Bob Lopes, Co-sponsor


My co-sponsor, Mark Cunneen, and I are working hard to build awareness and momentum in our area for the NDignite Connection program. It’s about fundraising, so we can help students understand what a college campus is about — and so we can ultimately open doors for them to attend summer scholars programs.

When I was their age, I didn’t have access to go to events like a Notre Dame football game, or to understand the spirit of being part of a great institution. NDignite Connection gives students an experience they’d never have if they weren’t involved in this program. We’re opening doors and opportunities for kids who have proven they can take on the challenge.

When I was young, I was a lot like the Philadelphia-area NDignite Connection participants… I was the first college student in my family, in terms of going away to a nationally recognized university and seeing what the world looked like more than an hour outside of Boston. I found that going across the country to school is a social education as well as an academic education.

My greatest hope is that we actually have a small part in helping these students — who are already capable of being successful — to really understand the opportunities that are available. We’d love to see them attend Notre Dame in the future, but not every person is a match for a single place, and we understand that. There are other great schools — Ivy Leagues and others — but we want these students to know the world isn’t limited to the 25-30 square miles in which they grow up. We want them to know: If you’re smart, and if you’re driven, you can do whatever you want to do.

Sarah Carr, 11th grader


I spent two years in the NDignite Connection program. The online program is great because you don’t have to get yourself ready and get to a certain location or school. If you’re a little shy, you can communicate without others having to see you, and you can build confidence in sharing what you think. Plus, all the posts are saved online, so you can go back and look if you missed something.

The Google+ community gave all of us the chance to get to know each other better. Even throughout the summer, people have posted a lot and kept in touch. It’s been great to be able to see how everyone is doing.

I’ve found that the main idea of NDignite Connection is learning how to think deeply about yourself, including spiritually. You also start thinking about the world more. In my first year, we focused a lot on volunteering and helping others — and we got to interview Notre Dame students to learn how their life has been impacted by volunteering. They also talked to us about outreach programs, and internships. It made me think about ways I can do more, and opened up a lot of possibilities that I hadn’t thought about before.

In my experience, sometimes students with high abilities can be overlooked in the classroom. NDignite provides a support group for kids that want to succeed within themselves. Our leaders really respect us and value our opinions. So for me, that has led me to reaching out more, and trying to talk about things that were important to me.

I look forward to talking more about college opportunities in this next year — and I’m excited to meet all the new students joining NDignite 2.0!

"NDignite Connecton 2.0 provides a support group for kids that want to succeed within themselves."

Jose Gonzalez, Volunteer Coordinator


When I first heard about the NDignite Connection program, I was very interested because of the involvement of the ND clubs. I had been like a lot of the students we’re now serving — and getting connected to an ND club single-handedly changed my life.

As the Director of Diversity at St. Joe Prep in Philadelphia, I was determined to house the NDignite Connection program here to help bring more Notre Dame alumni into the struggles that boys and girls in Camden are facing — and to open doors for these students, to receive a higher education. By inviting students into our facility, we’re exposing them to what our school has to offer, too.

These students don’t know coming in that an education at an institution like Notre Dame is within reach — but we’re teaching them that even though they’re far away, it is within reach.

Additionally, they’re learning that the things they see in commercials, as far as community service, are only glimpses of what Notre Dame is doing. We really believe in giving back, and doing things for the greater good. With community service woven throughout the NDignite program, the kids are understanding that.

We’re instilling in young kids how to think beyond themselves, for the greater good. If we don’t do anything other than empower them to go out and empower their communities — whether they end up at Notre Dame or not — that’s the most important thing.

My hope, when I really start dreaming, is that these 7th- and 8th-graders would somehow get to visit the Notre Dame campus before they’re freshmen. I remember watching Notre Dame football when I was in 6th grade, but if I’d gotten to go to the campus at that age… it would have put so much motivation in my mind. I would love for these students to have that opportunity to really experience the university.

"If you don’t give a kid hope, you put a glass ceiling on his or her experiences."

Ian Coates, 9th grader


In my first year in NDignite Connection, we discussed critical thinking and college applications — and things like what you want to be, and what you want to major in. We had guest speakers that came in, and we got to ask them questions. We got to interact with both students and faculty from Notre Dame.

Our group also did volunteer work — we went to a senior center and helped put up Christmas decorations. And we went to a Notre Dame basketball game together, put up posters, and got up on the big screen! 

Critical thinking was important, because I learned how to make decisions even when I didn’t quite know the answers starting out. NDignite Connection helps you get ready for college, but it also helps you learn to sort of get past obstacles that you might not think you can get past. It challenges your mind — and then things you didn’t think you could do, you can start doing.

I think the biggest thing I learned in my first year of NDignite Connection was that if I’m stuck or struggling, I shouldn’t stop trying. In general, if I have a question I should try my best, and come up with the best answer I can.

“I think the biggest thing I learned in my first year of NDignite Connection
was that if I’m stuck or struggling, I shouldn’t stop trying.”