Tracing its roots and excellent educational traditions to College of Notre Dame founded in San Jose in 1851. The school followed the European model: a day school for the poor and a boarding school, including a college that would help support the day school. Courses of study were developed to meet the needs of the girls whose backgrounds were Mexican, Dutch, Irish, French Canadian, and Native American. It became known as the "best school for ladies in the West."
Today, Notre Dame High School can boast about being both the oldest private high school for women in California, and having one of the newest school buildings. Manley Hall, a 34,000 square-foot classroom building opened in 2002, incorporates the latest facilities for science and technology education, as well as a large modern library and up-to-date classrooms.
"Teach them what they need to know for life," was the guiding force behind St. Julie Billiart when she founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1804. More than 200 years later, her words guide the mission of Notre Dame High School, San Jose. "What they need to know for life" has changed since the days when young women needed to learn fine sewing along with mathematics and literature. Today's young women in Silicon Valley students study a full college preparatory curriculum.
"What they need to know for life" also includes sensitivity to those in need. Whether it is serving a meal in a local homeless shelter, building a house in Tijuana, or participating in a funeral procession for those killed by soldiers and paramilitary police trained at the School of the Americas, students are prepared to be active, responsible members of society.
In 2019, Notre Dame San Jose earned the first College Board Advanced Placement Computer Science Female Diversity Award for achieving high female representation in AP Computer Science Principles. Only 3% of secondary schools worldwide that offer AP courses accomplish this.Schools honored with this award have expanded girls’ access in AP Computer Science courses.