Education for Justice & Leadership

Strategic Vision

Notre Dame High School in San Jose provides a distinctive educational program that forms students in a women-centric environment to become compassionate and socially just leaders.

Molded within a comprehensive and integrated program based on themes of spirituality, social justice, global perspectives, and leadership, graduates will become the women of vision and service they study as freshmen. Guided by gospel imperatives, Catholic social teachings, and the Hallmarks of a Notre Dame de Namur Learning Community, the program will define the Notre Dame student and the educational program. This goal calls for the deeper alignment of program outcomes to mission, the exploration of distinctive Notre Dame components, and the infrastructure necessary to build that program.


Education for Justice and Leadership aligns with Notre Dame High School’s mission and strengthens its Catholic identity.  Our commitment to a culture for Education for Justice and Leadership advances the Notre Dame Graduation Outcomes (lifelong learners, spiritual seekers, justice advocates, and community leaders) and deepens the experience of the Hallmarks of a Notre Dame Learning Community through curriculum and programs guided by gospel values and Catholic social teaching.

Core Concepts

Education for Justice and Leadership is defined by four core concepts that are developed across 9th-12th grades. These concepts are: 

  • Personal Engagement and Responsibility (Empowerment): of self, others, community, gifts, talents, skills, interests, integrity, action
    Definition: Each student is called to participate in her own growth and in the building of her   community by utilizing her gifts, talents, skills and interests. Her participation and engagement reflects her developing responsibility for herself and her community as a person of learning, spirituality, justice and leadership.
  • Stewardship: responsibility for Reign of God (experience of love, justice, peace), universe of obligation, care for self, others, community, creation, as a reflection of God, collective responsibility, public good, common good
    Definition: Each student is called to lovingly care for herself, her community and all of creation.   In acts of service, she demonstrates her response to the needs of the world as a person of learning, spirituality, justice and leadership.
  • Solidarity: standing with someone in an effort to understand and be present to their experience, relationships offer deeper understanding of self, others, God, collective good, human rights, human dignity, and compassion
    Definition: Each student is called to be present to the life, experience, and needs of others, especially those in the most vulnerable places. In these moments of solidarity, she offers loving   companionship and demonstrates her commitment to the common good as a person of learning, spirituality, justice and leadership.
  • Advocacy: speaking and working for sustainable, long term social, environmental, political change by raising public awareness through grassroots/community organizing and, ultimately leading to policy change
    Definition: Each student is called to speak and work for social, ecological, sustainable, and just change.  In these moments of advocacy, she gives voice to the voiceless as a person of learning, spirituality, justice and leadership.

The working definitions for these concepts are consistent across both curricular and co-curricular programs.

Grade Level Themes

9th grade:  Individual and Responsibility - Students are introduced to the Education for Justice and Leadership core concepts through an examination of individual lives and their actions, discerning how they impact the local and global community. They begin to formulate their sense of self and voice as they engage in project-based activities in the humanities, math and science. Service activities focus on the needs of women and children and the issues of the urban community in which they live. The culminating 9th grade experience is the Women’s Place Project

10th grade: Community and Responsibility - Using concepts like we/they; Bystander/Upstander; and Universe of Obligation, students begin to develop their understanding of how individual and group identity is constructed, as well as a sense of responsibility for their community. 10th grade students step up to serve the Notre Dame community and gain confidence in their leadership roles on campus. In the larger community, they serve the marginalized populations such as the immigrant and refugee communities; the differently abled; and the elderly.

11th grade:  Community Standing Up - Students are called to apply Catholic Social Teachings and concepts of race and membership as they consider local and national issues of concern in their curricular and community service learning. Additionally, eleventh grade students discern their own emerging interests as they pursue leadership opportunities that utilize their skills and gifts in partnership with campus and community organizations.

12th grade: Individual Stepping Out - Integrating what has been learned throughout their 4 years, students become advocates for an issue that speaks to their interests and talents. Through their Senior Service Learning Project they identify a problem, design an action, advocate for larger societal impact, and reflect on their results. As young women of service and impact they take their place in the community, standing with and speaking for the disaffected and marginalized.