Busy Notre Dame senior says his mission-focused school is unlike any other.
Notre Dame senior Rowland Scheessele is taking a little break after finishing up the first semester of his final year of high school. That's probably a good thing because it would be pretty tough to find a student anywhere who gets involved in more things in a semester, in a month or on any given day. But he's not complaining. Far from it.
In fact, despite healthy doses of academics, clubs and other extracurriculars, Scheessele says it's because of all of that activity that he thinks Notre Dame is the place to be for any young student.
"If I had to convince a current 8th grader to come to Notre Dame, I would say that NDP is a caring and upright community with many, many opportunities," he said. "I would also say that there isn’t any other school like it around."
For Scheesselle, his own journey to Notre Dame began after spending elementary school at St. Mary Catholic School in Mount Clemens and middle school at St. Hugo of the Hills in Bloomfield Hills. To him, Notre Dame just seemed like the natural next step for somebody who grew up in a faith-filled household and attended Catholic elementary and middle schools. He said Notre Dame's mission resonated with his parents, but it most especially rang true for him.
"Personally, I find the school’s mission, which includes being a Christian person and upright citizen, very strong and something I strive to incorporate into my everyday life," he said. "The Christian community really thrives at NDP. From the school masses, to the youth ministry, to Kairos and everything else, there is a true sense of connection with Christ through the wonderful students, teachers and staff. I follow that mission myself and I want to encourage all to do the same with Christ’s message of love. In addition, as an upright citizen, I try to include everyone and help everyone without asking for anything in return. I do this because I believe that what the school promotes is not just a mission but a way of life."
Scheessele puts that way of life into real "action" as he's been involved in the school's Christians In Action (CIA), a student-run peer-ministry club, for three years and currently is the student co-director of liturgy. He also belongs to several CIA committees, including the Great Give, Adoration, and Stations of the Cross committees. Along with his fellow CIA members, Scheessele organizes liturgical events and usually helps out as well. Plus he's been working as a sacristan at all school masses, prepping the gym for mass and helping to break everything down afterwards.
In addition to his Christians in Action activity, since he's vice president of the school's Computer Club, Scheessele teaches students about how technology works (coding, etc.) as well as some of the fun sides of technology such as programming Lego robots and playing video games.
Some of the other clubs he's involved in include the student newspaper where he's been a permanent staff writer since his freshman year. "I mainly write movie reviews and interview students on a variety of topics."
And he's been a member of the school's Model United Nations since his freshman year. "In MUN, we engage in simulations of real UN issues with other schools to learn about diplomacy, debate and other political issues in our world today," he said.
Scheessele club activity also has included membership in the Creative Writing Club and Pre-Business Club, and he's one of the high school's Student Ambassadors.
A busy guy, to be sure, but if you ask him what he enjoys most in terms of extracurriculars, it's his participation in the Notre Dame's performing arts activities. By far.
"The most fulfilling part of my tenure at Notre Dame has to be the theatre program," he said. "Having been a part of seven productions (and counting), I have had quite the journey through high school thanks to the NDP theatre community. Every year, I have the privilege to work and spend time with some of the most caring, loving and extraordinarily talented people I have ever met. Whether it be the cast, crew, pit or directors, everyone treats each other like family, a dynamic I've really appreciated over the last few years. In addition, theatre has given me a chance to share my talent and my love of storytelling. It's also given me some great friends and great opportunities. I owe so much to the theatre program and I can't thank everyone enough for the wonderful four years it has been."
For Notre Dame's theatre director Meredith Scott, Scheessele's theatre participation and attitude also is worthy of thanks.
"Watching Rowland grow the last few years had been amazing," said Scott, who produces six full productions a year throughout the three divisions and teaches drama classes in the middle and upper divisions. "He was always talented, but he really started owning his gifts in his sophomore and junior year. Plus, he's constantly challenging himself and going outside of his comfort zone on stage."
Scott also notes that Scheessele is truly a kind spirit.
"Every time he sees me with an arm full of boxes, for example, he always offers to help, which might seem like a small gesture, but helping others is just inherently part of his DNA," she said.
"But more than that, he is, in every sense of the term, a team player," Scott said. "During his junior year, he wasn’t cast in one particular show, but that didn’t stop him from participating. He took on the role of being in charge of our onstage props and ended up with several awards for his work. He puts the same work ethic into that as he does into every one of his performances."
When he's not performing in one of Notre Dame's theatre productions, Scheessele also manages to find extra time to sing in the Notre Dame choir as well.
"I have been in the choir program here since my freshman year — in the Irishmen for one year and the Honors Chamber Choir for three years," he said. "Similar to theatre, I've enjoyed choir immensely for the past four years as it gives me a chance to share my talent and to expand it."
Scheessele continues to work and perfect his singing craft outside of school as he takes voice lessons from a private coach, which seems to be paying off. He along with his fellow members of the Chamber Choir, have earned a first ranking in district choir competition in each of the past three years.
So what's next for this dynamo of a student, citizen and Christian?
"Besides knowing pretty much what my major will be, I don't as of yet have any set college plans," Scheessele said. "My three schools of interest in order are Purdue University, Michigan State University, and Grand Valley State University, which has already sent me an acceptance letter. I am interested in studying communication and journalism, primarily mass communication. In the future, I plan to pursue a career in journalism and hope to become a published author.
"Naturally, I am also planning to minor and earn a certificate in theatre during my college career," he said with a smile.
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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