It was early in the 19th Century when Julie Billiart and Françoise Blin de Bourdon dared to dream. They envisioned a world where every girl had the chance to learn, and every person, the hope to thrive. Their dream took shape in the form of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1804.
The Sisters’ legacy lives on today in the hallowed halls of Mount Notre Dame High School (MND), established in 1860. Here, at Cincinnati’s oldest all-female Catholic college preparatory school, students don’t just learn about history, they become a part of it. They participate in community service programs that are not just about giving back, but about changing lives.
Take for instance, Books for the Better. Here, students breathe new life into used books by gifting them to children. Or consider Hands Against Hunger, a program of A Child’s Hope International, where students help package high-protein meals to send to orphans and other vulnerable children in other countries.
Letters of Love finds students writing heartfelt messages to hospitalized children, older adults and soldiers. Each letter is more than mere words; it’s a lifeline of support and a testament to the importance of human connection.
And there’s the Graces & Blessings Cross Ministry, where students serve as beacons of hope and resilience by creating and distributing cross necklaces made from recycled wood.
“Everything we do, especially in relation to our service programs, is student-led,” says Jen Dodds, Director of Campus Ministry. “We empower students to decide where needs are in our community and how we can meet those needs.”
Since 2016, St. Vincent de Paul has hosted an Urban Plunge where students stay on the west end of downtown Cincinnati for three days and two nights. During that time, they gain insight into homelessness, food insecurity, debt and stigma.
During one exercise, they are split into teams of four and given $5 to make dinner. It’s an eye-opening experience. After participating in Urban Plunge, Tania Keigi recognized the importance of empathy.
“You realize that life isn’t the same for everyone,” says Keigi. “It’s not good to be naïve.”
Cecilia End also did the Urban Plunge. She said when she was walking through the neighborhood, she thought about the people who couldn’t afford transportation and how they had to walk in the cold to get basic things.
“I kept thinking about how lucky I am,” says End.
MND staff feel that service is critical for today’s teens busy with school, practices, rehearsals and jobs.
“It’s easy to see service as just another item on an already hectic to-do list,” says Dodds. “The interruption of this ‘go-go-go’ cycle allows them to open their hearts and minds and become faith-filled leaders.”
Experience excellence in education with a faith-filled focus on service to others at Mount Notre Dame High School, 711 E. Columbia Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45215. For more information, visit mndhs.org or call 513-821-3044.