Valedictorian Isabella Baaki (l.) and Salutatorian Taylor Van Auken.
Valedictorian Isabella Baaki (l.) and Salutatorian Taylor Van Auken.

By Isabella Baaki

Walk through any doorway at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons and you will walk under a sign that reads, “Let it be known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school.”

This daily greeting reminds me that He is the reason for everything that happens within these walls. As the Pontifical Congregation for Catholic Education stated in the 1977 document “The Catholic School,” “the Catholic school is committed thus to the development of the whole man, since in Christ, the Perfect Man, all human values find their fulfilment and unity.”

My own experience at NDBG attests to this. Not only have I been able to receive a strong subject-based education, but I have been continuously nurtured in the faith, allowing me to grow closer to God. We have a chapel in our school where we can go to pray and where our confessions are heard by our chaplain, Father Leo Markert.

Before the beginning of each period, we pray as a class and are able to offer prayer intentions specific to ourselves, our family and friends. Most importantly, we attend Mass together, never having to miss a Holy Day of Obligation. This atmosphere of prayer and faith strengthens our school community and allows each of us to be constantly directed to Christ.

The Pontifical Congregation for Catholic Education further explains that “since the educative mission of the Catholic school is so wide, the teacher is in an excellent position to guide the pupil to a deepening of his faith and to enrich and enlighten his human knowledge with the data of the faith.” I have also experienced this within my Catholic school education at NDBG.

I have felt how much every teacher in my school truly cares about myself and my peers. They never hesitate to reach out when they see you are having a bad day, and offer to pray for you when they know you’re going through a tough time. Each teacher throughout my Catholic school experience has worked to develop a personal relationship with me and have always proven that they want not only the academic success of their students, but most importantly they want their students to live Christ-like lives.

I am so grateful for my Catholic school education at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, where I was constantly pushed academically, nurtured in my faith and supported by my peers, the teachers, staff and administration.

Thank you to Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons for an authentically Catholic education where your students are taught how to live well now, so that they may live with God for eternity.


‘A home for every student’

By Taylor Van Auken

I’ve attended Catholic school all my life. I started out at St. Madeleine Sophie School in Guilderland; I went there from kindergarten through fifth grade. My parents decided to send me to NDBG after I graduated from St. Madeleine Sophie where I thrived there and it was the best decision for me that they could’ve made. I’ve decided to continue my Catholic education in the fall by attending LeMoyne College, majoring in criminology on the pre-law track.

The opportunities I’ve been presented by attending Catholic school have been unmatched. For years I’ve gotten one-on-one interaction with my teachers whenever I needed help. Whether it was staying after with my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Jansen, doing our homework then walking to aftercare, or stopping one of Mrs. Thibault’s math classes until I understood the material. No matter how many times I needed something explained, my teachers never hesitated to repeat themselves even though most people hate nothing more than to repeat themselves. 

The patience I’ve been shown will never go unappreciated. As well as the help I’ve received from my teachers, the bonds I’ve created with them I’ll cherish forever. Whatever I had going on in my life, Mrs. Cardillo and Mrs. Hiltunen would always lend an ear during a free period and check up on me continually.

Along with academic opportunities, I was given so many athletic opportunities. Typically, in a bigger public school, you don’t see many multiple-sport athletes. In smaller private schools, we have the chance to try sports we’ve never done before. I played softball all my life but when I was eligible to play sports in middle school, I got to play basketball and volleyball, too.  I made so many amazing memories with the influx of different teammates and different coaches I had throughout the years.

Growing up in Catholic school has allowed me to grow in faith and ask the tough questions within a safe place and have a multitude of teachers answer with great thoughtfulness. Even though not everyone in the school is Catholic, we learn about all sorts of religions and make sure to be inclusive in our studies. Sometimes we would compare and contrast our religion to others to give perspective and learn where different ideologies came from. Some things within the Catholic faith are mysteries but our curious minds never stopped coming up with theories or stories about how we thought things might’ve happened; it kept our child-like imaginations running wild.

I’ll never regret spending my entire school career within the Catholic education system. I think it was the best thing for me and for a lot of other kids who may feel like they don’t fit in at a public school. I’ve made friends that I know will last a lifetime and made fond memories to look back on and tell my future kids about. I will forever be grateful for my time at both St. Madeleine Sophie and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons. Not only are they schools but they’re a home for every student that walks through the front doors.