St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School

Villanova marks major milestone with 100,000th canned good collected


By Ron Giofu


The generosity of the St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School students was on display again last Wednesday.

The Catholic high school collected its 100,000th canned good with teacher Andy Paling stating it is likely they have gone past that milestone. It started small and has blossomed into “Food Bank Friday” fundraisers with various classes within the school participating.

“This program has been going on for about six years now,” Paling stated. “It’s evolved a bit to where we team up with other fundraisers.”

Villanova assists eight local food banks in the area, with the Sandwich Towne Food Bank getting a hand last week. Paling said last week’s fundraiser saw about 2,500 canned goods and non-perishable items brought in. Students took many of the cans and spelled out “100,000” on the floor in the school’s main foyer.

Students from St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School stand with the latest collection of cans the school gathered for charity, The Catholic high school celebrated the fact they now have surpassed 100,000 canned goods collected.

“I try to involve different classes,” noted Paling, as opposed to one class or group concentrating on the efforts. “We try to include as many classes as possible to get involved.”

Paling added his daughter Ashley helped create Food Bank Friday as she pointed out there is always a need. When she graduated, Paling assumed oversight of the fundraisers.

The Windsor Port Authority helps out with the Sandwich Towne Food Bank and Christina Pare from the Port Authority was impressed with the efforts of the Villanova staff and students.

“It’s great,” she said. “We’ve partnered with Villanova for a couple of years now.”

Pare said that it is unfortunate that the need is still there, but she said the Port Authority was encouraged to see the support of such schools as St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School.

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School presents “Rock of Ages”



By Ron Giofu


Big hair, big bands and 80’s music was on full display over the weekend at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School.

The Villanova Players presented the first weekend of “Rock of Ages,” the high school edition of the show featuring life on the Sunset Strip, efforts to save a famed club and some personal relationships at the same time.

The show has been worked on for much of the 2017-18 school year.

“We had auditions in October and started rehearsing in November,” said Owen Bortolin, who plays “Drew Boley,” one of the lead characters.

Rehearsals have been taking place several times per week but have intensified recently to where they went until 9:30 p.m., added Jessica Amyotte, who plays one of the villains “Hilda Klineman.”

“It’s all for the greater good,” Amyotte said of the late rehearsals. “It’s been really fun.”

Both Bortolin and Amyotte said they enjoy performing in front of the crowds.

“It’s cool to listen to the music our parents listened to compared to what we are listening to,” said Amyotte.

“The show really pleases the older crowd,” Bortolin added.

Bortolin added while acting and singing may not be his career, he still would like to do so on a recreational basis. Amyotte added if she doesn’t perform full-time, she would still like to find ways to stay active in the theatre.

“I really enjoy doing this,” she added.

The show features a wide range of students helping out including on-stage performers, singers, a pit band, backstage crew, set designers, dancers, tech people, a production team and video and graphics students.

“Rock of Ages” continues this weekend in St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School’s Festival Theatre with shows Thursday-Saturday, all at 7 p.m. Tickets for Thursday’s show are $8 while Friday and Saturday ticket prices are $12 for adults and students, $8 for seniors and children 6-12 while children under six are free.

WiredCats getting geared up for another robotics competition


By Jonathan Martin

The Villanova WiredCats are gearing up for another robotics competition.

The high school robotics team held its annual open house last Saturday, where the public was granted a glimpse into how this year’s robot is coming along.

Each year, the WiredCats participate in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, an international robotics sporting event. Teams of youths have six weeks to raise funds, build a brand, then program and construct a robot to play a predetermined field game against their international peers.

The two-year-old WiredCats placed tenth in the FRC World Robotics Competition in St. Louis last year and earned the Rookie All-Star Award the year before, which landed them a spot in 2016’s worlds, too.

“It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow when we don’t make it (to the world championships),” said WiredCats founder Stacey Greenwood. “But this year, I feel like we’ve found our groove.”

The WiredCats are made up of 37 students broken down into five sub-teams: mechanical, design, electrical, business and programming. Greenwood said over the past three years, the WiredCats have figured out how to synergize the sub-groups and streamline their productivity.

Grade 11 student Erica Rossi has jumped between sub-teams during her three-year tenure. In grade nine and 10, she worked with the robot’s programming. This year, she has jumped over to the electrical sub-team. She said she views the structure of the robotics team as an opportunity to expand her knowledge-base.

“I’m getting closer to Grade 12,” she said. “So I wanted to use this as a chance to learn a bit more about the different fields of engineering.”

Greenwood estimates around 70 per cent of WiredCats continue on to post-secondary STEM fields. With a student membership that’s 35 per cent female, 12 percentage points higher than the national rate of women who graduate from engineering programs, she counts that as an achievement.

“One of my biggest concerns has always been getting women into STEM,” she said. “We tend to lose them around sixth grade, so we do a lot of outreach at the local grade schools.”

Rossi said the WiredCats have given her the confidence to continue on into the male-dominated world of engineering.

The Villanova Wiredcats work on their robot at an open house last Saturday.

“Being a girl in STEM, I am the minority,” she said. “On this team, however, I don’t feel like it. Everybody works together and you don’t see the division.”

Rossi added that the team’s 15 mentors, who, according to Greenwood, are around 65% female, work hard to make sure every student feels involved and invested in the project.

Bob Hedrick is one of the team’s mentors. He helps the students develop the software that allows the robot to complete its tasks.

“In music class, the kids get to hold concerts,” he said. “In gym, they have sports tournaments. In drama, they have plays. In science and math, there’s really not all that many chances to apply what they’ve learned. This program gives them the chance to see the real-world application of the theory they’ve learned in school.”

At the WiredCats’ open house, prospective Villanova students got to check out those applications. Greenwood said she hopes the open house will allow her to continue growing the team, making an impact and allowing girls to explore their STEM side.

The WiredCats will be competing in Windsor March 30-31, in London April 7-8, in Mississauga April 11-14 (assuming they qualify for the provincial championships) and, if they qualify for the world championship, will be in Detroit from April 25-28.

Local student becomes 2017 IHRA Jr. Dragster World Champion


Special to the RTT

Amherstburg’s very own Luke Schwemler recently won the IHRA Jr Dragster World Championship in Memphis, Tennessee.

Schwemler is the five-time Track Champion at Grand Bend Motorplex, a three-time IHRA Division 5 Champion and now he has won the most prestigious title of all at the World Finals in Memphis.

Amherstburg’s Luke Schwemler won the 2017 IHRA Jr. Dragster World Championship in Memphis recently. Schwemler is a Grade 12 student at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School. (Submitted photo)

Schwemler was unstoppable with three of his reaction times that were almost perfect (.001, .004 and .007) making him Canada’s first Jr. Dragster World Champion. Schwemler’s awards included a new custom painted Jr. Dragster, a diamond ring, $3,000, an IHRA Gold Card and a Fire Jacket.

Schwemler is currently a Grade 12 student at St Thomas of Villanova Secondary School. Off the track, Schwemler is an avid computer programmer, having taken numerous courses already at Princeton University and University of Michigan and is co-lead in his schools Robotics Team. He is now applying to numerous universities to further his education in Software Engineering.

Local goalie wins silver at Canadian U18 girls hockey championship



By Ron Giofu


Erica Fryer was part of one of the two Ontario teams at the recent Canadian U18 girls hockey championship and brought home some hardware.

Fryer played for Team Ontario (Blue) at the tournament in Quebec City Nov. 1-5 and the young goalie helped backstop her team to a silver medal. Fryer, a Grade 12 student at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School, played three games for her team and finished 2-1 with a 1.35 goals against average, a .952 save percentage and one shutout.

“It was definitely a great experience,” said Fryer. “It was definitely once in a lifetime. It was great to compete for Ontario and compete against all of the other provinces in Canada.”

Amherstburg resident Erica Fryer shows some of the awards she won as part of the Team Ontario (Blue) team at the Canadian U18 girls hockey championship in Quebec City Nov. 1-5.

Fryer played in three games, the first being a 4-0 shutout victory against Alberta.

“I ended up getting player of the game,” she said, an honour for which she received a trophy and a watch.

Her second game, and her team’s third game, saw Fryer and Team Ontario (Blue) defeat Team Ontario (Red) 3-1. Those two teams would meet again in the finals, Fryer’s next game, but the results would be the exact opposite of their first meeting as Red beat Blue 3-1.

“I think I played very well. I held my ground and did the best I could,” she said.

Fryer praised her teammates for their efforts at the tournament.

“My team clicked together. We got to know each other and gelled really well,” said Fryer. “Our team competed very well. It was the first time at nationals for all of us. None of us were there before but we competed well as a team.”

Erica Fryer stand with some of her fans. (Submitted photo)

Team Ontario (Blue) went undefeated until the finals, she pointed out.

“Quebec City is beautiful,” she added. “I’ll have memories for the rest of my life.”

One of her memories will be being cheered by elementary school students who attended the tournament. She said the students made posters with her jersey and name drawn on it and cheered her on.

“It was so cool to see that,” she said.

Fryer did not make the U18 national team but she plans on working hard to eventually make the Canadian women’s U22 team in a few years.

“That’s my next goal,” she said.

In the meantime, Fryer will continue playing for the London Jr. Devilettes and try to bring them to the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) finals. She is also headed to the University of Toronto next year on a scholarship.