Saint Viator News

Delivering the latest news from Saint Viator High School.

Month: March 2018

Students Step Out of Their Comfort Zone on Urban Immersion Retreat


A unique retreat experience brought Saint Viator underclassmen with students from Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, in Waukegan. Their time together lasted less than 24 hours, but its impact surely will last a lifetime.

They were the latest group to go on an urban immersion retreat, organized through the Br. David Darst Center for Justice, Peace, Spirituality, and Education, located in Chicago’s Southside. Mr. Brian Hansen, of the Campus Ministry Department, led the Saint Viator contingent.

“We broke up into two groups,” Mr. Hansen explains, “and one group went and visited with men at a homeless shelter, while the other went on a ‘night walk,’ as a way to walk in the shoes of homeless people at night, when they’re out in public and face tight restrictions about entering buildings.

“In a word,” he adds, “it was eye-opening.”

IMG_2364Patrick Schumacher ’20 was among the group that visited with men at the Cornerstone Community Outreach men’s shelter.

“I was a little nervous,” he concedes, “but they turned out to be really easy to talk to. Not all of them wanted to talk, but the ones that did seemed happy that we were interested in them.”

Patrick spoke with one man who shared some of his life story, including how he had been abused as a child and how it led him to have anger issues himself as an adult.

“He was so angry,” Patrick said, “that he lashed out at people and almost killed a man once.”

He had been spending nights at the shelter for the last few months, where he receives wrap-around services, including personalized case management, referrals, and advocacy from Cornerstone staff members.

While visiting the shelter, Patrick and the other students were surprised that many of the men they saw had Bibles among their possessions, indicating they valued their faith.

“We talked about all that we saw in the sharing session afterward and that helped,” Patrick said. “I’ve always been fortunate, but seeing these people made me realize that we’re all human and that you can’t just label people as homeless. They’re people too, who have been through so much.”

Beyond their separate immersion experiences, the teens also had to shop and prepare a meal for four, using a regular allotment from SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which came out to $1.50 per teen.

IMG_2351This was the third urban immersion retreat at Saint Viator and the first that partnered with students from Cristo Rey St. Martin. Br. John Eustice, CSV, and Mr. Bart Hisgen started the experience last year and Campus Ministry continues to offer the experience twice a year.

Mrs. Nancy Devroy, director of Campus Ministry, says this type of urban immersion retreat explores issues of justice and the reality of oppression.

“Through partnerships with local agencies, retreat participants are able to get to know people, challenge stereotypes, confront fears and break down barriers,” Mrs. Devroy says, “that protect us from the unknown and the different.”

National Merit Finalists Announced

meritIt’s official. Saint Viator High School announced this week that seniors Kevin Joyce, Nicole Marcinkus, Thomas Stanila, Jeremy Yoder and Matthew Zawilenski have joined an elite group: They were named National Merit finalists based on their preliminary SAT scores taken in 2016.

Back in September, the five 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 junior year.

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.

“These five students represent academic leadership in our school but also in music and theater and athletics,” says Principal Karen Love. “They are well-rounded representatives of a Saint Viator education that promotes excellence in all that they do.”

This is the most National Merit finalists Saint Viator has had since 2014, but they’re not the only seniors to be recognized by the National Merit Corporation. Michael Fitzpatrick, Arthur Gasey, John Leininger, Bennett Rizner and William Sheriff were named National Merit Commended Students.

While they will not have the chance to advance and compete for National Merit Scholarships, their designation affirms their high academic achievement and helps them stand out in the college application process.

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 juniors who took the PSAT—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 $2,500 Scholarships
  • Corporate-sponsored scholarships
  • College-sponsored scholarships.

Last year, Saint Viator’s three National Merit semi-finalists all were named finalists and each won a merit scholarship. Zac Jones went on to attend Yale University, while Grace Nessen-Gilligan went to Fordham University and Katilyn Solarz attends the University of Notre Dame.



Faculty and Students Work Together to Feed the Hungry

IMG_2625A pledge made three years ago by faculty members to work together to provide food for the homeless, continues. But at their latest service project, they joined with students to feed the hungry.

Faculty and students worked side by side at Bessie’s Table in Des Plaines. Housed within the First United Methodist Church of Des Plaines, the 15-year ministry serves a hot dinner, free of charge, to more than 100 people every Monday night.

Church members regularly recruit volunteers to help them. While local businesses donate food and produce every week, the ministry depends on volunteers to help with set-up, serving, and clean-up.

That’s where the Saint Viator students and teachers come in. They were the latest group to pitch in and help.

IMG_2623Faculty members included Dean Deb Scerbicke, Mrs. Mary Lanus, Mrs. Nancy Devroy, Mrs. Rita King and Fr. Dan Lydon, CSV.

Campus Ministry coordinated the service trip for students needing hours serving the marginalized, but they also opened it up to adults.

Increasingly, faculty members are taking part in volunteer service projects, organized by Mrs. King and Fr. Lydon, coordinators of adult faith formation. The year-long program aims to foster personal and spiritual growth through regular service and prayer opportunities.

Typically, faculty members gather once a month in Querbes Hall to put together sack lunches for the homeless served by Catholic Charities in Des Plaines and Journey from PADS to Hope in Palatine.

“Working alongside our students was a great opportunity,” Mrs. King said.

Fr. Lydon enjoyed the experience so much, he plans to return with students in his freshman religion classes, and they may bring faculty members back as part of their Adult Faith Formation program.

After all, the service fulfills part of the Viatorian mission, which is to fight hunger and reach out to “those accounted of little importance.”

Faculty and Staff Share Their Creative Side for Fine Arts Week

A call put out to faculty and staff members for fine arts submissions resulted in nearly 20 entries. Look for them in a pair of display cases located across from the Academic Commons. They came in just in time for the Fine Arts Week celebration.

“Our theme this year was ‘Everyone is an Artist,’ “explains Mr. Matt Gruenfeld, art teacher. “I was amazed at the variety of talents that our community has.”

IMG-0398It turns out lifelong learning is a passion for faculty and staff. Included in the display are their works in painting, photography, jewelry, crochet and textile art, ceramics, and even printmaking.

Among the entries is a linoleum cut made by Fr. Arnold Perham, CSV. It features one of the “Lords of Leaping,” from the 12 days of Christmas and was made with printmaking tools by former Saint Viator art teacher, Fr. Ray Novacek, CSV.

“My father was involved in printmaking and engraving,” explains Fr. Perham, who finds printmaking a release from his expertise in mathematics. “I started making linoleum cuts more than 20 years ago. Like father, like son, I guess.”

Mrs. JoAnne Francis has spent 18 years as the director of student activities at Saint Viator and about the time she started, she sought out a creative outlet that would relieve stress. She found it in a ceramics class taught at Harper College, which she has returned to every year.

IMG-0399“It is relaxing and a total escape from everything,” Mrs. Francis says. “I love creating something from nothing, getting my hands dirty, and making things for other people, and, it’s fun!”

Students in Mr. John Fuja’s Spanish classes recognized his photo on display. Many of framed photos from his travels hang in his classroom.

The one he entered for the display was taken in 2011 in Pamplona, Spain during its festival of San Fermín and the Running of the Bulls. Mr. Fuja ran with the bulls the first day and took photos the next day to capture the excitement of the festival.

“When you go to Pamplona for the festival, everyone wears white and red,” he says. “I thought the photo represented what the city was like in the morning during that week.”

Mr. Fuja's photo pictured in the top right corner of the display.

Mr. Fuja’s photo pictured in the top right corner of the display.

This is one of many photos from his time spent living in Spain and Mexico that he likes to share with his students.

“They are always a reminder of the incredible experiences that I had,” Mr. Fuja says, “studying and living in those countries: the friends, the experiences, and the culture.”

Saint Viator Senior Earns Second Perfect Score

Stanila_ThomasThomas Stanila ’18 already had a perfect ACT score in his repertoire, but one of the colleges he applied to needed his score from the writing test in order to consider his application.

“You can’t just take the writing portion, so I had to take it all over again, this time with the writing,” Thomas says.

No sweat. He not only got a perfect 12 in the writing test but he, in fact, bettered his perfect score from last year. In 2017, he earned a 35 out of 36 in reading, but his overall composite score was a 36. This time, Thomas earned a perfect score in every subject area.

Here’s hoping that the one college who asked for his writing test score, Harvard University, finds him worthy of admission.

Thomas has little time to dwell on his accomplishment. On Tuesday, he earned a second place individual medal in biology while competing with Saint Viator’s Academic Team at the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering regional.

One week before that, Thomas and Marcus Lannie ’19, took second in the oral competition, hosted by the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics and now they await state berth consideration.

Through it all, he credits his Saint Viator experience with helping him develop his love of learning.

“In my classes, I learned to take a more analytical look at the text and to look for a deeper meaning,” Thomas says. “That was cultivated here. I really think the rigor of the coursework helped me succeed.”

Thomas manages a heavy academic load of five AP courses, as well as an online course in multi-variable calculus, after completing Saint Viator’s highest course, calculus BC last year. He also serves as world editor on the Viator Voice, and when he’s not in school, he performs in the Elgin Youth Symphony on violin.

As for college, he plans to major in biology with an ultimate goal of going to medical school, but his dreams all began at Saint Viator.

“It’s such a rigorous academic environment, and all my teachers have encouraged me to cultivate my skills,” he says, “but through service, I’ve learned that it is equally as important to apply those skills to the world.”

Interactive Format Drives Success of Night of the Lion Gala

The Night of the Lion gala took a slightly different twist this year, when committee members, led by Mr. Dave Hogaboom and Mrs. Colleen Gaughan, chose not to single out one honoree. Instead, they loosened up the format, offering an interactive night centered around giving, friendship and fun.

Guests gathered in the lobby of the Mahoney Court, where they perused the silent auction and caught up with one another in a party atmosphere that played out in the school’s colors of red, white and blue.

“It’s all about the Lions,” said Nancy Sexton, who led the decorating committee. “Let’s celebrate the culture.”

Once they moved into the Mahoney Court, the gym sparkled in the same color scheme, decked out with balloons, flowers and special lighting effects, while the Cahill Gymnasium featured decadent food stations, from carved meats to seafood, kabobs and sushi.

“I love the new layout this year,” said Jennifer Pretto. “The rooms just flow from one to another.”

At the heart of the night was fundraising to make a Catholic education accessible to more students. A pair of seniors, Kevin Goss and Jeremy Yoder, underscored why that mission matters.

The two tag-teamed during an engaging address to the crowd of nearly 250 guests, describing how they had begun coming to the school as young children, following in the paths of their older siblings.

They went on to describe their own experience as students themselves, detailing the many activities they have become involved, and it was impressive.

“Essentially, I’ve grown up with Viator,” Kevin said “and I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to receive a Catholic education and participate in the Saint Viator community.”

Mr. Brian Liedlich, president of the school, thanked guests for their support of Saint Viator’s tuition assistance program.

“This year, we have budgeted a record $1.65 million for financial aid, in response to a larger than ever number of applications for assistance,” Mr. Liedlich said. “We know that 30 percent of our student body would not be able to attend Saint Viator High School without assistance.”

He closed his remarks, recalling a quote from the founder of the Viatorians, Fr. Louis Querbes, that captured the evening’s mission.

“People are bolder when they’re doing God’s work,” he said. “Tonight, through your support, we’re doing God’s work.”

Watch the full Paddle Raise speech below.

Hamilton Cast Members Surprise Choral Members at Saint Viator High School

DXFjDUaX4AAwCD0.jpg-largeSaint Viator choral students have been working on a medley from “Hamilton” for their upcoming Choral Showcase on Saturday, when who showed up, but none other than two cast members from the show itself.

Jose Ramos and Ari Afsar have starring roles in the current Chicago production, but they took time away to visit with choral and theater students and give them an inside look at the musical aspects of each song in the medley, and the emotional context, as well as what it takes to become a professional.

“It was awesome,” says senior Danielle Versen of Prospect Heights. “I was screaming internally the whole time.”

Working under the direction of Mr. Daniel Walls, choral director, students performed their nine-minute medley for the stars before breaking it down into individual numbers and polishing their technique.

“They encouraged us to sing from our core and use more dynamics so it wasn’t so flatlined,” said sophomore Olivia Marcinkus of Itasca. “We worked on improving our tone and diction, which is really important in these songs.”

DXEtMaqVMAEJxAdThe stars also put each song into perspective, explaining when they came up in the show and what each character was feeling at the time.

“That really helped us make a connection with what we were singing,” Danielle added, “and make it a more powerful performance.”

The Hamilton cast members spoke to members of Saint Viator’s concert, treble and chamber choirs, as well as students involved in music ministry and theater classes. They also held a Q & A at the end, when they talked about what it is like to perform Hamilton every night, their experiences in performing, and their lives outside of performing.

Their appearance was made possible by David Ornelas of Arlington Heights and his family, who attended a fundraiser organized by Ramos for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. They won the visit from the stars as part of the event’s auction.

Walls and Mrs. Kate Costello, theater director, said the visit by Hamilton stars will go a long way toward underscoring some of the cues students hear in class.

“It was a really cool opportunity for students to apply what we do in class, and work with professionals in the field,” Walls said.

Choral students will perform the Hamilton medley during a fine arts assembly on Thursday and at the Choral Showcase, which takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 10, in the Jeuck Auditorium at Saint Viator High School. Admission is free.

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