Notre Dame Academy graduates remember classmate killed in crash - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Notre Dame Academy graduates remember classmate killed in crash

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19)  - Notre Dame Academy seniors graduated on Friday night without two of their classmates. Both students were in a tragic car crash that happened over spring break: Jessie Russo and Maria Schaffstein. Russo is still in the hospital, but Schaffstein lost her life.

"It's a bittersweet moment knowing that one student isn't with us," said Sister Shauna Bankemper, president of Notre Dame Academy.

The two students missing from tonight's big moment; their big moment. It's one that Sister Bankemper said the girls have worked for all of their lives.

At the ceremony, each graduate carried one white rose for the one who would never walk across the stage.

"Normally we carry six red roses," said Sister Bankemper. "This year they're carrying five red roses and one white rose to remember Maria."

Students, administrators, family and friends all filled the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington for the ceremony. The 135 soon to be graduates then took two moments of silence for Schaffstein and Russo.

Both girls were involved in a car crash over spring break with six other classmates. Russo is still recovering at a rehabilitation center in Atlanta. She watched the ceremony online.

"We're waiting for her to recuperate, but she'll always be a part of the class of 2010," said Sister Bankemper.

Sadly, Schaffstein lost her life in that crash.

"She has graduated to eternal life," said sister Bankemper.

Still, administrators said they hope Friday's ceremony will help heal wounds and provide new, beautiful memories to help close this chapter in her girls' lives.

"This is a graduation of 137 young women who have given much of their time, their energy of their education at Notre Dame Academy so we want this to be a celebration for them as well," said Sister Bankemper.

The scholarship fund that Maria's parents set up continues to grow. Her parents hope to award the first scholarship this fall. It'll help a deserving young lady attend Notre Dame Academy.


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