Four years ago, members of the Class of 2018 added their signatures to a mural designed around this Biblical phrase, taken from Matthew’s gospel: “For wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am, in the midst of them.”
On Monday night, they walked past that mural one last time, this time as graduates and surrounded by family and loved ones. However, this much school officials know: They did indeed made a lasting imprint on the Saint Viator school community.
Not only did the 235 graduates earn nearly $29 million in scholarship money, but they also compiled nearly 24,000 hours of service during t heir four years.
“This has been a great class and I am very sad to see them leaving,” said Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, vice president for Viatorian mission and identity. “But I am very proud of what they have accomplished — and the personal growth I have seen over the past four years.”
As freshmen, they chose a theme for their class that seemed to guide their time at Saint Viator: Journey of Faith.
Take Jake Wolf ’18, for starters. He was a standout on the football team and was a state qualifier in wrestling this year, but he says the most memorable part of his high school career was getting involved in service.
Jake woke up early every Thursday morning in order to arrive at 6 a.m. — before school — at a Palatine church, where he helped clean up after PADS guests had left. Not only that, but he recruited many of his classmates to help.
“Over time, it grew on me so much,” Jake said. “I know where I am in life. I consider it a blessing and a privilege to be able to do this.”
Jake wound up winning the Johnstone Award, considered one of the most prestigious honors at graduation. The award was created in memory of Andrew Johnstone, who died in the summer of 1991, before the start of his senior year, when he would have served as class president. For more than 25 years, his parents have presented the award personally to recipients.
Salutatorian Jeremy Yoder earned the night’s other prestigious honor, the Christopher Erdmann Award. Jeremy was the 50th Saint Viator grad to win the award and now his name will be etched on the Christopher Cup, along with the other prestigious winners.
The award was created in memory of Christopher Erdmann ‘68, who passed away from leukemia. It was designed to recognize a student who has taken an active involvement and leadership in the improvement of Saint Viator High School.
Jeremy did that and so much more. He was an active member of Student Council and the Link Crew, as well as the academic and math teams. He also had principal roles in the musical, played trumpet in the band and most recently qualified for state in the long jump. He will be attending the University of Notre Dame this fall.
Still, as the youngest of three Yoder siblings who attended Saint Viator, he urged his classmates not to take their high school education for granted.
“Give back to the community that has given us so much,” Jeremy said at the baccalaureate Mass. “Cherish the lessons and the love Saint Viator has brought into our lives, and pay it forward to those who will follow in our footsteps.”
Valedictorian Thomas Stanila has achieved so much during his four years at Saint Viator, including earning a perfect ACT score — not once, but twice — as well as medaling at state for the math and academic teams, and all before earning a full ride to attend Loyola University, where he plans to pursue a degree in pre-medicine.
Yet, in his valedictory address, he reflected on his awkward start at Saint Viator, when he knew no one at a basketball game and pizza party held for incoming freshmen. Thomas arrived overdressed for the event and was about to turn around and rush for the door, when another student invited him to sit at his table.
“Because of this simple act of kindness,” Thomas said, “I knew I had found my home for the next four years of my life.”
He concluded by thanking parents, teachers, administrators, staff, coaches, directors, and everyone else who have guided he and his classmates on their journey.
“Our success is your success as well,” Thomas said, “for no greater testament can be made to your sacrifices than our very presence here.”
President Brian Liedlich encouraged graduates not to be strangers, to return often and remember that they are Lions for Life.
“We hope you look back fondly on your time with us,” Mr. Liedlich said, “and continue to value the Viatorian mission wherever life takes you.”