Three for three

Three sisters who graduated from Notre Dame went to the same college and chose to pursue careers in healthcare. Their journeys through high school and college played big parts in what they’re doing now in their professional life. 

The DiPonio sisters are blazing their own special trails in the healthcare field. All three of them graduated from Notre Dame Prep and University of Detroit Mercy. And while all three of them have jobs that involve helping people stay or get healthy, their paths to becoming a nurse, a dentist and a physician assistant, while seemingly nearly identical, did have some important nuances.

However, all three of them cited the rigorous and challenging academics at Notre Dame Prep as critical to their college and career success, And they also all said that they had a lot of fun in high school, especially during one special week in March.

The Notre Dame Alumni Association recently interviewed Marisa, Michelle and Vanessa in an effort to get their comments on the journey each of them took through NDP and college on and on what they’re up to today. Enjoy!

Notre Dame Alumni Association: What was your college experience like, and do you believe your education at Notre Dame prepared you well for college and beyond?

Marisa DiPonio ’12 (NDP): My college experience was very memorable. It was a time where I was able to grow academically and individually. Having attended NDP, I was able to have a solid foundation before attending college. I believe NDP provided me with the tools to not only succeed in college but to succeed throughout life in general.

Michelle (DiPonio) Maltese ‘08 (NDP): My college experience was greatly influenced by my time at Notre Dame Prep. I learned valuable lessons such as strong study habits, time-management skills, and the desire for success. When I began college, I was already accustomed to difficult course work, having been prepared by both the teachers and curriculum at Notre Dame. While college was a time for personal growth, I can confidently say that this growth began with the foundation I built during my high school years. 

Vanessa (DiPonio) Ruffino ‘06 (NDP): My college experience was one of the most influential times of my life so far. I learned a lot about myself while simultaneously carving a successful career path. And I believe NDP helped me to accomplish this by giving me a solid foundation to start my college education. I was already acclimated to large course loads and challenging material that I encountered at NDP, which consequently helped me to excel in my college courses. 
NDAA: Could you briefly share the career path you took to get to where you are today?

Marisa: I attended the  University of Detroit Mercy and received my Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN). I currently work at Royal Oak Beaumont in its mother/baby care unit where I take care of postpartum mothers and newborn infants.

Michelle: After graduating from Notre Dame Prep, I was accepted into the seven-year accelerated BS/DDS program at the  University of Detroit Mercy. This program condenses a four-year biology degree into three years. Once the undergraduate course work was completed with the required standards, admission to the  University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry was granted. Following my completion of dental school, I began working as a general dentist in a private practice in Rochester Hills. 

Vanessa: Following Notre Dame, I attended the  University of Detroit Mercy and graduated with a major in biology. I then went on to graduate school at UDM and received a master’s degree in physician assistant studies. I am currently working as a physician assistant in internal medicine at Henry Ford Hospital and have been there for six years. 

NDAA: What has been most influential in driving your aspirations towards college or your career? What skills and strengths do you possess that you think will make you successful in your field?

Marisa: I knew I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a registered nurse. I decided to attend the  University of Detroit Mercy because I was able to get into its direct-admit program and start nursing school right out of high school. While in nursing school, I had the opportunity to experience a lot. From these experiences, I knew that it took a very special person to be able to take care of sick individuals. However, with being a very optimistic person and having a bubbly personality, I knew I wanted to work in a part of the hospital that saw more happiness than sorrow. Being able to work with new mothers and infants has brought so much joy to my life. It is a very exciting time for my patients and their families, and I am fortunate to be able to share in their happiness. 

Michelle: My personal desire for success has always been a driving force in my academic accomplishments. From an early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of education. As cliché as it may sound, I always knew that I wanted to become a dentist and would do whatever it took to make that my reality. I believe I have the compassion and sympathy to communicate and connect with my patients on a daily basis. 

Vanessa: I always knew I wanted to work in the healthcare field but didn’t know exactly which route I wanted to pursue. Then one day I went into the counselor’s office at NDP and was given information on a five-year PA program at UDM. I didn’t really know what a physician assistant was a the time, but my counselor took the time to educate me on the role of a PA, and from then on I knew it was the right fit for me. So therefore, if it wasn’t for NDP, I likely would not be in the field I am in now. 

NDAA: Do you have a favorite memory from Notre Dame, or do you miss anything about NDP?

Marisa: My favorite memory at NDP would have to be Irish Week. It was an opportunity to bring the school together to celebrate and have a fun week.

Michelle: It is not just one single memory that remains with me from Notre Dame Prep, but it’s the relationships I still have that are most important to me from NDP. My closest friendships, including that with my husband, Christopher Maltese, first developed in the halls of Notre Dame. To continue to hold on to all those Notre Dame relationships proves just how meaningful my experiences at NDP were, and I will forever be grateful for where they began. 

Vanessa: My favorite memories from NDP always involve Irish Week. I enjoyed getting to participate in all the various activities of the week and celebrating with peers. 

NDAA: As an alumnus, why do you feel it’s important to support your alma mater after after graduation is long a memory? 

Marisa: I find it important to support NDP because it provided me with the values, skills and life lessons that have helped guide me thus far through life.

Michelle: I will forever keep a part of Notre Dame Prep with me as I move forward in life. I definitely feel it is important to give back to the school. I like to believe that my children may walk through these same halls, and any form of support that I can give to NDP will continue to create an environment that I would love for them to be a part of one day. 

Vanessa: I feel very grateful to have received such a great education from NDP and it is important to give back to allow other students the same opportunities and experiences that we had.

Comments or questions?
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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