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May 24, 2023

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

NOTE: A story in the latest edition of Today's Marists magazine, which was published this spring by The Marist Fathers and Brothers of the United States Province, discusses the aftermath of two devastating school shootings in Michigan and their effect on the community of Notre Dame Prep.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep navigates through a number of close-to-home tragic events with community support, security and prayer.

Shortly after the school shooting in Oxford, all Notre Dame Prep students were united in solidarity with Oxford High School.

In early March 2023, Krista Grettenberger testified before the Michigan House Judiciary Committee on proposed gun control legislation introduced in the wake of the deadly shooting in February 2023 at Michigan State University (MSU).

In a Detroit News account of that March 8 hearing, Grettenberger said that her son called her on the night of February 13 at 8:18 p.m. from Berkey Hall, a building on MSU campus, and told her that he'd been shot. He was one of the five injured in the incident that also killed three other university students.

“My son called my cell phone and said, ‘I love you, Mom. I’ve been shot. There’s a shooter,’” recounted Grettenberger, who also mentioned that it was not till later that she learned of the complete horror of what her 21-year-old son had endured.

“In his classroom, my son came face-to-face with the gunman and pleaded for his life,” she recalled. “‘Please don’t shoot me,’ were the words he said before the gunman shot him in his chest.”

It was yet another in a seemingly endless series of heartbreaking post-shooting accounts by victims, families, or first responders playing out in Michigan’s state capital, as well as in countless other cities and states across the country.

Oxford shooting continues to reverberate

In fact, even though the MSU shooting occurred almost a year and a half after another tragic Michigan school shooting at Oxford High School, the legal — and political — wranglings continue to play out in the wake of the Oxford incident that killed four students and injured seven more, including a teacher, in November of 2021.

For the Notre Dame Prep community in Pontiac, Michigan, the MSU shooting brought back the horror of first hearing of that shooting at Oxford High School, which is located less than 15 miles from NDP.

Courtney Plas, the mother of two NDP students, Jackson, a senior, and Reagan, a sophomore, said she cannot remember a scarier time to be a parent sending children to school.

“We live in Oxford and know many of the families affected by the shooting, which has really shaken our family and our entire community,” she said. “One always thinks it can never happen here in my town.”

Notre Dame Prep students Reagan and Jackson Plas volunteered in downtown Oxford to help raise money for the victims of the Nov. 30 Oxford High School shooting.

Plas said that now more than ever, parents need to have hard conversations with their teens about their mental well-being along with areas of concern.

“Do they feel comfortable and safe in their environment, and what do they do if they don’t feel safe and comfortable,” she asks her children on a regular basis.

Plas, who is a pharmacist and business owner, said she and her husband are very comfortable that their kids attend a school with an already robust safety protocol in an environment that also weaves faith into the fabric of their daily activities.

“We are blessed that every time we have asked our kids the safety question about Notre Dame Prep, they both say that they absolutely feel safe at Notre Dame.”

Plas points out that while raising teens is no easy task, “we think Notre Dame Prep has helped mold our kids into the empathetic, kind and selfless Christians they have become. And for that we thank the school and all of the staff.”

School quickly offered support and prayers

One of those NDP staff members who was truly engaged in the aftermath of the Oxford shooting is Denise Mahoney, one of three social-emotional/academic (SEA) counselors at the Marist-sponsored school. She and her colleagues joined the entire school faculty and staff in a multi-faceted response that focused on support for students, many of whom had family, friends, and acquaintances who attend both Oxford High School and MSU.

“Our students were very connected to the Oxford shooting,” she said. “They were angry and terrified. Their immediate reaction, understandably, was fear that this could happen here at NDP, and many felt unsafe anywhere they went. This one hit too close to home and made school shootings more ‘real’ to them.”

Many Notre Dame Prep students know and support students who attend Oxford High School.

She also said many Notre Dame students were friends with the victims and they struggled with shock, grief and disbelief.

“Everyone seemed to be on edge, and most people were just plain scared for quite some time,” said Mahoney, the mother of three boys.

Additionally, she said, it is indeed fortunate for Notre Dame Prep students that they attend a Catholic and Marist school and can freely draw upon God to help get them through troubling events like the Oxford shooting.

“We are able to pray together, which I believe is the best thing about being at a school like NDP,” said Mahoney, who has a sophomore at the school. “We can come together and pray for those involved, pray for strength and healing and pray for protection.”

She said she has frequently discussed with students the fact that God did not cause events like Oxford and MSU, but rather is there to help them get through the difficult times and that they will find a way to bring good out of dark situations.

“This helps the students find hope and peace as they navigate the fear and confusion,” she said.

Denise Mahoney is a social-emotional/academic (SEA) counselor at Notre Dame Prep. She's been at the school since 2017.

Already robust safety and security protocols

Scott Tewes, a member of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, has been a fixture on the Notre Dame Prep campus for many years. Part of an expansive and robust security team at NDP, he is a daily uniformed presence in the main lobby of the school and sees just about everyone who enters the building. He recalls the days immediately following the Oxford shooting.

“From my perspective at the security desk, I sensed a great sadness in our school after the Oxford incident,” he said. “I did not observe any outward sobbing, but the students weren’t their usual jovial and loquacious selves. The area around my desk was more solemn during the end of class, passing in the halls, and before and after school.”

Tewes said he was glad to see the students and staff respond quickly in support for Oxford.

“Soon after the incident, almost every student was wearing a blue ‘Oxford Strong’ t-shirt in support of the victims, which also helped to unify the entire school. And prayer became an even bigger part of our school day.”

Since the Oxford shooting, a number of school safety initiatives were added or strengthened, according to Tewes.

“But because the school already had so many safety measures and procedures in place to deal with a situation like Oxford, the only significant change after the shooting was to keep the cafeteria doors locked during most of the day, except during lunch when the area is monitored by me or another member of our security detail.”

Tewes also said that since Oxford, the Sheriff’s Office has ratcheted up training, which means he now goes through active shooter training two or three times a year.

“I can engage a threat within the school in mere seconds, and I have a radio to alert the entire county if there was an active threat,” he said. “Our other security personnel remain mobile and walk around to make sure doors are locked at the main campus and the lower school building. These personnel are my eyes throughout the campus while I’m stationed here at the desk. And they are linked to my radio and to the radios in the high school office, middle school office, athletic office and assistant principal’s office.”

Faith continues to guide

Courtney Plas is hoping for a happy and safe ending to the school year. Her son, Jackson, will graduate and head off to Clemson University in the fall. Daughter Reagan, who is looking forward to her junior year at NDP, said she remains relatively satisfied with campus security.

“One of my favorite things about Notre Dame Prep is how safe I feel on campus,” Reagan Plas said. “There just seems to be a lot of constant communication between faculty, administration, security personnel and safety officers.”

School counselor Mahoney adds that while they are absolutely necessary, school safety and security drills are unfortunately becoming as much a part of academic life as math and science class.

“After the MSU shooting, some of the chatter I heard among students was that they are so tired of this and of how common it has become. Nevertheless, it is sad to note that they seem to be getting used to it in a sense,” she said. “It is just a part of their world. It is all they’ve really ever known.”

For Andrew Guest, NDP’s head of school, it is important that despite the tragedies that sometimes surround them, the students need to know they are loved by God and the faculty and staff.

“Particularly in today’s environment, they need as much normalcy as we can give them,” he said. “The predictability and routine of school, sports, religion and extracurriculars can help keep their minds focused and provide them the support they need to overcome the issues we face today.

“As a Catholic Marist school, we continue to offer our prayers and support for all those affected by events like Oxford and MSU. We know that Mary, our Mother, and our Heavenly Father are there to guide us and watch over all of us during these times of trouble.”

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

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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. Notre Dame Preparatory School 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 schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools 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 National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at