“Where’d ya go to school?”

Growing up in the New Orleans area and getting a job here after college, it never occurred to me that the answer to unnamed (3)that question would not be “Archbishop Chapelle High School.” After all, that is where I went to school and that is the answer that mattered, right? Not until I started interacting with non-native New Orleanians did I realize how unique it was that everyone was so fixated on where we went to high school and even sometimes elementary school as opposed to college.

Now I am a mom and my husband and I are about to make what are turning out to be some really hard decisions about where to send our oldest to school. Funny thing is, no matter what school we start talking about, the conversation usually ends up about chatting about where we think our now 2 ½ year-old son will go to high school.  Ok, so maybe we are complicating things a little more than necessary, but he’s going to have to answer that “where’d ya go to school?” question one day!

As you, like us, go through that school selection, here are a few helpful tips for making sure your child can proudly answer “where’d ya go to school?” later in life:

  • Make a list of the things that are important to you for your child – spiritual growth, religious instruction, academic rigor, arts education, sports, etc. – to see what school best matches your values.
  • Visit all the potential campuses for their Open Houses but also during the school day so you can really get a feel for the environment your child will become part of in that school. Most elementary and high schools offer individual tours or even spend the day programs just for this reason.
  • Talk to parents who have a child or children in the school you are considering, but be sure to talk to more than one set! You want to get a broad spectrum of viewpoints about the school and its faculty and do not want to let one family’s negative experience jade your perception.
  • Decide what kind of time and financial sacrifices you are willing to make for your child’s education. For example, are you willing to drive across town or across a large body of water to get to school? How much tuition can you afford?
  • Finally, do not be afraid to ask questions!  This is your child we are talking about so you have the right to be as informed as you want!

The New Orleans area is experiencing an educational renaissance right now. Catholic schools are building on their unnamed (1)traditions of formation and academic rigor while public schools undergo reforms and changes giving parents more options to choose from based on what they think will be best for their child.

My parents sacrificed a lot to send all five of us (3 girls and 2 boys) to Catholic school.  It is something I am very grateful for and proud of. I hope one day my children look back on my husband and I’s decisions for them with the same sense of gratitude and pride!

So tell me, where’d ya go to school!?!

A special thank you to the Archdiocese of New Orleans for sponsoring this fun one day series “Where’d ya go to school?” to open the conversation about school choice and tradition here in New Orleans.

Sarah McDonald

Sarah McDonaldSarah McDonald is Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, but more importantly she is wife to David and mom to Nathan, Eloise and baby blessing #3 due June 1, 2014. A native of the New Orleans area, Sarah went to Ascension of Our Lord in LaPlace, Archbishop Chapelle High School in Metairie and University of Louisiana Lafayette.


  1. Great post! Before my husband and I moved to the northshore, this question bore so much more weight. Now on the northshore we are still debating parochial vs. public. We live in one of the best public school districts so that choice is proving difficult. I grew up in Nola and went to Dominican. I have two boys and I know where I would want them to go if we were still in NOLA. If I ever have a daughter, I think I would treck it across the lake everyday for her to experience Dominican. It was some of the best years of my life and some of my closest friends were my classmates.

  2. Hail Dominican!

    And yes it is a weird microcosm, that I have not found anywhere else in the US. Unless you go to one of LA. SEC rivals, it really IS more important where you went to HS!

    In many ways I’m glad we’re out of the immediate area, so we dont have that issue for our daughter!


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