While it’s been more than 50 years since Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School alumna Adele Archer was a student, she remembers walking the halls of this 70-year-old school like it was yesterday.
“All the rooms are where they were, the washroom, the cafeteria, it’s very much the same,” Archer said as she stood in front of her old classroom. “The spirit is here.”
Archer, a 1954 graduate, came out to celebrate the all-girls school’s 70th anniversary on Oct. 15.
The Congregation of Notre Dame founded the school in 1941 to provide education to Toronto’s young Catholic women. The school’s principal, Oksana Kawun, said the believed the school was special the moment she stepped inside.
“The first day I walked in through the front doors of Notre Dame, what really struck me was the amount of respectful hugs the girls were giving each other,” Kawun said. “I actually told some of the teachers that first day that I’d never seen anything so close.”
Alumna Ann Gilbride remembers Notre Dame fondly. She attended the school in the early 1950s and still lives in the same home that she did as a girl.
“We always enjoyed coming to school and you made so many friends,” Gilbride said. “The years just skip by.”
She said while the school has changed a little, the surrounding area is vastly different compared to when she was a student at Notre Dame.
“I used to walk up the valley, where Don Mills and Eglinton are now, that used to be just a dirt road,” she recalled. “We used to puddle in the Don River there.”
The day was especially memorable for religion teacher Lorraine Treacy-Rozario, who attended Notre Dame as a student and has taught there for 26 years.
She relished the opportunity to interact not only with her former students, but her former teachers, too.
“One of the hard things about teaching is you plant seeds but you don’t always see the results of those seeds being planted,” she said. “It’s an interesting perspective to be here and to see that I can say to people this is what you’ve done for me, this is the impact you’ve had on my life.”
Treacy-Rozario credited Notre Dame with giving her a strong moral compass, a passion for education and an enduring connection to her faith.
“I couldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the teachers, principals and congregation at Notre Dame who have been in my life and influenced my life in a great way,” she said. “It’s like coming home.”
One of the most remarkable moments for Kawun was seeing the girls drop their BlackBerrys, iPhones and iPods during a history presentation, albeit briefly.
“They were literally mesmerized and just absorbing the history that is theirs,” she said. “I do hope they walked away with a bit of heritage and legacy in their hearts.
“It was a great thing to celebrate … 70 years is pretty awesome.”
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