Notre Dame Prep grads cherished ‘small-town feel’

Jonathan Diamantopoulos and Brooklyne Gabrisko were the first co-valedictorians in Notre Dame Prep’s 21 years. They say they enjoyed the “small town feel” of the campus in North Scottsdale. (Notre Dame Prep)

Scottsdale is rapidly making the leap from big town to small city – just look at the construction cranes, the traffic, the lines at stores and restaurants.

The days when you knew everybody at your Scottsdale public school may be long gone, as a few thousand are enrolled at most of the Scottsdale Unified School District high schools, which bustle like college campuses.

But at least one Scottsdale high school maintains that “small town feeling.”

Just ask Brooklyne Gabrisko and Jonathan Diamantopoulos, co-valedictorians of Notre Dame Preparatory, Class of 2023. This is the first time in the Catholic high school’s 21 years that two grads are sharing the top-of-class honor.

Along with their classmates, Brooklyne and Jonathan churned through the COVID years, finally emerging with a somewhat “normal” senior year.

And, yes, they wore uniforms to school – every day for four years.

At Scottsdale’s five public high schools, senior class sizes range from 170 (Coronado) to 578 (Chaparral), with an average of 388. Notre Dame Prep’s graduating class of 189 is right around half of that.

“It’s nice having small classes … I feel like a pretty good size for learning,” Jonathan said, agreeing there’s a small-town vibe. “Also, the campus not being too big – it’s nice to get around.”

He said he didn’t mind the attire policy – and even wore a uniform to take a final exam this week. “I didn’t know it was optional,” he said, a tad embarrassed.

Before entering ninth grade, the DC Ranch resident considered other high schools, including even smaller schools.

Four years later, he is happy with his choice: “I feel like NDP does a good job uniting a community,” he said, “and also has strong academics.”

A few days before Notre Dame Prep’s Class of 2023 graduation ceremony on Friday, May 19, Jonathan was asked how he was feeling about giving a big speech.

“I’m not extremely nervous about it, even though I haven’t done a whole lot of public speaking,” he said.

He said the theme of his speech would be “living in the moment. Not looking too much forward or backward.

“I feel like it’s an important thing to do … We’re always looking ahead, worrying about what we have to do tomorrow.”

“I'm truly glad that my hard work has been acknowledged,” Jonathan added, about being named co-valedictorian.

“It is both exciting and surreal to be at the top of my class,” Brooklyne reflected.

“My favorite memory at NDP was finding out Johnathon and I were co-valedictorians because it was so exciting that I had someone to share the excitement with, and it was so nice to know the faculty supported us so much that believed we both deserved it and did not need a tie breaker,” Brooklyne said.

She said, after charging full-speed-ahead her first three years at NDP, she tried to dial back on school in her senior year, “to really prioritize my mental health and being a teenager.

“I think it is important to set boundaries on both academic and social life.”

Brooklyne will be heading to UCLA to study neuroscience.

Jonathan is still a bit up in the air about his post-NDP plans: “Next year, I will most likely attend ASU Barrett to study computer science, although I am currently waitlisted at the Georgia Institute of Technology. If I am fortunate enough to be admitted, I would probably go there.”

Jonathan said the four years at NDP went by like a blur.

They were filled with work and fun, grinding away at the books and socializing, from robotics competitions, to cheering on the football team, seeing plays, a trip to Washington, D.C., and school dances.

Notre Dame Prep boasts of “109 certified faculty and professional staff” with an average class size of 22 and student-to-faculty ratio of 12 to 1.

That makes a huge difference, Brooklyne said, thanking “the faculty and staff for always being understanding. They could see the stress I was under and never failed to be supportive.”

NDP awards

Last month, NDP celebrated other high achievers from the Class of 2023.

Senior Jack DeChant launched the ceremony with a speech called “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.”

In addition to the announcement of the valedictorians, departmental awards were handed out, including:

• English, Malina Patel & Sophia Rowan.

• Mathematics, Lexi Yoz.

• Social Studies, Samantha Kuczaj.

• Science, Jon Diamontopoulous.

• Theology, Aiden Weaver.

• World Language: Spanish, Samantha Dobrovolny.

• World Language: ASL, Ryan Dolphin.

• Visual Arts: 2-D and 3-D Non-digital Media, Tydan Ortega.

• Visual Arts: Digital Media, Travis Sullivan.

• Performing Arts: Music, Sydney Wright.

• Performing Arts: Dance, Jessica Knapp.

• Performing Arts: Theater, Shane Marshall.

• Engineering (STEM), Peyton Matura.

• Physical Education, Katelyn Matura.

Mater Dei awards went to:

• Ally Alessio.

• Jack DeChant.

• Ella Lahr.

• Wyatt Peirson.

• Catherine Pipitone.

• Ben Roberts.

One of the most cherished awards at the school is the Scot A. Bemis scholarship, named after a beloved coach who died 10 years ago.

According to the scholarship, “The selected students must exemplify excellence in both athletics and academics while exhibiting passion and drive.”

There is one awardee per class and each keeps the scholarship for their entire time at NDP (as long as they stay in compliance with the criteria).

The 2023 Bemis winners are:

• Jessica Knapp, Class of 2023.

• Anthony Batson, Class of 2024.

• Bryce Quinet, Class of 2025.

• Aidan Martinez, Class of 2026.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award named after Scot Bemis because my dad is a cancer survivor,” Jessica said – adding she tries to follow the late coach’s "get after it!” motto every day.

"Congratulations to the promising young adults who stepped forward and are this year's recipients of the Scot A. Bemis scholarship. It's been a privilege to learn all about them. Scot would be pleased to know that together, we are continuing where he left off," the Bemis family said in a prepared statement.

Even smaller

Two other Scottsdale high schools would consider NDP a “big school.”

Great Hearts Cicero Prep celebrates valedictorian Esther Cho and 33 other graduates at 6:30 p.m. May 25.

And Great Hearts Scottsdale Prep honors valedictorian Colin Hooppaw and 72 other grads at 7:30 p.m. May 26.

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