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Peer Leader Program Launches at Notre Dame

In early February, students from Marist School in Atlanta visited with Notre Dame students in a leadership summit.
In early February, students from Marist School in Atlanta visited with Notre Dame students in a leadership summit.

A new outreach program geared toward helping incoming freshman and transfer students better adjust to the upper school of Notre Dame is being implemented be the school's campus ministry department.

According to Cathy Zuccaro, who heads Notre Dame Prep's campus ministry group, it's modeled after a peer leadership program currently at Marist School in Atlanta.

"The Marist School in Atlanta has been running this program successfully since 1986," Zuccaro said. "Our program is being implemented to help incoming freshmen and transfer students adjust socially and academically to Notre Dame Preparatory. Upper-class students currently are being recruited to utilize their leadership potential in ministering to these new students."

She said the program was an immediate success in Atlanta and she hopes for the same at NDP. Marist School in Atlanta reported that not only are the new students happier and adjust more quickly to high school, but the upperclassmen learn a great deal about themselves and their ability to impact others.

"Our goal is to make a positive difference in the lives of young people and build a strong and supportive student community at NDP," Zuccaro said. She said parent letters are going out for students interested in applying to be a peer leader.

More than 20 students from Marist traveled from Atlanta in early February to spend a "leadership summit" weekend with NDP students to discuss peer leadership in an important retreat sponsored by the campus ministry departments of both schools.

In the Atlanta school, the program has been a catalyst for the development of students' self-esteem, and confidence, as well as, communication, facilitation and organizational skills, Zuccaro said.

"In fact," she said, "many former peer leaders have gone on to become leaders on their college campuses and workforce because of the skill set developed through this program."

The Leadership Summit held in February was about collaboration between the two Marist schools, according to Zuccaro.

"Our 20 Peer Leader Coordinators (NDP juniors) provided Marist Atlanta fresh ways to look at Marist spirituality and practical student-led prayer and worship ideas. The 22 Atlanta students provided information and training on their peer leader program so that our students might take on this LARGE yet rewarding program here at NDP. It was heavy in Marist spirituality and the values of humility, hospitality and inclusion as well as practical leadership- and team-building skills."

The application and interview process for peer leaders will be held during March with selections planned around Easter time.

Zuccaro said she is looking for "role models" and "team players":

A Peer Leader is a servant leader. The goal is to model the Marist charisma of hospitality and inclusion by being present and engaged with the newest members of our community.

Most of the work in the PL program happens within the Peer Leader groups or "families." The Marist Atlanta students tell us that this is the highlight of the program, and the biggest challenge. Team-building, collaboration, and organizing are skills students MUST rely on. The program will help students develop these skills and many more.

About Marist School
Marist School in Atlanta, which was founded in 1901, is an independent, Catholic, college-preparatory day school enrolling approximately 1,042 boys and girls in grades seven through 12. It is owned and operated by the Society of Mary (Marists).

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division 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's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at