Does Riverside need Catholic education? The answer is YES. Riverside needs and DESERVES quality Catholic education. Catholic education has a national reputation of success across many measures. Notre Dame High School is Riverside’s Catholic school and has been contributing to the community since 1956. As is often the case, the City of Riverside does an outstanding job of celebrating the diversity of our higher educational institutions, both public and private, religious and secular. UCR, part of the renown UC system, Cal Baptist which is bursting at the seems with growth, the highly respected La Sierra University with its service learning model, not to mention Riverside City College, part of the nationally recognized Riverside Community College District, are all part of the higher educational landscape that is celebrated, and rightly so. But not as celebrated is the outstanding and diverse K-12 learning environment in Riverside and the many choices available to families, public and private, religious and secular. Notre Dame and her partner schools contribute to a diverse K-12 educational landscape that complement and round out the educational excellence in Riverside. We can do more to celebrate the diversity of the K-12 educational landscape in Riverside and recognize the significant and relevant contributions of Catholic education in our great City.
The Superintendent of Riverside County Officer of Education Dr. Judith White recently highlighted the success of K-12 schools throughout the county of Riverside at her State of the Schools event. While there were many successes to celebrate, there remain serious challenges facing the region. In the county of Riverside, 86% of students who enter the public school system in the ninth grade graduate from high school. This number is an improvement and is moving in the right direction. But this means nearly 5000 students do not graduate high school in this region each year. Furthermore, college readiness, as indicated by the number of graduates who completed the requisite number of College Board A-G courses, is below 40%. This means that of those who graduate, less than half are considered college ready.
At Notre Dame, we are proud of our long history of success. Notre Dame has a 100% graduation rate, and has had for as long as I can remember. Let's call it 99%, because I'm sure we've had instances, but I can't remember when. And what about our college acceptance rate? Notre Dame has a 95% acceptance rate to four-year colleges. That's not 95% combined acceptance to junior college and four-year college, but 95% acceptance to four-year colleges alone. On top of that, our graduating seniors receive more than $5 million dollars of scholarship offers to attend these same colleges.
Also worth mentioning is Notre Dame' success rates with the Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The College Board recently honored Notre Dame and the Diocese of San Bernardino with AP Honor Roll in recognition of districts across the United States and Canada for increasing access to AP course work while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning a 3 or higher on AP exams. The College Board recognized 547 districts. The Diocese of San Bernardino, of which Notre Dame is a part, was the only Catholic or private system among the 35 districts in the State of California to receive this recognition. The award is based on a four-year review of course offerings and achievement rates to underserved populations, especially Hispanic and Native American students and those of African descent. Other districts awarded within the Diocese of San Bernardino, which included both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, are Chino Valley USD, Corona-Norco USD, Hesperia USD, and San Jacinto USD.
I don't mention the challenges of our public school districts to suggest that they are not worthy of our praise or support. Quite the contrary. We in the Catholic school system recognize that most students will attend public schools and that Riverside has good public schools, staffed with quality teachers and administrators who are hardworking professionals with strong intentions. We also recognize that our public schools have different challenges from Catholic schools. I only share our facts to illustrate that Catholic schools are part of the K-12 landscape in Riverside, that we are contributing in very positive ways, and that our successes should be celebrated as wins for the City of Riverside, alongside the wins of our public school colleagues.
Catholic education has a proud history of service to its communities and Notre Dame is proud to be a part of the Riverside Catholic School system, made up St. Catherine’s, St. Thomas, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and our oldest school, St. Francis De Sales, who are celebrating 100 years of service to Riverside. Also part of the Riverside cluster are St. Edward in Corona, St. James in Perris, and St. Hyacinth in San Jacinto. We wish to continue to serve the Riverside community in ever increasing ways, to be part of a legacy that Mayor Rusty Bailey has challenged us to create, and to work toward our shared vision of educational excellence in Riverside and the region. Much more remains to be done and we value the increased support of the community as we continue our efforts to celebrate Catholic school contributions to a diverse K-12 educational landscape.
It is a difficult task to put into words what Notre Dame is and what sets it apart from other schools. What makes this task difficult is not what to list, but that it is not a list. It is an ever evolving story book made up of people, actions, and events. It is the stories of a student losing a $50 dollar bill and it being returned to the office, holding a graduation ceremony early for a student’s mother that will not live to see the actual graduation ceremony, the school coming together to support the family of a student lost in a car accident, or to support a partner school principal after losing her husband in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks that makes Notre Dame who it is. Every school has a list of AP classes, sports and awards, but deep down what matters is how will the leadership, faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni support each other. In short, it is a feeling of community and a strong sense belonging.
The definition of community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. If I had to use just one word to explain what sets Notre Dame apart from other schools, I would use the word “Community”. Within the Riverside area, there are many good schools. These schools all offer AP classes, successful sports programs and a long list of co-curricular activities. The one thing that those schools cannot offer, but Notre Dame can, is a caring Catholic school culture with the support of a large community of alumni, parents, teachers, staff and students.
I attended Catholic school grades K-8 and then a public high school. I had thought in my younger years that every high school is the same. As I grew older, I began to notice the differences that Notre Dame offered students. Now that I am a part of the Notre Dame family, I see even more of how I missed out. I see the guidance students receive for classes and college, the openness of the administration and teachers to assist students and their families, and the sense of belonging long after graduation has passed.
Alumni speak of how without the guidance of teachers and administrators they do not know where they may be now. Many have remained close with their respective classes and have regular gatherings. Notre Dame alumni range from business owners, doctors, assembly men, deputy district attorneys, and the list goes on. It is clear that Notre Dame alumni go on to serve their community.
Notre Dame High School is a school where students are not only educated, but belong to a community that will support the student to graduation and beyond. Notre Dame is a school where students learn to be successful in the classroom and in life. There is a difference and it’s worth it.
Director of Admission
Just as important to a school community as a strong curriculum and engaging pedagogy is the need for a positive school culture. Notre Dame High School is a community whose culture is inspired by Gospel values, taught in the tradition of the Catholic Church, and exemplified by our Charism taken from The Acts of the Apostles, Cor Unum Et Anima Una, which means, One Heart and One Spirit. It is a description of the early Christian community of believers, united in faith, prayer and good works.
The word Charism refers to the spiritual orientation of our unique Catholic school ministry, or our Christian character, which is the cornerstone of our school. As a Catholic school ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino our mission calls us to form the heart, mind, and soul of each of our students. In partnership with our families, school staff, and parish communities, students are challenged to fulfill their unique God-given potential within an inclusive environment where teachers facilitate the learning process. Our Charism of One Heart and One Spirit describes the total educational experience at Notre Dame High School, grounded in faith, active in scholarship, and engaged in community.
As a school administrator in one of seven high schools in the greater Riverside area I will always say that our colleagues in the public schools do a good job with curriculum and pedagogy. However, what they do not have is our Charism, the character of our school. Through our schools pillars of faith, scholarship, and community, we are committed to educating the whole child in a Christ-centered environment that fosters faith development, lifelong learning, and the awareness of each person’s responsibility to care for our world.
Notre Dame fosters a Catholic faith based community enriched with programs and a strong curriculum blessed by the Bishop. Students complete a theology course each year aligned with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which provides students with a knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith. Students are given many opportunities to grow in their faith through daily masses, retreats, and a peer ministry academic pathway. Our school is proud to be a pillar in their faith formation and overall growth as a Catholic community leader.
Our daily masses are hosted by our chaplain in the morning for students, their families and our staff. Our time for prayer and worship is encouraged and enriched to welcome all. Our school also hosts monthly, grade level and holy days of obligation masses to provide an opportunity to bring our community together through the Holy Spirit. We begin classes, meetings, school gatherings and sporting events with prayer which provides a faith formation for our students as they grow and learn about the Catholic faith.
Notre Dame provides spiritual retreats for our students and staff members. Our staff attend PMFP courses in their first years hired to be enriched and developed to educate our students. Providing retreats for our staff helps educate our students and provide an enriched environment grounded in faith. Student retreats include grade level, boys/girls and eight grade feeder School hosted by our peer ministers. The Campus Minister has developed a two year academic and spiritual pathway for Student leaders active in their Catholic faith. These servant leaders are enrolled in a two year peer ministry program where they work to prepare retreats, masses and continue their academic and spiritual theology curriculum.
I’ve been in sports my whole life. In the winter of 1982 my father signed me up to play basketball and I was hooked, so much so that, for the last 36 years I’ve yet to miss a season. That’s thirty-six straight years of playing and coaching without a season off.
Sports are important to me; sports are important to our society. The lessons associated with playing athletics through your teenage years can be crucial to the physical and mental development of any individual. That passion I have to compete on a daily basis and continually improve as a life long learner was rooted in playing sports through those formative teenage years. It’s the very reason that I coach and relentlessly support kids in athletics. I am a firm believer in the experience of athletics, being a part of a team, and competing.
Competing and winning is key. If winning wasn’t important they wouldn’t keep score. However, winning is just a byproduct of commitment, effort, and attitude multiplied by one’s character. Those variables are what I emphasize daily with my own team. Subsequently, we have been reasonably successful on the court over the years. In the last 11 seasons we have captured 6 league championships culminated by tying the Riverside County record of 31 wins in a season and a trip to the state semifinals in 2017. Winning is contagious and breeds competition. Whether you are an all-state forward, or the 12th man, if your desire to compete is fostered on daily basis then you become something better. And that’s what I am in the business of doing, making kids better.
People ask me often why I have stayed at Notre Dame for so long. Coaching for 18 years in one place isn’t the norm. The reason why I’ve stayed is simple: coaching and playing at Notre Dame is an experience that very few high schools in southern California can imitate. We are a small school in a big area that plays much larger schools and at a level higher than our enrollment numbers indicate.
What is truly different about being a part of the athletic programs at Notre Dame is the plethora of big school opportunities our students have to participate in CIF sanctioned sports. We fill 17 boys and girls sports teams within a small school environment. It’s just sheer numbers. In essence, if you go out for the team, you have an incredible opportunity to not only be a part of a team, but to play. At Notre Dame every kid has a legit shot to experience those team and competitive moments that last a lifetime. That’s why I’m here, that’s why I wish every kid was here with me.
Robert Robinson (Coach Rob)
Head Basketball Coach
As one of the newest members of the Notre Dame faculty, I would like to share my experience at Riverside’s Catholic High School. The first few months have flown by and it has definitely been a fun and exciting time as I have pursued this new adventure in my life. I have had nothing but positive experiences during my first year. Every day is an exciting new challenge which I happily embrace and much look forward to. The atmosphere is probably the best part about teaching here. The experienced faculty have all been very helpful. They have welcomed me, supported my adjustment to a new teaching environment, and have shared many helpful teaching tips.
We are extremely lucky at Notre Dame to have a leadership team that works with us and helps anytime we have issues arise. They are very supportive and perhaps the best part about them is their accessibility. Anytime we have a question or concern, we can shoot them an email or knock on their door and get a response immediately. They really do go out of their way to accommodate new teachers. When teachers have emergencies or have to take a day off for illness, our administration is more then willing to assist us. I was recently deployed for military service and took leave to complete my annual reserve training in the United’s Stated Coast Guard. The leadership team was very supportive and did everything they could to make it as easy and stress free as possible to complete my military service. Countless other teachers have told me about the help they have received from our Principal, President and VP’s anytime they had an issue arise.
Notre Dame is a great school. We are on the forefront of innovative educational technology in the Inland Empire. Our whole school is fully Apple and pretty close to paperless. The faculty is equipped with a new Apple iPad Pro’s and MacBooks. Each teacher completes Apple professional development in pursuit of badges to become certified Apple Educators. Each student is issued an iPad Pro on a Multiple Device Management network and the students are enrolled in iTunes U courses. The iPads have all the latest and best apps to help accommodate their learning. We also have begun to implement blended learning through our professional development training. This should help us reach and accommodate the needs of all our students. The innovative learning environment that we are developing will help us to continue to be one of the best learning environments in the Inland Empire.
I would highly recommend to new or experienced teachers looking to fulfill their calling as a teacher to take a look at Notre Dame. It’s a tight-knit family where all are welcome, where we all know each other, and where we are able to thrive without unnecessary constraints. All of this while being able to immerse ourselves in our Catholic faith life.
Mr. Chris Paterson