Saint Viator News

Delivering the latest news from Saint Viator High School.

Junior and Senior Querbes Scholars Take a Different Look at Hamlet

IMG_3306As one of the many enrichment opportunities for Querbes Scholars, junior and senior members traveled last month to see the Tony Award-winning comedy, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” at the Metropolis Performing Arts Center in Arlington Heights.

Although Tom Stoddard’s comedy is somewhat little known to modern audiences, it debuted on Broadway 50 years ago and one year later, in 1968, won the Tony Award for best play.

Essentially, the play reinterprets Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” from the point of view of two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who find themselves suddenly thrust into the limelight.

The play has been compared to Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” with its two central characters questioning and waiting for something, in this case, the chance to play central figures in “Hamlet.”

IMG_3308Its witty wordplay is so fast moving and the underlying themes so rich, that Querbes Scholars attended a workshop led by Mr. Chris Paolelli, AP Language, and Composition teacher.

Combine the theater trip with an opening dinner at Armand’s Pizzeria in Arlington Heights, and it made for a satisfying evening for students and their moderators, Mrs. Cate Majka, Mrs. Julie Reedy, Mr. Patrick Neville—all moderators of the Querbes Scholars Program—and Mr. Paolelli.

“It was an excellent opportunity to witness a fast-paced, witty and thought-provoking play,” said Patrick Harris ’17, “that proved to be not only entertaining but applicable to our course work.”

His classmate, Stephen Hannon, agreed, though he admitted he had no idea what to expect, knowing it was meant to be an absurdist play.

IMG_3316 (1)“I enjoyed how carefully it was written,” Stephen said. “It seamlessly blended Shakespearean wordplay with modern references and vernacular.”

The Fr. Louis Querbes Scholars’ Program debuted in 2010 and was designed to challenge and enlighten highly motivated students. The program combines rigorous curriculum opportunities with activities that go beyond the classroom walls and are intended to foster personal growth, intellectual independence, and faith enrichment.

Service Snapshot: Holly Westerkamp ’17

Holly Westerkamp '17.

Holly Westerkamp ’17.

As a setter on the girls’ volleyball team, Holly Westerkamp ’17 helped the team advance to their second consecutive regional title last fall and ultimately to the sectional semifinals.

But what really drives Holly is volunteering, and specifically at the Society for the Preservation of Human Dignity, or PHD, in Palatine. The nearly 50-year old agency helps women facing the issues of pregnancy and parenting.

“Our vision is to be a compassionate community,” its mission statement reads, “where dignity is preserved, hope is restored, and lives are empowered and protected — one woman, one child, one family at a time.”

Holly has volunteered there for the last four years, but over the last two, she has found her niche serving in the Baby Closet. There, she works directly with families, supplying them with everything from diapers and clothes to baby food.

“My passion is to serve people one-on-one and face-to-face,” Holly says. “I enjoy seeing the immediate effects of service and I love to interact and smile with those I help each week.”

Holly is just one example of how Saint Viator helps develop students into people of compassion and knowledge, who are committed to justice and called by God to serve others.

“What I find rewarding are the little things that occur each week,” Holly says. “Whether it is getting to know a co-worker better, educating a mother on the necessity of certain baby foods, or laughing at a small child’s giggle. I always leave PHD with my heart feeling a little warmer.”

As for any advice, she would offer to students looking for service opportunities: “Love what you do. Volunteering can sometimes seem like just another requirement, but in reality, it can be one of the greatest opportunities ever.”

Saint Viator High School Names New Principal

Brian Liedlich, Saint Viator President, Karen Love, and Rev. Dan Hall, CSV, Vice President for Viatorian Identity and Mission.

Saint Viator President Brian Liedlich, the newly appointed principal, effective July 1, Karen Love, and Rev. Dan Hall, CSV, Vice President for Viatorian Identity and Mission.

A career educator, who has spent nearly 20 years in Catholic education, including the last five years as assistant principal for instruction at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, was named the new principal of Saint Viator High School.

Saint Viator President Brian Liedlich introduced Mrs. Karen Love to faculty and staff members during a meeting on Tuesday, and afterward, they lined up to meet her.

“I was encouraged by our Board of Governors and Board of Trustees to look for candidates who could bring strong leadership skills and new perspectives to this role,” Liedlich said, “and who could particularly help with the recommendations coming out of our strategic planning process.

“I believe we have found a candidate,” he added, “that more than checks all these boxes.”

Before serving at Loyola Academy, Love spent 14 years at Jesuit High School in Portland, OR, where she began as a math teacher but moved into administration, serving as director of adult spiritual formation and later as director of professional development.

In addressing the faculty, Love said she was “humbled to serve” and she looked forward to joining the Saint Viator community.

“During the interview process, I was impressed with Saint Viator’s focus on academic excellence, your scholars’ program and the number of international students, as well as the leverage of technology in the classroom as an Apple Distinguished School,” Love said. “And I learned of Saint Viator’s strong reputation in the community.”

Liedlich led a nine-member search committee who extended their search nationally for a new principal. The group included Mrs. Eileen Manno, who announced her retirement this year after a 35-year career at Saint Viator, including the last 13 as principal.

Committee members said they sought an experienced educator and administrator, who was faith-filled and would be a strong partner in creating and articulating the vision of Saint Viator High School.

“She encourages new ideas and thought,” Liedlich said, “and has demonstrated strong skills in planning and implementing new initiatives—that will serve us well going forward.”

Alumni Ambassador Q&A: John Kenney ’83

John is class of 1983. His daughter is Caitlin Kenney class of 2018, Son William Kenney, wife Danielle.

John Kenney ’83 with his son, William, daughter, Caitlin ’18, and wife, Danielle.

What are you doing professionally?
I am the Vice President of Design and Construction for a real estate firm. My territory includes Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Did Saint Viator/Sacred Heart have any impact on your career choice or success you have had?
Not really, though the skills and reinforcement of independence clearly contributed to my success.

What are some of your favorite memories from high school?
Father Perham, Brother (Father now) Hall, and hanging out with friends for a lifetime.

Did any teachers have a positive influence on your life?
Yes, all of them in their different ways. Rita King challenged my view on religion while others pushed their core areas of study. Constant through all was the need for hard work.

Have you stayed close to any friends from high school?
Yes, many.

What advice would you give to current students?
Try to concentrate on the positives and ignore the negatives. You can always find fault with something, but if you find the good in something you will be more apt to enjoy it and want to be a part of it.

What would you say to parents who are considering sending the children to Saint Viator?
Saint Viator is an investment in not only education but life skills that will stay with your child far past college.

What team, group, club or organization was important to you in high school?
Football, swimming, and basketball (though I didn’t play basketball).

Why have you decided to take on the role of Alumni Ambassador?
My hope is to give back, even if it is a small contribution, I hope it helps the greater picture.

Three Seniors Named National Merit Finalists


Zachary Jones ’17.

It’s official. Saint Viator High School announced earlier this month that seniors Zachary Jones of Des Plaines, and Grace Nessen-Gilligan and Kaitlyn Solarz, both of Arlington Heights, have joined an elite group: They were named National Merit finalists based on their preliminary SAT scores taken in 2015.

Back in September, the three were named National Merit semi-finalists, but advancing to the final round required, even more, rigor. Students had to submit a record of their high academic performance, as well as SAT scores that confirmed their PSAT scores from sophomore year.

Grace Nessen-

Grace Nessen-Gilligan ’17.

They also had to complete a detailed scholarship application, with an essay and expanded information about activities, volunteer service, leadership positions, awards, and employment.

Finally, a school official had to write a recommendation about the character of these finalists.

Saint Viator Principal Eileen Manno said these students excel in and out of the classroom and have scored well on their pre-college testing in part because of their rigorous course work pursued at Saint Viator.

For starters, she points to the school’s commitment to its expanded Advanced Placement class offerings, equally focusing on content and skill development.

Solarz '17.

Kaitlyn Solarz ’17.

“The rigorous course of study offered to our students helps boost their performance on tests,” Mrs. Manno added.

In all, Saint Viator had 12 seniors recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program, including these nine commended scholars: Isabella Brown, Stephen Hannon and Patrick Harris, all of Palatine; Anthony Graffia of East Dundee, Alexander Horne of Buffalo Grove, Drew Morton and Paulina Piwowarczyk, both of Arlington Heights; Bryan Rapala of West Dundee and Alexandra Recht of Des Plaines.

Officials with the National Merit Scholarship Program said that the finalist pool represents the highest scoring entrants in each state or less than one percent of high school seniors.

Across the country, 15,000 National Merit finalists were announced this month—down from the original 1.5 million high school sophomores who took the SAT—and from this group, 7,600 National Merit Scholars will be chosen and awarded scholarships.

There are three types of scholarships awarded through the National Merit Scholarship Program:

  • National Merit® $2500 Scholarships
  • Corporate-sponsored scholarships
  • College-sponsored scholarships


Junior Swimmer Wins State Title


Michael Balcerak ’18.

Michael Balcerak ’18 gave himself a well-deserved day off from swimming on Monday—two days after winning the championship in the 100-yard freestyle at the IHSA boys swimming state finals at New Trier High School in Winnetka.

But come Tuesday, he’ll be back in the pool training for this weekend’s senior championships hosted by Illinois Swimming.

For now though, he is letting his state title sink in.

“It’s been a lifelong dream,” Michael said. “Ever since I started high school, I wanted to win state.”

Growing up, he watched from the deck while his older brother, Nick Balcerak ’08, swam and played water polo at Saint Viator. Now, their roles are reversed, with Nick watching from the sidelines as Michael continues to win titles and break records—most recently, he broke a pair of school records and a pool record at a dual meet in December.

Balcerak 2

Michael Balcerak ’18 with his coach, Sam Wilcher.

Michael swims year-round in the Saint Viator pool, with the Lions in the winter and with the Alligators Aquatics swim club in the off-season. Sam Wilcher, a former collegiate swimmer at Purdue and three-time Olympic qualifier coaches him on both teams. They even train together and their trust in one another has paid big dividends.

It was freshman year that Michael first qualified for state—in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle events—and he was the only freshman in the finals of the 200.

“I was blown away by the competition,” Michael says. “From that moment I knew that I wanted to come back and win a state title.”

At the state finals, he barely missed winning the title in the 200-freestyle event, placing third, but he found his groove in the 100 later in the event. Michael came in with a state-winning time of 45.12, narrowly eclipsing the second place swimmer, Stevenson sophomore Topher Stensby by two one-hundredths of a second.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “When I looked at the scoreboard and saw No. 1 by my name, I pumped my fist into the air. I did it.”

BalcerakHe had to pull from behind to do it. After the first two lengths, he was in fifth place and coming off the wall into the home stretch, he took one last breath and swam the last lap without taking a breath.

“If I hadn’t kept my head down, I would have lost,” he says. “I just went for it.”

Michael is a nationally-ranked swimmer in his age group and he dreams of qualifying for the Olympic trials in 2020. But first things first. He has the senior championships this weekend, and possibly a national competition, including Junior Nationals after that.

As for his senior season next year, he intends to get back to state—and win back to back championships. You just have to go for it, he says with a smile.

Junior Point Guard Advances Down State in Elite Three-Point Shooting Contest


Olivia Solimene ’18 and Myia Clark ’18.

Saint Viator’s girls’ basketball team may have bowed out in the Class 3A Johnsburg sectional championship game last week, but at least one of its players is headed down state this weekend—on the strength of her three-point shooting.

Starting point guard, Olivia Solimene ’18, emerged as the top three-point shooter after making 10 out of 15 three-pointers, or 67 percent, at the Class 3A Johnsburg sectional final. Olivia now will represent Saint Viator as she heads downstate on Thursday, to the IHSA Three-Point Showdown state championship in Bloomington.

Assistant Coach Maggie Miskowicz says Olivia was a team captain and she worked hard in the off-season, which was reflected in her play this season.

“She was more confident in her shot, especially from behind the arc,” Coach Miskowicz said. “Making 10-for-15 in the competition is phenomenal. You definitely don’t see that very often.”

Last week, both Olivia and her teammate, Myia Clark ’18 were part of a narrow field made up of the top sixteen three-point shooters from the four regional sites – Vernon Hills, Resurrection, Richmond-Burton, and Northside.


Olivia Solimene ’18, Myia Clark ’18, Maddie Fitzpatrick ’18 and Katherine Schade ’18.

Myia converted six out of her 15 shots, or 40 percent, but she was unable to punch a return ticket to the Three-Point Showdown, after representing Saint Viator there last year.

However, she remains an elite player. She became just the fifth Lady Lion to reach 1,000 points this season, and once again she helped lead her team to the sectional final. Beyond the regional title and sectional championship game, Myia also earned a place on the ESCC all-conference team.

The road to the state championship started Feb. 18, when Saint Viator sent Myia and Olivia, as well as Maddie Fitzpatrick ’18, and Katherine Schade ’18 to go against the best three-point shooters in the 3A Vernon Hills Regional. They were part of 1,000 shooters overall at the Class 3A regional level to compete, before the field began to narrow.


Saint Viator’s Science Club: One of the Movers and Shakers in the Building

DSC_0010Don’t look now, but things are rocking and rolling in the Science Department.

At a recent Science Club meeting, students tested whether their handmade building—constructed out of balsa wood—could withstand seismic waves produced by an earthquake.

The project combined engineering skills with building know-how in order to construct the strongest tower—able to withstand the earthquake simulation table.

IMG_2613Science Club Moderator Rob Peterson says the project is his latest challenge intended to engage students and give them a hands-on experience in science and engineering.

“My goal with the Science Club is to provide students with specific science projects that are engaging and challenging—without the pressure of an exam at the end of a unit,” says Mr. Peterson, who teaches chemistry.

“Students are less intimidated to try something new,” he adds, “when there isn’t the possibility of a low grade on their transcript.”

Future projects include building miniature bridges and testing how much weight they can support, launching air and water powered rockets, and building and coding simple robots.

IMG_2611Students generally meet twice a month, first to learn about the new project challenge and the second time when they return after doing research and building their part of the project.

Those students that participate in Science Club projects can receive credit towards one of their four STEM experiences needed for their participation in the STEM curriculum and designation on their college transcript.

Saint Viator Students Get Birds-Eye View of How the Retina Works

IMG_4547President’s Day was a holiday, but don’t tell 20 Saint Viator freshmen and sophomores who spent their day learning about cutting-edge research being done at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine on the retina.

Accompanied by Mrs. Mary Lee DeBelina, assistant principal, students visited with Dr. Jason Jacoby ’00, at his lab in the medical school. Jacoby is a post-doctoral fellow, working with Dr. Gregory Schwartz, in the ophthalmology and physiology departments at Northwestern.

Students learned about how he painstakingly extracts cells from the retinas of mice, to learn more about how aspects of a visual scene are translated to the brain.

“We learned that the retina is an offshoot of the brain,” said Matthew McManaman ’19, “and how the optic nerve transmits images to the brain.”

IMG_4557Jacoby works in a darkened lab and wears night-vision goggles to perform his surgery. Students that visited him were able to try on the image-enhanced goggles and examined the retina under a high-powered microscope.

The field trip counted as one of the experiences needed by students in Saint Viator’s new STEM program, which was designed for those students who are considering a college major in science, technology, engineering or math.

“I’m interested in engineering and possibly bio-medical engineering,” said Allison Bosshart ’19, “so this trip was interesting to see what it’s like for a scientist working in the field.”

Her classmate, Maura Hogaboom ’19, agreed, adding that learning more about the brain fascinates her.

IMG_4554“This is the newest frontier in mapping the human brain,” Maura said. “They’re at the beginning of that.”

Mrs. DeBelina commended the students for giving up their day off of school to make the trip, but she suspects it made an impact.

“Our STEM program encourages students to have out of school, real-life exposure to medical and engineering fields,” she said. “We are proud to be able to call on our alumni to share their experience and inspire our students. Dr. Jason Jacoby is a great example of an alumnus making a positive difference.”

Saint Viator Mourns Passing of Mary Vandenbergh, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement

Dear Friends,

250277It is with deep sadness and a profound sense of loss that I inform you of the passing of Mary Vandenbergh, Saint Viator High School’s Executive Director of Institutional Advancement, this morning at 10:45 a.m.

We received word from her husband, John ’70, along with his faithful gratitude that Mary is now totally at peace. John also expressed his thanks to the entire Saint Viator Community for your prayers throughout her courageous journey.

A memorial service has been scheduled at St. Anne Church in Barrington on Saturday, April 8 at 10:30 a.m. Rev. Mick Egan, CSV, will celebrate the memorial. Please save the date and join us in remembering Mary’s life and love for our students and Saint Viator’s mission.

Eternal rest grant unto Mary, 0 Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.

May her soul and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Brian Liedlich

*Click here to view her obituary. 

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