A faith-based, quality education rooted in tradition with a solid reputation is what Nancy and Mike Kelleher sought for their three children as they began their respective academic journeys. Both Nancy, an Academy of Notre Dame (NDA) alumna ‘81, and Mike attended Catholic schools growing up, so it seemed natural to want a similar academic background for their young family.
Their eldest, Tara, an NDA alumna from the Class of 2016 and current engineering student at UMass Amherst, began her first kindergarten class at NDA in the fall of 2003, where she paved the way for both of her siblings, Natalie and Michael. Fast forward 16 years and the Kellehers are gearing up to celebrate two graduations this spring and to bid adieu to the school that has been so much a part of their lives.
According to Upper School Principal Pam Bernazani and Athletic Director Lisa Zappala, the contributions of the Kelleher family have been extraordinary.
“Throughout the years, [the Kellehers] have been instrumental in raising funds for athletics and extracurricular activities, and are quick to volunteer whenever needed,” says Bernazani. “Nancy and Mike have been involved in FoNDA, Friends of NDA, since 2013 and for the past several years they have served as officers: Mike as the Treasurer and Nancy as Secretary.”
The end of the family’s tenure begins on June 1, as Natalie will walk across the commencement stage in a white gown, just as her mother and sister did before her. Five days later, Michael will receive his eighth-grade diploma in Our Lady’s Chapel. Both siblings will enter the NDA Alumnae/i Association, a revered society of graduates dating back to 1854.
Until then, both Kellehers are keeping themselves busy. Natalie is a 12-season athlete and three season captain this year in soccer, basketball and softball. The Lowell Sun All-Star is also a three-time league all-star in basketball, a two-time soccer league all-star, and the recipient of several awards, including team MVP in soccer and softball.
Natalie gained a renewed appreciation for her religious faith during her time at NDA. She remembers one specific project completed through National Honor Society called “Build a Bed,” where students worked together to assemble beds for children in need in the community.
“[Build a Bed] made me realize how significant a thing like a bed is in a child’s life,” remarks Natalie. “Without rest, an everyday activity, such as attending school, becomes difficult. By becoming more aware of my own community, I came to appreciate everything in my own life.”
Michael has been impressive in his own right on the soccer, basketball and baseball teams. Michael was instrumental in helping the baseball and soccer teams win championships, each in his seventh-grade year. He is also a member of Beta Club and the cast of Oliver! Michael credits the Academy with challenging him and building his confidence in the classroom.
As a student-athlete, Michael has also learned the value of determination and leadership.
“Michael decided to try out for basketball in seventh grade and was invited to stay on the team as a practice squad player. He came to every practice that season and really worked on his game,” states Nate Froment, Lower/Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Coach. “During his eighth-grade year, he was a team member and had a huge game late in the season where he scored 19 points.”
As Michael continues his education at a Catholic high school in Lowell next fall, Natalie is setting her sights on nursing school. Their departures will mark an end of an era for their parents' volunteer work at the Academy.
“The Kelleher family contributions will be forever remembered and appreciated by the Academy of Notre Dame,” says Lauren Marquis, Director of Institutional Advancement. “The Academy has been blessed by their kindness and willingness to serve and we hope to stay in touch with all of them through our Alumni Association for many years to come.”
Nancy says she is pleased to say that the independent, Catholic school education her children received at NDA has helped prepare and shape each of them for the next phase of their lives.
“I am most proud of their commitment to volunteerism and the sense of community that the school has instilled in them,” says Nancy. “Like the time when Tara, Natalie and Mike learned that a girls softball team in Lowell was without a coach and volunteered to step up and coach the team together. They just knew that helping the girls would be the right thing to do.”
Even as the Kellehers goodbye is bitter-sweet for both sides, the Academy is hopeful to meet again.
“You never know,” states Marquis, “but perhaps another generation of Kellehers will grace our beautiful front steps in the years to come!”