Bishop Luers Student Gabby Durnell Earns Award

Bishop Luers Sophomore Gabby Durnell is thankful, and her grateful spirit permeates her commentary on high school life. Recently earning a $1000.00 award from the Institute for Quality Education for her essay submission to their “Voices for Choice” competition (the only student submission out of hundreds sent in), Gabby has good reason to be thankful, and her gratitude extends well beyond scholarship recognition or monetary awards. Gabby is passionate about the Indiana School Choice program, and what its availability for her family has meant for her high school education.

Gabby’s path to Bishop Luers began while she was still in middle school. She grew up in the Southwest Allen County Schools district, but sensed that, as high school approached, she needed a change, “I wanted a school that teaches Christian values, and pushed students academically and athletically. And I wanted greater diversity of all types- income levels, beliefs, backgrounds, ethnicity…a place where everyone doesn’t necessarily think the same way or come from the same type of background. I heard good things about Bishop Luers High School and started to check it out.”

Gabby’s parents were open to investigating Bishop Luers as well. Victoria Durnell recalls her husband, Jason, who grew up in Fort Wayne, telling her that Bishop Luers always had a very good reputation. Together with Gabby, the Durnells decided to visit the school. Victoria states, “I was impressed from the beginning- the class size, academics, teachers and staff impressed me. And everyone was so personable, you couldn’t help but feel warm and welcomed. Our top priority was putting Gabby where she would grow spiritually, academically, and athletically. We believed Bishop Luers would be a good fit.”

Gabby and her parents made their decision, and the enrollment process began. But shortly after, a roadblock presented itself. Gabby recalls the situation: “The pandemic came, and my mom lost her job. Now with only one income, my parents didn’t know how we could afford private school tuition. So, sadly, my parents made the decision they would call the Admissions Director and let her know I wouldn’t be coming.”

Victoria Durnell still remembers making that phone call to Admissions Director Jenny Andorfer, and how hard it was to say that Gabby wasn’t coming to Bishop Luers:

“I poured everything out in that phone call. It was so emotional for me. I kept saying we want her there, but I just don’t know how we can do this. And I didn’t want to take up a spot that could go to another student, so we decided to stop the enrollment process. Mrs. Andorfer just listened, then said to me ‘we can find a way to make this happen’, and she immediately jumped into action.”

Admissions Director Jenny Andorfer also recalls that same conversation with Victoria: “At the time, I told her we’d do everything we could to help them. I knew she truly believed this was the best place for Gabby, and we never want to turn a child away due to financial circumstances. I sat down with Tuition Manager Gretchen Steele, and we evaluated what financial aid the Durnells would be eligible for, including the choice scholarship. Victoria applied for everything that was available.”

Victoria was thrilled to find there were resources available to make Gabby’s dream of attending Bishop Luers a reality, stating that Mrs. Andorfer “forwarded information for different scholarships that could apply to Gabby, and she walked us through the Choice Scholarship process. After we applied for every option available, Gabby had enough scholarships and financial aid to enroll. The whole process renewed our faith in people, and their willingness to help. We had no doubt then, or now, that this was the kind of place we wanted Gabby to be.”

Thankful to begin her freshman year of high school at Bishop Luers, Gabby jumped right into student life. As a cheerleader and track athlete, Gabby quickly made her mark. But the biggest impact on Gabby came in a different way. She recalls, “I was most impacted by my religion class. I learned more about my faith and drew closer to God. I already considered myself a Christian but didn’t really know much about my faith, so my knowledge really grew as I learned so much in class. And our freshman retreat really impacted me- I saw how much everyone’s faith meant to them, and how much they cared about it. I decided I wanted to become Catholic myself so I could receive the Eucharist.”

Gabby believes faith is a key part of the “Luers Spirit” she loves, “I think “Luers Spirit” to me is always trying your best at everything you do, being kind to everyone and being devoted to your faith.” Victoria Durnell agrees, and states “The entire school community- staff, students, alumni, everybody! -is a big family. You can talk to anyone, and you feel accepted and welcomed. We are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this family and would encourage anyone looking for something different and special to consider Bishop Luers.”

Bishop Luers welcomes all families with any questions or concerns of any kind to reach out to the school. Jenny Andorfer’s message to the Durnell’s is the message she wants to share with every family: “I strongly encourage any family considering Bishop Luers to reach out to our office to have a conversation. We are happy to share information and point you in the right direction regardless of your financial situation. We will get you through the process. Call us! We can help you!”

Gabby, her parents, Principal Jim Huth and Admissions Director Jenny Andorfer will be traveling to attend a breakfast with Governor Holcomb and state legislature representatives in recognition of Gabby’s winning School Choice essay submission at the end of January. Now midway through her sophomore year, Gabby’s gratitude continues to grow for her opportunity to shine at Bishop Luers, and she feels strongly that other students should have the same opportunity: “I feel that all families should be able to attend the right school for them and their child. No one should be forced to be in a place where they cannot do their best, make friends and be accepted. Without school choice and scholarships, things would be a lot different for me. I am so thankful.”

Watch an interview with Gabby and her parents below, courtesy of WANE TV!