Empowering Future Leaders

Photography provided by Mount Notre Dame High School


Mount Notre Dame High School’s My Action Plan (MAP) program empowers young women to take control of their personal, spiritual and academic growth, and prepares them for life outside the classroom.

MAP is based on the four main tenets of the school’s mission statement: “to learn, live, lead and serve.”

“It’s a unique and well-thought-out program about what empowerment means and how we can live it out,” says Judy Gerwe, head of school for Mount Notre Dame.

At the beginning of the school year, each freshman and her parents meet with a MAP Guide, a staff member, who explains MAP and its end goals. The guide is also a point person to answer parent’s or a student’s questions or concerns.

“It’s about the journey to help the student find her way … so that we live out our mission for every student,” says Karen Day, associate head of school and dean of academic development.

Students set academic, personal and spiritual goals each year and make adjustments throughout their scholastic journey. They also continually self-assess their own progress.

“We encourage our students to become advocates in their own lives,” Day says.

The sophomore year focus is “living” and includes mostly English, religion and social studies cross-curricular activities.

“The content area lends itself well,” says Day. “ ‘What are the principles of living? Do they match with your value system? How do you live as a good person?’ ”

During their junior year, students focus on leadership, take a strength assessment and attend leadership conferences. The school also hosts a leadership panel, bringing in women from various life pathways, such as a young professional alumna, a sister of Notre Dame de Namur or a stay-at-home parent. The purpose is to show that there are various types of leadership – there isn’t a right or wrong way to lead.

Near the end of junior year, each student develops her own capstone project to show how she has grown in all areas of empowerment. The service project, a graduation requirement, must fulfill a need in the community and must demonstrate leadership. The projects are completed during the student’s senior year.

In 2012, a student created Pillows of Hope after she noticed Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center needed pillowcases. Presently, people from all over the country still sew and send her pillowcases, which she delivers to Children’s, providing hope and comfort to its young patients. The charity is still active and is found on Facebook.

Another student’s project decorated a garden at St. Joseph Orphanage with stones that were created by its students.

“I’m always impressed when the young ladies find their passion. Each student decides on her own project and makes it come to life,” says Gerwe.

Once the projects are complete, seniors showcase their work to a panel demonstrating how they’ve grown throughout the course of the project.

“On that night, every senior in her own way is the same,” says Day. “They’re all equally empowered.”


Mount Notre Dame High School is located at 711 East Columbia Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45215. For more information, call 513.821.3044 or visit www.mndhs.org.