Success Stories

The Kelleher Legacy: Michael, Natalie, Tara and Nancy

Written in Spring 2019

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 NDA Tyngsboro Alumna, 1981) and Mike attended Catholic schools growing up, so it seemed natural to want a similar academic background for their young family.  

Tara, an 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 and paved the way for both of her siblings (Natalie and Michael) to attend NDA as well.  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.

On June 1st, Natalie will walk across the commencement stage in a white gown just as her mother and sister did before her. Five days later her brother, Micheal, will receive his 8th 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.  

Before those June dates, however, both Lancers are busy with end-of-the-year activities. Michael is a member of Beta Club, the cast Oliver! and three athletic teams (Soccer, Basketball, Baseball). He says that NDA has helped him to become a better advocate for himself in the classroom. “I have learned that you have to want good grades to get good grades,” remarks Michael who credits the school with challenging him and building his confidence. 

Michael has played soccer since grade 5 and helped the team achieve a championship win his 7th grade year, a feat he nearly repeated this year when the team returned to the championship game for a second year in a row. As a student-athlete he has learned the value of determination and leadership. “Michael decided to try out for basketball his 7th grade year, and was invited to stay on the team as a practice squad player,” according to Nate Froment, Lower/Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Coach. “He came to every practice that season and really worked on his game. During his 8th grade year he was on the team and had a huge game late in the season where he scored 19 points.” Michael was also instrumental in helping the baseball team win a championship his 7th grade year and is hoping is hoping his team will be repeat champions again this season. 

On the athletic field, Natalie has been impressive in her own right.  She is a 12- season athlete and three season captain this year, playing 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 cites time management and a strong work ethic as critical components to her academic and athletic success, but she says the NDA influence goes deeper than that. She has also gained a renewed appreciation for her religious faith.  Having opportunities through campus ministry projects or simply having the campus chapel nearby, allowed her to question and deepen her own spiritual formation. Natalie remembers one specific project completed through National Honor Society (NHS), called “Build a Bed,” where students worked together to assemble beds for children in need in the community. “It 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.” 

As Natalie sets her sights on nursing school in the fall, Michael will be continuing his education at a Catholic high school in Lowell. Their departures will mark an end of an era for their parents' volunteer work at the Academy as well. According to Upper School Principal Pam Bernazani and Athletic Director Lisa Zappala, the contributions of the Kelleher family have been extraordinary. “Nancy and Mike have been involved in FoNDA, Friends of NDA, since 2013 when Tara was a freshman and for the past several years they have served as officers: Mike as the Treasurer and Nancy as Secretary,” says Bernazani.  “Throughout the years, they have been instrumental in raising funds for athletics and extracurricular activities and are quick to volunteer whenever needed.” 

Even their own children are quick to note their parents dedication to the school. 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. Tara and Natalie just knew that helping the girls would be the right thing to do.”  

“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. In fact, you never know but perhaps another generation of Kellehers will grace our beautiful front steps in the years to come!” 

Gabriel Bas

Written in Fall 2015

Four years ago when the Bas family of Tyngsboro was looking around for a private school for their son, Gabriel, they searched for a school that could provide a challenging and wholistic educational environment. And that’s just what the Academy of Notre Dame (NDA) delivered according to Christophe Bas.

“We found that the curriculum in many private schools we looked at catered to learning styles that is better suited for the way girls tend to learn,” said Bas, Gabriel’s father. “But NDA does a great job of balancing curriculum and teaching styles that embrace both boys and girls. Dr. Murphy is a godsend. He really understands how to handle both genders and is very fair in all decisions he makes.” 

Dr. Robert Murphy is the principal of the Lower School for pre-kindergarten through grade eight at the Academy. He says boys and girls learn differently, but can both benefit from exposure to a variety of teaching styles. “Gabriel participated in our REACH program for Math and Reading/Language Arts,” explains Murphy. The program aims to teach students at their own level of individual readiness and often results in students who are able to matriculate one grade level ahead.”

For the Bas family it was a major reason for choosing the Academy for Gabriel’s 6th through 8th grade years. "So far I haven't learned any new material in English,” reports Gabriel in reflecting about his first year at Central Catholic High School (CCHS). “The reason for that is because I was so well prepared by Mrs. O'Connell in the REACH program at NDA who taught me so much more in eighth grade than most kids get. I want to extend a huge thank you to her and Mr. Byrnes (former Math teacher) as well as all my other teachers at the Academy for preparing me so well and pushing me to the level I'm at now." 

Gabriel graduated from eighth grade at the Academy in the spring of 2015. He was recently selected as one of only four students in his grade at CCHS to be invited to a special breakfast to recognize the best performing and most promising students. “I am motivated by everything I haven't achieved yet. My dream is to be a pediatrician."

“The Academy exceeded beyond my expectations in terms of preparing Gabriel for high school,” says Natana DeLong-Bas, Gabriel’s mother. “NDA did more than just teach him content - the teachers really encouraged him to think critically and participate thoughtfully in class discussions and debates.”

Another reason the Bas family chose the Academy was for its solid mix of male and female teachers. DeLong-Bas worries that for all the attention given to the need for positive role models for girls that boys are being left behind. “They need strong role models, too, particularly of men who set alternative examples of what it means to be a man from what we see on TV. Gabriel needed to see in his own world that men can also be nurturing, compassionate, intelligent, and intellectually demanding. NDA provided that at many levels and I will always be grateful.”

Gabriel and his parents are thankful for every academic challenge whether it was in foreign languages, math, literature, religion or guitar. They offer advice for those considering schools now. “I would encourage parents who are looking for a serious academic program to strongly consider NDA. The foundations are solidly provided and NDA has both a strong track record and a solid future vision of what it is trying to achieve in terms of forming educated, whole persons,” says DeLong-Bas. Gabriel’s advice for other students is to explore their interests, be prepared for tests, do personal reading, and to listen to their teachers. “It’s tough, but worthwhile.”

The Academy of Notre Dame holds Shadow Days for prospective Lower School students and also has a scheduled Open House in January. To learn more about these opportunities, visit, email, or call 978-649-7611, Ext. 351.