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Alumni Testimonials

Judith Kadjo-Gnambi

Class of 2020, Alumna - written in 2020

I have been very blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend St. Mary’s School. St. Mary’s has taught me educationally and spiritually. They have helped me strengthen my relationship with God and excel in my studies to prepare for high school. I have learned Algebra I, which has helped me tremendously when I took my placement exam to attend Duchesne Academy. Going to Mass each Wednesday is an amazing opportunity that I have experienced. The teachers have always wanted to help if I needed it in my studies and are very involved in our learning. All throughout the years, the teachers taught me how great our God is and how to have a better relationship with Him. I have also been introduced to service and helping the community, how to problem solve, and how to make hard decisions wisely. The teachers have been preparing me for the years to come and life in general.

Maria Connealy

Class of 2019, Alumna - written in 2019

My St. Mary’s school experience has been one of growth, ups and downs, successes and failures – but overall, it has prepared me for whatever life has in store. My teachers have done an outstanding job in preparing me for high school. My sports coaches have given me great experiences, and I’ve learned that staying positive and working hard pays off. One of the biggest treasures that I have received from St. Mary’s is the friendships. The kids in my class are not just classmates, we are friends and we care about each other. Even though many of us are going to different schools, we hope to remain friends as we move through our high school years.

Joe Dunham

Class of 2019, Alumnus - written in 2019

St. Mary’s School has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Before I was enrolled as a student, I would support my other family members, who have also graduated from St. Mary’s, by attending their volleyball and basketball games. I started at St. Mary’s School in Prekindergarten and I will be graduating from 8th grade this May. It has been ten years and I have so many memories and made so many friends at this school.


St. Mary’s has shaped me into the person that I have become today by providing me with an excellent education. Thanks to the support of my teachers and friends, I have been blessed enough to be rewarded academic honors on multiple occasions. St. Mary’s has also helped me to form my faith by teaching me about God, how to be a friend, how to share, and how to trust my peers. I believe that my experience at St. Mary’s has made me a well-rounded person and has provided me with the tools that I need to succeed in high school and college.

Raoul Djidjoho

Class of 2018, Alumnus - written in 2018

I have learned so much here at St. Mary’s! I can really see the growth in myself - from a first grader who knew barely any English, to an eighth grader who gets on the honor roll every quarter. My family and I don’t consider the people in our community as friends, they are truly our family. When we first came to the United States, we had no idea about the way the system in this country worked. We were newly arrived immigrants from Benin who only spoke French. We just decided to attend Mass at St. Mary’s, and people were so accepting of our family. They helped us transfer from public school to private school because they knew the importance of a Catholic education, and they helped us see that as well. I thank them for making that executive decision that has impacted my life for eight years.

Jack Nutter

Class of 2018, Alumnus - written in 2018

I’ve attended St. Mary’s School for almost nine years now. I am excited to move on to high school and a new atmosphere, but I will miss St. Mary’s and my experiences there. The St. Mary’s community is always there to help, and I will definitely miss that. Service has been a big part of my life for the past two years. I try to altar serve at Mass as much as possible, which is something I really enjoy. In doing this, I’m not only serving Father and the congregation, but I’m also paying service to God. I’ve attended St. Mary’s for over half of my life now, and I’ll never forget what it’s done for me.

Anisa Lucia

Class of 2018, Alumna - written in 2018

My reflection of the nine years I spent at St. Mary’s School is incredibly positive. I am very fortunate and blessed to have received a great education at St. Mary’s. Looking back, going to Mass every week has made an impact on my outlook on life. The “buddy” system was a brilliant way to provide older students a fun opportunity to be responsible and give back to the school. Over the years, I developed as a person in the amazing class I had grown up with. My work ethic will definitely pay off in the future, as I was taught vital skills at St. Mary’s.

Jaycee Billings

Class of 2016, Alumna - written in 2016

I think St. Mary’s has made me an all-around better person. I think, like many graduates would say, the Lincoln field in 4th grade was my favorite. Not only was it fun, but I learned facts that I can still name off the top of my head. Going to the Cathedral in 8th grade made such an impact on me. I felt great pride in my school and was very excited seeing my school’s banner in the procession. I really felt a part of something amazing. I will be honest and say that not every day at St. Mary’s was smooth. Dealing with the problems though, has helped me deal with problems outside of school and give advice to others who may be going through the same things I did.

Lia Reckmeyer

Class of 2015, Alumna - written in 2019

St. Mary’s provided me with a small educational atmosphere that encouraged community spirit. I felt as though I was strongly prepared for high school spiritually, academically, and socially. St. Mary’s has excellent teachers who are always willing to go the extra mile. I also felt as though I grew stronger in my faith through the staff’s teaching and my participation in religious programs and service opportunities such as prayer services, food drives, and baby drives for the Essential Pregnancy Services across the street. St. Mary’s instilled in me a respect for life at all stages. This is a very important issue in my life and I keep this faith strong in me, thanks to St. Mary’s.

Macey McGargill

Class of 2015, Alumna - written in 2019

Over ten years of my life were in the halls of St. Mary’s. That’s one hundred twenty months, five hundred twenty two weeks, and three thousand six hundred fifty days. From excitedly entering Preschool on the first day to shedding what felt like millions of tears on graduation day, going to St. Mary’s had taken me in and formed me into a confident, Catholic woman. St. Mary’s has always felt like a second home to me. My grandma and aunt have worked there, the class size is ideal for an intimate learning community, and the teachers feel more like friends. I volunteer at St. Mary’s occasionally and every time I do, I remember walking down those halls with bright eyes looking toward my unknown future. Now, I am the future and I know that little girl in green and blue would be proud of who she became.

2015 Alumni Quotes

How has St. Mary's helped you prepare for your future?

"By growing stronger in my Catholic faith." Callie Billings, Class of 2015, Alumna
"It has challenged me to always do better." Macey McGargill, Class of 2015, Alumna
"St. Mary's has prepared me for my future with all the classes and helping me realize how hard I need to work to achieve my goals." Therese Ruff, Class of 2015, Alumna
"The classes over the years have strengthened my Catholic Faith. That is something I have for the future." Annika Sjostedt, Class of 2015, Alumna
"It's prepared me by giving me confidence." Nicholas Summers, Class of 2015, Alumnus
"It strengthened me in my spirit. I've formed bonds with some people that I can talk to for advice. It challenged me academically." Ethan Yale, Class of 2015, Alumnus

Lauren Traggiai

Class of 2013, Alumna - written in 2020

I attended St. Mary’s school for the grades PreK-8th. I started in 2003 and graduated in 2013. Then, I moved onto Mercy High School for the next four years and graduated as a senior in 2017. Almost immediately after my graduation, I heard of the opening position at St. Mary’s as a Teacher’s Assistant. I was so excited and applied right away! My mom, Lora Traggiai, actually worked at St. Mary’s in this very position from 2003 to 2016. Being just 17 years old at the time, I was a bit worried about potentially having a full time job going into my first year of college. However, I just knew this was the job for me and I was lucky enough to have the administration agree with me on that! I started as a student at Metropolitan Community College and working as a Teacher’s Assistant in 2017. Sadly, 2020 will be my last year working full time. I am hoping to stick around working in Extended Day and as an Assistant filling in when I can for the years to come. I am leaving to finish getting my teaching degree in Elementary Education at the College of St. Mary's.

I wholeheartedly believe that St. Mary’s shaped me into the woman I am today. The teachers and staff, the students, the community, and the faith life were all so influential for me. Growing in maturity and faith with many of the same kids from PreK to 8th formed some of the strongest bonds. I still talk regularly with quite a few of my former classmates from seven years ago! The teachers and staff were always so amazing. I often think back on many of the fun projects and activities that we got to do. I could tell St. Mary’s prepared me very well for going into high school. All in all, I wouldn’t trade my years at St. Mary’s School for anything, including both my years as a student and an employee! 

 
 

Missy Walther

Class of 2012, Alumna - written in 2016

St. Mary’s to me was a place where I could learn and have fun at the same time. The teachers are friendly and they know their students well. There are many extracurricular activities to enjoy that make school fun. Every day I found myself looking forward to something. All the students were friends with each other and it makes school so much more exciting. St. Mary’s to me is the best place to be. I wouldn’t have wanted to go to any other school. I am convinced that my wonderful years with the teachers, staff, and faith community at St. Mary's Bellevue Catholic Church and School, and my intense faith, love and trust in Jesus Christ have prepared me well for a bright future. Thank You!

Rebekah Menzel

Class of 2007, Alumna - written in 2011

Having attended St. Mary's School from PreK all the way through 8th grade, I just took it for granted that everyone had an education like this. Some of my fondest memories of St. Mary's focus on the Advent and Lenten Prayer Services, and the times that the entire school was gathered for Mass. Stepping in to Mercy High School, I felt well-prepared to handle the expectations academically; and I know that the encouragement I received from so many teachers in grade school to really live out my faith fanned my desire to serve others. As I enter my freshman year at Benedictine College, I look back and realize that what I learned at St. Mary's has formed my foundation of faith, creativity, and a deep desire to learn more about our global community

2015 Update 

Hi there! I was talking with my mom the other day about the importance of community in my life. We discussed the different milestones in my life over the last 20 years - most recently, graduating from Benedictine College this past Spring 2015, before that from Mercy High School in 2011, and the start of it all: St. Mary's School in 2007. Since then, I've been reflecting on how St. Mary's School helped to form the woman I am today. It is as if St. Mary's set the standard for how I view learning communities. Now, as a first year teacher at Christ the King (K-8 Art) I can't tell you how many times I think to myself, "Okay, how would Mrs. Schutt have solved this problem?" As I enter into my career as an educator, I look to all of my Pre-K-8th grade teachers as role models. Their camaraderie, dedication, and passion for education has stuck with me through the years, and now inspires me to become a teacher my own that St. Mary's School teachers would be proud of. 

Scott Steele

Class of 2006, Alumnus - written in 2012

Through my time at St. Mary’s, I was able to enjoy firsthand what it feels like to be part of a school that feels like a second home. I was challenged academically and forced to take a greater responsibility for my actions. I am proud to say that I am the person I am today through my years there. And while I may still face challenges in my life, I know that in order to overcome I simply need to look back on what I learned at St. Mary’s and trust that God is watching over me. 

Ben Petr

Class of 2006, Alumnus - written in 2011

I attended St. Mary's school from Kindergarten through 8th Grade and enjoyed every moment of it! The teachers I had were smart, kind, and helpful and did everything they could to help students learn and have fun simultaneously. I created friendships that have lasted as I have gotten older. The things I learned, both from books and experiences, have prepared me for the challenges ahead of me. I graduated as valedictorian of my 2010 class from Bellevue East High School and am currently attending college at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - a Jesuit institution that is one of the top 100 schools in the nation and now have an amazing internship with Northwestern Mutual. I can attribute these accomplishments to the things I learned while I attended St. Mary's. St. Mary's gave me the strong basis I needed to have to start high school right, so I could be valedictorian. I choose the Jesuit institution because of the amazing education, both spiritually and academically, I had received at St. Mary's and I wanted to continue that style of learning. St. Mary's provided the basis I needed to succeed in all the things I have achieved to this point and I thank the school and my teachers greatly for helping me strive to be excellent.

 

Aaron Menzel

Class of 2005, Alumnus - written in 2016

Saint Mary's truly set me up for success. By offering me such a personalized education, I always felt at home in the classroom. Each and every teacher knew my strengths and weaknesses, and challenged me daily to improve. Additionally, Saint Mary's taught me to tolerant of all beliefs--religious or otherwise--a skill which I value above all else.

Hannah Menzel Clark

Class of 2002, Alumna - written in 2011

My education at St. Mary's School has been invaluable to me! Not only did it prepare me educationally for success at Mercy High School, but it also set the foundation for a strong and deep appreciation of my Catholic faith. Now as a Catholic school teacher myself, I am honored to be able to share my faith with my own students. I owe so much to the administration, faculty and staff of St. Mary's. I feel very blessed and honored to call myself a graduate of such a wonderful school!

 

2015 Update

Hannah (Menzel) Clark, class of '02 and her husband John just welcomed their 3rd child, Elijah, November 17, 2015. They have two other children, Gabriel who is 3 years old and Caroline (Carlie) who is 22 months old. Hannah attended St. Mary's School from Pre-K through 8th grade, and graduated in 2002. She went on to attend Mercy High School in Omaha and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. There, she majored in Special Education and Elementary Education, and attributes her love of learning to several teachers from St. Mary's. She's taught in 8th grade and 4th grade at Catholic Schools in Missouri, and Special Education for Bellevue Public Schools. Hannah says, "The faith community of St. Mary's Church and School have been such an integral part of my life. Now, I am raising my own family in the Parish and am so excited to send my children to St. Mary's School!"

Natalie (Targy) Kamtz

Class of 1999, Alumna - written in 2013

We had such wonderful teachers at St. Mary's. I had so much fun dissecting all kinds of cool animals. It was so wonderful to be able to explore the sciences and it certainly became a passion of mine that feeds what I do currently.

Although I didn't appreciate it as much I should have then, I now very much appreciate a Catholic environment and curriculum in school. It's so important for kids to be surrounded with the Church's teachings and to understand the importance of Christ's love in every aspect of our lives, including our education."

Mary Ellen Reckmeyer

Alumna, Parent, and Previous St. Mary's School Teacher - written in 2014

My family has a long association with St. Mary's Grade School. My parents were lifelong members of the parish and were committed to their five children attending the parish school. This wasn't an easy commitment, as we were a modest one-income family and we lived farther from the school than many students. I've always appreciated the sacrifices they made to provide us with a quality Catholic education. All five of us went on to achieve success in high school, college, and our professions. Now, my husband and I have made the same commitment: our son graduated from St. Mary's and our daughter currently attends. There are still sacrifices, both financial and in terms of volunteer time and effort, and we live a longer distance from the school. But we feel these sacrifices are worth the same quality Catholic school education that my siblings and I received when my parents chose to send us to St. Mary's in Bellevue.

Charmaine Ortega

Yvonne C. (Charmaine) Ortega, M.D., Alumna - written in 2014

I remember the first day of school years ago at St. Mary's. We had moved from Massachusetts so my Dad could work with SAC HQ and all I could think of was how many "bugs" there were in this foreign state called Nebraska! We arrived in the middle of summer and boy was it HOT compared to New England!

I walked into 3rd grade that fall and my teacher was Sr. Rose Ann. She had the sweetest face I had ever seen, so serene and gentle, and she really made me feel at home. It wasn't long until St. Mary's was my permanent school "home." We had that huge playground and daily Mass with Fr. Krejci and Fr. Garvey. I especially remember our trips to the library where I would read books and dream about Fr. Damien on the island of Molokai and Fr. John Bosco from Italy. I also would read stories about a young boy growing up on the Yangtze River in China and his interaction with the priest missionaries there. And I could never forget the wonderful annual Columban Fathers festival fundraisers that we would participate and volunteer for!

But my 7th grade Biology class made the biggest impression, especially when we dissected frogs. I knew right then and there that I was going to be a white lab-coated scientist working in some form of biology lab. However, God had different plans for me, still white lab-coated but working as a physician with people instead of frogs!

I developed a strong basic belief in God and my faith at St. Mary's, and I credit it for giving me the blessing of having very few doubts in my faith. I had my rebellious years, but I have never doubted God's existence or even His love. This faith has helped me weather my own storms of self-doubt, personal tragedies, and even witnessing the life and death of my nephew Michael as he so bravely fought cancer. I remember walking into Mass as a child and seeing the men and women sitting on the side in perpetual adoration. I remember deciding then and there that when I grew up, I wanted to be one of them. To this day, I am in a parish with perpetual adoration that I participate in.

Every day that I walk into the ER for duty; I pray. This habit was developed from my many years in Catholic grade school (St. Mary's), high school (Mercy High), and college (University of Notre Dame). I know that much of my inspiration and intuition in caring for my patients comes from God. He guides my hands and my heart and heals me of the pain and weariness that I carry from my patients on my drive home.

And as for my fascination of foreign lands learned in St. Mary's library, I travel extensively, and do mission work in Africa and Haiti and fly around the world in international critical care transport. God does bless us in the littlest details of our lives! And it all came from St. Mary's Grade School in Bellevue, Nebraska! 

Christina Legner

Class of 1991 Alumna, St. Mary's Parent - written in 2014

As both an alumna and a parent of children who currently attend St. Mary’s School, I can attest to the gem that it is. 

As a graduate, I was able to assimilate into public high school culture, participate in various sports & clubs, and excel scholastically. The work ethic I developed at St. Mary’s and the confidence in my capabilities that I built there helped me become valedictorian of my Bellevue East class. I earned several scholarships to various universities, including a 4-year full ride Regent’s Scholarship to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. I ultimately decided to take advantage of a scholarship to the University of Norte Dame, where I majored in Psychology, minored in Computer Applications, and graduated with honors. I had a few offers from Fortune 500 companies and accepted one of them. After a couple of years I left that opportunity for another, also a Fortune 500 company.

As a parent, I see in my children what I came to recognize and value in myself - that attending a Catholic elementary school allows them to learn about their faith, live their faith, and grow in their faith as part of their full, normal day. It isn’t compartmentalized. It’s not just something they do once or twice a week. It isn’t an “activity” like all the others fighting for space on the family calendar. It’s an umbrella over everything that they do. Faith formation and religious education begin at home, but it’s such a blessing that when they leave our door and pass through the one at school, what we teach and value is also being taught and valued by the wonderfully talented staff at St. Mary’s. 

While there are larger budgets elsewhere that allow for brand new this and brand new that, I take a step back and ask myself what “this” is all for? What are we working toward and is where my kids attend school helping them in that pursuit? Of course I want them to be successful (which can be defined so differently in our society), but what I really want is for them to be responsible, honest, caring, hard working, and selfless. I want them to contribute to their community. I want them to make the world a bit better than they found it. I want them to, in the words of Gandhi, “Be the change they wish to see in the world.” I am so thankful that my husband and I have a partner in St. Mary’s School, to help what we want for our children become a reality. 

St Mary's Information

St. Mary's Catholic School is a Pre-Kindergarten through Eighth Grade School of the Archdiocese of Omaha. Our mission is to provide a Catholic education that nurtures students' hearts and minds to become servant leaders in an ever-changing world.

Our philosophy of education is to offer a five-day program to assist families in teaching those truths, skills, and ideals, which are necessary for Christian living. We believe that education must develop the faculties and abilities of the whole child: spiritually, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. To help achieve this, our faculty and staff are an integral part of the formation of Christian community and dedicate themselves to the task of developing Christian citizens.

 

 


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