The School Sisters of Notre Dame first came to Rochester in 1854 to teach German immigrants, beginning at the St. Joseph’s School on Franklin Street, the first parochial school in Rochester. Other Schools followed. All Diocesan elementary schools in which the SSNDs had taught were closed by 2008.
In 2003, ten SSNDs who remained in Rochester surveyed fifty area churches and agencies to determine the need for SSNDs to continue to serve in Rochester. The results showed a need for tutoring in reading and math for children and adults.
Notre Dame Learning Center was approved as a sponsored ministry of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and began its work in 2004. Sister Lorraine Burns, former principal at Holy Family, coordinated the project. She was joined by Sister Mary Lou Brien. Services for children became the primary focus, although the Learning Center also served adults as the need arose.
From an office set up at St. Boniface, Sisters Lorraine, Mary Lou, and Mary Smith set out in search of a place for NDLC to call home. They were offered a room at Charles Settlement House. There, in March 2004, Sister Lorraine tutored three girls from Holy Family in math. The following year, Sister Mary Lou began tutoring students in reading.
By 2006 NDLC had two full-time staff, Sister Lorraine and Sister Mary Lou. By May of 2006 there were 55 children in the program and one adult, with a waiting list of 14 students. Sixty volunteers tutored the students.
Sister Mary Smith joined NDLC as Math Program Supervisor in 2008 taking over math tutoring responsibilities from Sister Lorraine. Sister Mary Lou became the Program Supervisor for Reading and English Language Arts in 2010.
Sister Lorraine Burns retired in June 2010. Sister Evelyn Breslin, previously an administrator and teacher at Bishop Kearney High School and executive assistant at School of the Holy Childhood, became the Executive Director of NDLC.
Sister Mary Lou Brien retired in August 2018 due to illness, and our first lay employee was hired as part-time supervisor of the English Language Arts Program. She initiated many changes in the program, including the use of new Chromebooks which had been donated to the Center.
A part-time Business Administrator was added to the staff in 2019. In 2021 a new position is being created to replace the program supervisors who have recently retired.
In 2010, adult programs were added, in computer literacy and a New York State GED program. Both were funded by special grants but were discontinued in 2017/2018 due to lack of reliable participation and duplication of the services through the schools and libraries. We expanded our outreach to provide
services for children at a second location at Bishop Kearney High School in 2020.
From its inception, NDLC fundraising consisted of presentations at churches and affiliated organizations. Donations were also solicited in person and by mail, practices which continue today. In 2009 NDLC began holding fundraising events, including Pasta Dinner, Ham Dinner, providing volunteers for the LPGA. In 2016 we held a Golf Ball Drop at Deerfield Country Club, followed by our first Golf Tournament in 2019 at that location. Our 2020 Golf Tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus. A very successful Golf Tournament was held in July 2021 at Webster Golf Club, with plans underway for 2022.
In 2013, NDLC re-entered the e-world with a new website, www.ndlcenter.org. The site was again updated in 2019 and 2020, with new features, added security, and on-line payment of donations and registrations. We have also added a Facebook page and Constant Contact emailing.
Meeting the Challenge
Change continues at NDLC, especially in this time of uncertainty due to the coronavirus. Our programming is evolving to meet the needs of our students in this new learning environment. Our Board of Trustees continues to evaluate long-range planning, while providing services to the youth in Rochester today.