Saint Viator News

Delivering the latest news from Saint Viator High School.

Month: February 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

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. 

Alumni Ambassador Q&A: Roseann Bianca Gillig ’65

What are you doing professionally?
Right now, I’m retired. My husband and I have owned Wayne’s Pizza in Arlington Heights for the past 40 years. Our son is running the business now.

Rhonda Starr '87 and Roseann Bianca Gillig '65.

Rhonda Starr ’87 and Roseann Bianca Gillig ’65 at the 50th Reunion for Sacred Heart of Mary’s Class of 1965.

Did Saint Viator/Sacred Heart have any impact on your career choice or success you have had?
I give an enormous amount of credit to my SHM education. I was taught by gracious nuns that instilled perseverance and dedication to my community and religion. One can’t be all to all without these traits. And a great accounting and typing teacher helped a whole lot as well!

What are some of your favorite memories from high school?
So many…being at Saint Viator for two years and being segregated as if the boys were going to kill us at every turn (that was a hoot), finally getting into our own school, the nuns, Glee Club, singing The Seven Last Words of Christ with the boys, prom, all the dances and sock hops, the day Kennedy was assassinated, our class ring ceremony, our New York Trip for the 1964-65 World’s Fair that was awesome for a kid like me who never went anywhere. Our nuns, they were the best, [they had] such grace and dedication. And of course, graduation.

What kind of influence did your teachers have on your life?
Our nuns and teachers were the best. They were amazing women that influenced my every move. I was lucky, I could get to know the nuns after school while I cleaned classes for my tuition. We did not have the money for me to attend SHM but Rev. Mother Loyola understood my Dad’s plea to honor my Mom’s deathbed wish to have me attend. So for four years, I cleaned classrooms. The nuns were so educated. It was the best education money could buy at that time.

Have you stayed close to any friends from high school?
Have I? Oh, yes! It’s my life goal to keep in touch with my friends and keep my class active and together. They were great then and even greater now.

Roseann Bianca Gillig '65 and her family.

Roseann Bianca Gillig ’65 and her family.

What advice would you give to current students?
Pay attention, give the school four years of your life and they will give you a lifetime of preparedness and promise for a great life. Learn, it’s a gift, not a chore. It will benefit every move you make as an adult.

What would you say to parents who are considering sending the children to Saint Viator?
I would tell them thank you for wanting to give your child the best education of their life. I would say they are going to be taught by great people and will get a head start in life that other schools just can’t provide. Molding great men and women is Saint Viator’s mission. 50+ years of existence is their hallmark, their stats stand for themselves. Sports, religion, academics—it’s all the best money can buy, taught by the most dedicated people on earth. We are so blessed to have this school to offer our children. You are great parents to want this for your children! My brothers graduated from Saint Viator and my daughter, Chrissy, did as well. They are wonderful people and loved every minute of their experience. To have my daughter tell me she was so glad I sent her to a catholic school and not the local public school was a great thing!

What one high school moment would you like to go back and experience again?
I had so many but singing The Seven Last Words of Christ with the boys was just so moving. It was such a huge undertaking. If you have never heard this piece, I suggest you find it and listen to it…it is magnificent and we did it. I couldn’t have been prouder to have been a part of that amazing music!

What team, group, club or organization was important to you in high school?
I was not big on sports, just what I did in gym. I had scoliosis and my back was a problem then. But I did love Glee Club. We sang for so many groups of people. [I was also in] The Music Man, Bye Bye Birdie, The Sound of Music, The King and I, [and I was] The Singing Nun in French Club. I loved it!

Why have you decided to take on the role of Alumni Ambassador?
I was our class rep for years and years, I had all the info on my class, I chaired many of our class reunions. I just had to be Ambassador, I love my class…I am passionate about keeping us together and active. The key word is active. I organize luncheons whenever I am able and usually get a great response. I am in Arizona right now, and organizing a lunch for the ladies who are here for winter…I can’t wait. We always have a great time.

I love my class and I love who we are. We are a part of an amazing time in life, a special time. We are the Premier Class of Sacred Heart of Mary—that’s something special to me and my class. These ladies are my sisters, my dear friends. It’s amazing how we are [when] together. I’m now friends with ladies that I hardly spoke to in school. I see ladies that had the best education and ran with it in life. Such dear, sweet, smart, sharing, caring, religious ladies…and I’m blessed to be a part of all this and pray I can do this for many, many, more years. We will be turning 70 this year—AMAZING! We will be having a 70th birthday bash this summer and I can’t wait. What an honor and what a gift from God to have this opportunity when several of our girls cannot. May they rest in peace.

Senior Honored by National High School Poetry Society

170573Micayla Shevlin ’17 thought she was applying for a scholarship, but it turns out that the poem she submitted captured the judges’ attention so much that they published it in the National Poetry Quarterly, appropriately called Just Poetry!!!

Her poem, Alive, also appeared in the winter anthology published by the American High School Poets’ Society.

“It was a thrill to be published,” Micayla says. “It was so cool to open the book and see my poem on the first page. It was kind of emotional.”

While Micayla’s poem now will appear in two national publications of high school poetry, she, unfortunately, did not win the $2,500 scholarship she was seeking, which went to the first place winner.

However, she may have found her voice.

“I know now that I want to make writing my career,” Micayla says. “I had been thinking about physical therapy, but now I’m sure. I want to go into journalism or communications, with a minor in creative writing.”

She started writing short stories as a young child and wrote her first poem in middle school at Our Lady of the Wayside School. She continued writing poetry at Saint Viator, especially in AP Language and Composition class.

Last year, Micayla and some of her classmates helped to start Inklings, a creative writing club moderated by Mr. Chris Paolelli. The club meets once a month on Thursdays when students are given a prompt to craft a short story or poem around.

The unique club has helped bring writers together and offered them another bonus: experience in writing creatively that has proved valuable on college essays.

Poetry has offered Micayla a different outlet of expression than her passion for Irish dancing. She is a championship dancer with Trinity Irish Dance and has performed internationally, and now she teaches young dancers.

Her father, Mike Shevlin ’86, is in the publishing industry and co-hosts a weekly radio show, Windy City Irish Radio Hour. He serves on the Board at the Irish American Heritage Center (IAHC), and is heavily involved in the planning for their Irish Fest every summer. Micayla’s grandfather was the founding President of the IAHC and helped Br. Dale Barth, CSV, run Bingo nights in the 70’s and 80’s.

Micayla, however, prefers to express herself quietly, through poetry.

“I like the rhythm of poetry and how you can make it into anything you want,” Micayla says. “I can describe my feelings and emotions, or create an image, and all in short, concise sentences.”

Read Micayla’s poem, Alive, below.

She was a girl like no other.
Almond eyes. Plump lips.
A notebook always in hand.
She had a mystery to her that
no one cared to solve.
However, she felt it was her duty to solve the
world’s mystery.
Wide smile. Quiet feet. Freckled cheeks.
Tears stain paper.
Pain blemishes memory.
She breathes in his scent like the air
she needs to live.
Toxic, but addicting.
Her brown hair sticks to pink lip gloss &
eyelashes flutter as if
she doesn’t want to see the world in front of her.
Skin pale and soft,
veins pumping blood to extinguish the chill
in her fingertips.
Her voice is small,
but firm. Gentle.
Thoughts wash
over the shore &
create waves her crowded mind.
She only thinks of him.
She has fears of being forgotten,
only whispers traveling in the breeze.
Knit eyebrows in concentration.
Cracking of fingers. Confidence & determination.
Her eyes a sparkling green searching for answers.
A believer in fate, in karma. In God.
Toes curl, lips quiver with the chattering of teeth.
Goosebumps form with a shrill of ice.
His touch.
A fog upon her thinking.
Excited eyes meet hers and she’s home.
She was a girl like no other.
Almond eyes. Plump lips.
Dreaming of a love as unique as she is.
A love that is Alive.


Service Snapshot: Gabriela Sniadowski ’17


Gabriela Sniadowski ’17.

Gabriela Sniadowski ’17 found a way to combine her passion for music with service. Earlier this month, she appeared in Lion King, produced by EDGE Theatre and performed at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg.

The community-based theater combines actors with Down syndrome with their able-bodied peers and traditionally its shows play to sold out audiences. This was the 10th year of the musical, and many of its actors are involved with UPS for DownS, a Schaumburg-based support group for persons with Down syndrome and their families.

Gabriela is an avid volunteer with UPS for DownS, and beyond her love of music and performing, she sees acting in its musicals as one way to heighten awareness of the abilities of those with Down syndrome.

IMG_0041“I work with UPS for DownS to remind everyone that these individuals with disabilities are not lesser, but simply different,” she says. “By getting the message out there, by displaying publicly my support for this organization, I hope to instigate a wave of change amongst everyone I know.”

Gabriela adds that what she finds most rewarding about acting in these shows is seeing the change in her fellow actors—and in the audience members.

“When I have been privileged enough to observe this change in others, I have been in awe,” Gabriela says. “It is genuinely the most beautiful thing to see someone grow in their love, compassion and selflessness because of their exposure to diversity in all forms.”


Like Father, Like Son: Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV, Impacts Two Generations of One Family


Dr. Arkadiush Byskosh ’86, Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV, and Orest Byskosh ’17.

Each morning during homeroom period, Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV, meets with students competing in the oral competition of the upcoming state series hosted by the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The opening regional competition takes place Feb. 25.

One of those students is Orest Byskosh ’17, who together with Patrick Harris ’17, placed third in the state last year in this rigorous event. The oral event is two-fold. In the first part, students are given 10 minutes to prepare their answers to a question—and then present their findings to the judges. In the second part, they have to solve a problem on the spot, orally. Making it even harder is this year’s subject in the oral competition: quadrant geometry.

For Orest, working with Fr. Perham continues a family tradition. Not only did his older sister, Nina ’14, work with Fr. Perham, but his father, Dr. Arkadiush Byskosh ’86, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Barrington, did as well.

The 1985 Illinois Math League, Tom Fruchterman, Ark Byskosh, Ed Pelican, Jim Hefertepe, Mike Eder, and Gergo Fejer.

The 1985 Illinois Math League, Tom Fruchterman, Ark Byskosh, Ed Pelican, Jim Hafertepe, Mike Eder, and Gergo Fejer.

“I remember taking calculus with Fr. Perham,” Dr. Byskosh said, “and working on programming with some of the early desktop computers.”

“He always inspired everyone to love math,” he added, “ and to look beyond the problem to see if there was another way to solve it. Most of all, he taught us to never give up, to keep trying.”

Fr. Perham instills that same motivation in his current mathletes. He draws from more than 50 years of teaching mathematics as well as his 60 years as a Viatorian priest, which compels him to minister to and with young people.

“Fr. Perham draws up problems that we work together on every day,” Orest says. “The problems are very similar to the ones that will be on the state contest.”

Fr. Perham already helped Orest in another way. He helped him learn to use ImageJ, the Java-based image processing program developed at the National Institutes of Health. Having experience in the platform helped Orest land a research position last summer, doing X-ray analysis at Northwestern University.

Working with Fr. Perham every day in the math lab has led Orest to tutor students in math at his former grammar school, St. Anne in Barrington.

His experience also has led him to discern his career path in college. Like his two older sisters, Orest has been accepted to Northwestern, but unlike his siblings—who both were accepted into its honors program in medical education—Orest plans to follow the lead set by his mentor, and major in math.

Join us in honoring Fr. Perham Saturday, March 4 at Night of the Lion.

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