunday, Oct. 15, at 1 p.m. To preregister, click here.

“At Notre Dame, we like to say the pillars of our education are Character, Faith and Intellect,” Marra said. “But these aren’t just words. We stress these three pillars every day, in all we do. Our students are required to complete service hours in the community each year.”

Notre Dame students practice 26 Acts of Kindness, a response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Some spend a week building homes in rural Appalachia, and some spend a weekend in Camden, NJ.

“And they do it all while balancing a rigorous academic load led by teachers who encourage debate and discussion and seek out hands-on ways to make learning relevant,” Marra said. “At Notre Dame, students are encouraged to develop their natural talents, explore new ones, and become the best they can be intellectually and spiritually.”

Marra said Notre Dame has a strong partnership with Sacred Heart University, where students who enroll at Notre Dame can receive 50 percent off their tuition at SHU.

“We also share athletic and other facilities,” he said. “It’s been a win-win for both institutions.”

“I think ND would be a good option for others trying to select a high school, as it is a smaller school so we have better connections with our teachers,” Grech said. “It’s a fresh start as students are from all around Connecticut and we get to meet new faces, and the staff makes sure everyone is involved.

“I think ND is a great option for students deciding where they want to attend high school, because it’s a very diverse school and there are many opportunities,” Rrapi said. “I personally enjoyed going to school and learning was fun!”

“Notre Dame is a great option for local students because of its naturing environment,” Lardi said. “The faculty here make you realize you are more than just another number and are so kind and approachable. Notre Dame has also allowed me to meet so many best friends, who I never would have met if I stayed at my local public school.”

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