A Long Way from Home


Junior is a long way from her Italian home but says Notre Dame is a ‘great’ and 'welcoming' place. 

When Notre Dame junior Caterina Nassi and her family moved to the Detroit area from Italy three years ago, the decision on a high school for Caterina and her two sisters was just one of many they had to make fairly quickly. They attended a Catholic elementary school in their hometown of Turin, but were not sure at all where they would end up for high school in Michigan.

Fortunately, they discovered Notre Dame soon after arriving in the U.S. in 2012. Nassi says it was pretty crazy during those first few weeks on American soil. Her father, a nuclear engineer, was beginning a big assignment for Fiat Chrysler in Auburn Hills and the school year was already three weeks old.

“But I was really excited when I first came here, as my expectations for finding a good school were extremely high,” she said. 

High school musical

As younger kids growing up in in Turin, Nassi and her siblings couldn’t get enough of the Disney television movie, “High School Musical” and its sequels. She said their American school vision was very “High School Musical-like.”

While Notre Dame may not be quite like the movie’s fictional East High School, Nassi said it did fit her family’s general expectation of where American teenagers go to school. “My first impression of NDPMA closely resembled my previous idea of a high school in the U.S., she said. “And my first impression lived up to that vison, the only difference being the uniform.” 

And what does she think of NDPMA after three years? “I think it’s a great school and an extremely welcoming place.”

Learning English, excelling at Spanish

Nassi is in the International Baccalureate program at Notre Dame as are her sisters, Elena (12th grade), and Cristina (9th). She says she loves the IB program, and even though her family did not know NDPMA was an IB school when they first arrived, she said she is very happy it is.

Nassi is not only a big fan of the IB, she really likes her science and Spanish classes.

In fact, Nassi earned the upper school’s only gold medal in the recent 2015 National Spanish Examinations, which is quite impressive for someone who also had to learn the English language after arriving in the U.S.

Vlado Salic, who directs Notre Dame Prep’s counseling department, said the Spanish gold medal is very prestigious and hard to get, even for fluent speakers. “Caterina came here to the U.S. from Italy as a freshmen, then had to learn English from the beginning. And she continues to excel academically overall,” he said.

Nassi and her sisters were fortunate that NDP had Spanish teacher Andrea Kruger on staff. She not only helped the Nassis with Spanish, the fact that Kruger also was certified as an ESL (English as a second language) teacher was another big help to them. 

“For the first year at Notre Dame, we met with Ms. Kruger one afternoon each week for two to three hours sessions,” Nassi said. “She was such a big help to us. Plus, my dad’s company, Fiat-Chrysler, had language resources available for employees and their families.”  

College plans

Nassi doesn’t have definite college plans yet, though she suspects she will be going to college back in Italy. “We’re not going to stay here forever,” she said. “My dad’s job initially was for three years, so this year was going to be our last here in the states, but the company extended dad’s contract for another year. Beyond that, we’ll see.”

Whether she’s in college here or in Italy, Nassi’s pretty sure she wants to become a doctor. Her extended family has many in the medical field, she said. “So I am leaning toward medical school. I just love the idea of being able to help people.”

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

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 www.ndpma.org.