My onyx and gold ring has always been a conversation starter. This small piece of jewelry holds a huge place in my heart, as it is identical to the ring worn by thousands of my fellow alumnae of the Institute of Notre Dame.
I was devastated to hear the unexpected news last week that my beloved IND, Maryland’s oldest Catholic college preparatory school for girls, would permanently close its doors this summer. Since 1847, it has stood firm in its original location in East Baltimore.
IND girls have a love for their school like no other. It’s more than just a school, it’s a sisterhood, known for its diverse student body and 100% college acceptance rate. People often ask what it was like going to a school for girls. My experience was anything but stereotypical. At IND, we were free to be ourselves. We didn’t feel any pressure to dress up or impress anyone. We encouraged each other to do our best both in and out of the classroom. My sisters and I formed bonds that have turned into lifelong friendships. We are a family.
IND did so much more than just provide me with an education. It helped shape me into the woman I am today. I was instilled with so many of the qualities that I pride myself on, including leadership, independence and love for the community.
The IND tradition begins the first day you walk through the doors and up the slate stairs. Freshmen are welcomed by their junior “big sisters” and celebrated with the baby shower-themed “freshmen welcome.” Sophomore year, students receive the class pin. Junior year, it’s the class ring and coveted IND blazer.
The tradition continues with the IND vs. Mercy High School basketball game and of course, school dances. IND dances are a big deal. There’s MORP (prom spelled backward) for freshmen and sophomores, the ring/pin dance, winter formal, the father-daughter dance, junior-senior prom, and the finale, White Dance. Senior year is the most special of all as you look forward to events such as selecting a graduation gown, college decision day, baccalaureate mass and graduation at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen. Each girl wears a matching white dress and carries a bouquet of red roses. The year culminates with the White Dance, where the entire class comes together and decorates their graduation dresses for one last celebration.
From freshman to senior year, my calendar was filled with events. The most noteworthy was leading Project kIND and TamarIND, an after school mentoring program and summer camp for girls in our community. I also served as a school ambassador, where I represented IND at functions and middle school recruiting events, captain of the basketball team, president of the Peer Ministry Club and dozens of other activities.
Throughout my years at IND, there were many teachers who impacted my life, especially our dear late Sister Hildie, who always provided me with a laugh and a hug when I needed it. There were Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Hiles who sparked my interest in journalism, the subject in which I earned my bachelor’s degree. As well as my friend and mentor, Ms. Vanessa “Wills” Williams, who means more to me than I could put into words.
I could go on for days about all of the teachers who left a lasting impression on my life. I can’t thank them enough for taking a lanky 13-year-old girl and giving her a sense of purpose and a deeper faith. They molded me into a leader and encouraged me to crash through the glass ceiling. Today, I’m still determined to change the world.
I’m so proud to call myself an alumna of the Institute of Notre Dame, along with powerhouses such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Just last week, I told a friend that when I have children, I wanted to move back to Baltimore so that they can attend IND and become a part of the tradition. It’s heartbreaking that this will never happen, but I have enough memories to last a lifetime.
The doors to 901 N. Aisquith Street may be closing, but IND will FOREVER be in our hearts.
Hail Notre Dame. Loved Notre Dame. Always, we can count on thee, the spirit of IND.
Amanee K. Cabbagestalk (firstname.lastname@example.org) graduated from the Institute of Notre Dame in 2011 and now works as an admissions counselor at the University of Tampa. Her Instagram handle is @amaneeee.