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Articles > School Advancement Q&A > Diana Neustadt Q&A: Director of Student Activities at Mater Dei High School

Diana Neustadt Q&A: Director of Student Activities at Mater Dei High School

How this Californian Private School Navigated Events during a time of Social Distancing

1. What is your role at Mater Dei? What does a typical workday look like for you?

I am the Director of Student Activities (AKA Activities Director) for Mater Dei High School. A typical workday for my office and me varies. At times we work long hours to make sure our events are executed smoothly. Every day is a different day which keeps things fun and exciting. 

2. Due to COVID-19, how has Mater Dei adjusted their end-of-school-year activities? How did you make sure seniors were still staying engaged and recognized for their achievements?

Many of our year-end celebrations were cancelled or modified. While it was sad not to have year-end events such as our Senior Good-Bye Rally and Prom, we were able to still make sure we had other events. Many people came together to create our Senior Awards ceremony that was aired via Livestream. The video is still available for viewing. CLICK HERE to see the video. Our students who earned a GPA of 4.0 or higher were also awarded their 4.0 stoles in a special drive-through ceremony. CLICK HERE to see a highlight video of that event. All of our Seniors were also given a lawn sign that was delivered by a member of our faculty/staff. We have also offered several of our Masses in a Livestream / video format. As a private, Catholic school, we are centred around our faith and being able to offer our traditional religious celebrations is important. Our graduation ceremony is normally held at the UCI Bren Center. This year it was in the Mater Dei parking lot. To be able to offer an in-person graduation ceremony, the class had to be split into six different groups. Students were able to select one of the six ceremonies so they could be with their friends. They wore their graduation gowns, had their name announced, picked up a diploma cover, and had their pictures taken. Each student was able to have one car with their families inside to watch the event. It was like a drive-in theatre graduation. As a parent of one of this year’s grads, I was impressed with how beautiful the ceremony was and how the school handled the graduation ceremony.

3. What has been one of the most useful resources for staying engaged with your students?

For my department, social media played an important role in staying connected with our students. We used our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts to highlight students, promote voting, and advertise contests during #stayathome. For our ASB members, we also use an app called REMIND to stay in touch. Like many other schools, we also relied on Zoom for face to face conversations.

4. Have you been inspired by any of the actions other schools are taking? If so, could you name a few and why they resonated with you?

Yes, I look at other school’s social media sites and webpages to see what they are doing. One of our year-end traditions is to have a “transfer of power” from the outgoing ASB Officers to the new ones. This year our students created a TikTok video for this transfer. You can view it on our page. Facebook – Mater Dei ASB / MDASB, Instagram – MDASB, and Twitter - @mdhsASB. We also held an online election for Prom Court, Prom Queen, Prom King, and Senior Superlatives.

5. What do you think events will look like in the fall? What precautions will you take?

At this time we are unsure what events will look like in the fall. Our activities calendar is currently on hold as we are waiting to see what guidelines will be in place regarding large group events such as dances, sporting events, and even having students on campus. We will have to think outside the box to make sure we have events, celebrations, contests, keep our students engaged. With anything that we plan, the safety of our students and faculty & staff is our top priority.

6. What activities/events do you think are most important for a student's development?

As an Activities Director, I believe that social events are very important for student’s development. I also believe that travel, both domestically and internationally, is an important component to education. It is important for today’s students to be globally minded and one of the best ways to achieve this is through travel. Volunteering and service are important for our students because while you are helping others or supporting a cause important to you, you meet new friends, learn a new skill, and gain a sense of accomplishment and pride

7. Tell us a little bit about yourself! What do you do when you're not working?

My name is Diana Neustadt. I am the proud mom of two beautiful, amazing students who both graduated from Mater Dei High School. My son graduated in 2018 and my daughter graduated this year, in our COVID, social distancing graduation ceremony. In my free time, I enjoy taking walks with our dogs, baking and traveling.

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