Community comes together to help students at Notre Dame Academy - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

Community comes together to help students at Notre Dame Academy

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

PARK HILLS, KY (FOX19)  - Monday was the first day back to class for girls at Notre Dame Academy. It comes just days after losing one of their classmates in a car crash in Alabama. Seven other girls are still recovering.

School leaders have organized a prayer service for the public. It'll take place on Tuesday at 3p.m. in the school auditorium. There will be a program for parents on how to help your child deal with grief at 4p.m. tomorrow. It's a tough lesson families in this tight-knit community said they'll learn together.

"I think Maria would be smiling down on us," said Senior Co-President Amy Beischel. "She was the kind of girl who had friends from all walks of life. Everybody in the school loved her."

Monday, classmates learned to lean on each other without their beloved classmates. The students are all upset over losing 17-year old Maria Schaffstein who was killed in a car accident while riding back home from a Spring Break trip. Notre Dame Academy President Sister Shauna Bankemper said five girls involved in the accident returned home on Sunday. Bankemper said two more girls are still hospitalized. Sister Bankemper said Jesse Russo is in critical condition and Krista Noll is in serious condition.

"The parents are asking us and the school to storm Heaven," said Sister Bankemper. "We definitely know that prayer has gotten us this far."

Notre Dame Academy Personal Counselor Tessa Taylor also stressed that faith is a big part of the healing process.

"We have put roses on their desks in each of their classes so we know that we're still thinking of them," Taylor said.

Administrators at Notre Dame Academy held a prayer vigil at the school first thing on Monday morning. Brother school Covington Catholic High School also held a prayer service today.

Administrators said the schools share families and now grief. Covington Catholic High School Principal Bow Rowe said many of the girls involved in the fatal accident attended Covington Catholic's prom just 10 days ago. Sister Bankemper said the girls will decide within the next few days whether or not they'll still hold their prom.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families during this most difficult time," said Rowe. "As a faith community, we hope that we can be of comfort during their time of need."

"We have a strong class," said Notre Dame Academy Senior Co-President Emily Cooney. "A really tight class. I think that this is really going to try our class, but we've already come together as a class. Everyone is together right now. We're going to get through this."

Sister Bankemper said it's a tough lesson to learn about life. Bankemper said we must all remember that the incident is a tragic accident involving eight, responsible, young ladies. Bankemper described a phone call she said one of the girls made to her parent.

"Their daughter called the night before and said 'Mom, you'd be so proud of us. We didn't break any rules. We were really well-behaved. We got the car checked. We got the tires checked,'" Bankemper said. "These are responsible young ladies."

Visitation will be held for Schaffstein on Wednesday from 3pm until 7:30p.m. and again on Thursday from 9:30a.m. until 11:30a.m. The funeral mass will follow. All will take place at St. Agnes church.

Sister Bankemper tells FOX19 that Schaffstein's parents have already set up a memorial scholarship so other girls can attend the school in Maria's memory.


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