Back to school blessings from local Notre Dame alumni

During its annual school supply drive, Notre Dame Orlando President Timothy J. Kiley (center) presented Father Leo Hodges and principal Latrina Peters-Gipson with a check for $5,000—a donation made possible by Notre Dame alumni in support of St. Andrew Catholic School, a Notre Dame ACE Academy. (COURTESY)

July 30, 2017

Every August, The Notre Dame Club of Greater Orlando, the university’s alumni association chapter in Central Florida, hosts a send-off picnic and blessing of Central Florida students from Bishop Moore Catholic High School in Orlando, Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach and other area schools who are attending the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College in South Bend, Indiana. This year the picnic was held on the campus of St. Andrew Catholic School, a Notre Dame ACE Academy. As a show of appreciation, the club hosted a school supply drive, which collected approximately $1,000 worth of pens, crayons, calculators, headphones, bibles, backpacks and more for students in pre-K through eighth grade. Through the generosity of alumni, Notre Dame Orlando president Timothy J. Kiley was able to surprise the school with an additional $5,000 donation.

“We have been working with Father Leo (pastor of St. Andrew Parish) on ideas to forge a partnership with the parish and the school. It was a natural step as we send more than 50 of our local students off to the Catholic university and colleges that have made a difference in our lives to support the students and teachers of our local Notre Dame ACE academy,” Kiley said.

The picnic featured a blessing by Franciscan Father Anthony Aarons, himself a Notre Dame alumnus; a presentation on the Notre Dame Alliance for Catholic Education goals of “heaven and college” for its students by regional director Lee Sayago; and remarks of advice to first year students from Notre Dame senior and student government president Rebecca Blais, a 2014 Father Lopez graduate.

The University of Notre Dame established four Notre Dame ACE Academies in a partnership with the Diocese of Orlando in August 2015. The goal is to provide a Catholic education of the highest quality to as many children as possible in under-served communities. Notre Dame ACE Academies are a network of academically excellent Catholic K-8 schools that operate through the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).