St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School

New school year officially underway

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Buses, enrollment and education, oh my!

The 2017-18 school year has officially kicked off, and both of the school boards as well as Sharp Bus Lines are gearing up for what they plan to be another fantastic year.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in French Immersion, especially at St. Joseph in River Canard, as well as in our International Baccalaureate programs (at Assumption and Cardinal Carter) and academy programs,” explained Stephen Fields, communications coordinator for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. “In fact, we now have 457 students in our sports academies. The really nice thing about the growth in French Immersion at St. Joseph is that, as we add new grades for those students as they advance, they will be able to go directly into the Villanova French Immersion program after completing elementary school, which will help solidify the high school’s French program.”

 

 

Fields went on to say they have done some hiring in the elementary and secondary panels, as well as make additions to their occasional teachers list. Last spring they also announced the creation of a new construction academy at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Windsor, which will see 20 new students starting there in September. The goal is to help address a skills gap in local trades. Additionally, they are launching a new STREAM – Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics- Academy at Holy Names. They currently have about 65 students registered.

“At Villanova, we continue to build on the strengths of our very successful robotics team, which performed admirably in both national and international competitions last year,” said Fields. “We received some new funding to create an Apple Mac lab there, which really enhances our existing computer tech courses, where students are doing coding and building apps within the context of those courses. This will really provide a great foundation for these students as they move into post secondary education and eventually, related careers. This is also connected to the coding programs that are being integrated into our elementary curriculum at St. Joseph and Stella Maris.”

In the public school board, public relations officer Scott Scantlebury said after years of declining enrolment, they have finally stabilized, particularly at the secondary level. There has been some hiring of teachers over the past couple years, however, Scantlebury said they will have a better idea what their needs are for this year once they see enrolment numbers. As for major development, Scantlebury noted their new cloud-based learning program – Edsby.

“After piloting the system at a number of schools, this year parents at all schools in the Board will be able to sign up and have real-time communication with teachers and track their student’s academic achievement, attendance, etc.,” said Scantlebury. “It’s a great tool for parent engagement and involvement. As well we have expanded the access to the elementary literacy programs Lexia and Empower…we’ve seen, where it’s been used, positive impacts on kids’ reading levels, especially with students who were struggling with literacy. We also have changed the way we deliver English as a Second Language in elementary schools. Students will now receive the program at their home schools rather than at a central site, before graduating to their home school.”

 

Grade 9 orientation at General Amherst High School featured fun activities.

As for the location of the new school, Scantlebury said they have not finalized their plans. Their original projections, which he said they have discussed at the funding announcement for the opening, are still the same. Once the board has a site, a design and approval from the Ministry of Education, the construction will be tendered, which Scantlebury said takes about 14-16 months to build a school once work begins.

Not only are the school boards gearing up for the school year, but Sharp Bus Lines has been preparing as well and is asking a few things from students, parents and motorists.

“Students should arrive at their bus stops 10 minutes prior to pick up time,” said Crystal Williamson, regional manager for Sharp Bus Lines. “Wait at your designated stop in a safe spot, standing back from the curb or roadside yet visible to your bus driver, always remember to stay away from the danger zones outside of the bus, if required to cross watch for your driver to signal it’s safe to do so not before this and the crossing gate extended as well as the overheads and stop arm activated.”

Williamson said they are also asking motorists to keep in mind that school is back in session and asks them to slow down and be very cautious when approaching stopped school buses because “a child who may be running late for their stop could appear out of nowhere and cross the street.”

Over the summer, Williamson they have been preparing by taking all of the buses into the shop for the mechanics to go through, making sure the fleet of buses are safe for the students. The routes are checked for directional errors and timing, to ensure everyone arrives safely and in a timely fashion. Additionally, drivers come in to cover off refreshers and go over new routes.

“We love kids,” said Williamson. “Patience and kindness are the major things that we look for in our drivers.  Children have bad days just like adults so sometimes we need to cut them some slack.  We have hired/trained 8 new drivers over the summer and we are always looking for those special individuals to fill the seat.  As we always tell our drivers – they may be the first smile a child sees in the morning.  Make their day.”

So whether you’re a new or returning student, a parent, or even a fellow motorist, school is back in session and both the school boards, as well as Sharp Bus Lines hope everyone has a safe and happy 2017-18 school year.

St. Thomas of Villanova bids farewell to its 2017 graduates

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School has said farewell to its graduating class of 2017.

Over 320 graduates were honoured at last Wednesday night’s graduation ceremony, held at the WFCU Centre in Windsor. This year’s valedictorian was Brandon Meloche, who said he was “a terrified Grade 9” four years ago and “now I’m speaking to hundreds of people.

“The moment we’ve been waiting for is here, and this event has only transpired due to the guidance of our teachers, our friends and our families,” said Meloche.

he graduates of St. Thomas of Villanova listen to valedictorian Brandon Meloche’s address at the WFCU Centre in Windsor.

he graduates of St. Thomas of Villanova listen to valedictorian Brandon Meloche’s address at the WFCU Centre in Windsor.

Meloche added that the “four year journey” to graduation has been completed and now they are young Canadians “hoping to take on the world.” He stated that going to school at Villanova “has been a crucible of events” that has shaped their futures.

“We all lived through lockdown drills, homecomings, sports games, spirit weeks and exams,” said Meloche. “We lived through the union strike that scarred our school community for over a month. It divided us, it separated us, but through weeks of hard work and waiting, the few who refused to talk learned that if you aggress upon the right to collective bargaining, the union’s people will not relent!”

Meloche reflected on past memories of their days at Villanova, including getting lost in the halls in Grade 9 and hearing about “the pool on the third floor,” the “lip dub” video in Grade 10 and school trips to Europe and Costa Rica.

Villanova principal Amy Facchineri addresses the graduates at the June 28 graduation ceremony.

Villanova principal Amy Facchineri addresses the graduates at the June 28 graduation ceremony.

Their Villanova experiences went from being “thrown into a new, overwhelming arena to begin building a legacy and a future to believe in” during Grade 9 to Grade 12 where he joked they were “rulers and governors, and some dictators, of the building. We owned the halls, the sports fields and the caf(eteria). We readied ourselves to leave these comfortable halls and begin our transcendence toward the future.”

The graduating students have celebrated amazing times and went through horrific times, he added, recalling triumphs in academic competition and sports games. He also recalled the bad times, including the loss of six former and current Wildcats over the last four years.

The students have become “charitable, caring citizens who have raised thousands of dollars and cans for charity.” Meloche continued that “we’ve learned to grow in mind with the guidance of our teachers, who have in some ways become models for us in terms of personality and work ethic.”

Meloche said he has developed greatly as a person in the halls of Villanova, not just in physical dimensions but also in character, and gained confidence each year. He believed many others did as well.

“Today marks a great end, but an even greater beginning,” said Meloche, as he thanked the many departments within Villanova. “To the people, my fellow graduates, thank you for all you’ve done. Thank you for choosing me to be your voice. Thank you for this journey.”

Greetings were also brought by salutatorian Joey Corio as well as Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board superintendent Joseph Ibrahim and Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Frank DiTomasso.

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School valedictorian Brandon Meloche addresses his fellow graduates.

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School valedictorian Brandon Meloche addresses his fellow graduates.

Principal Amy Facchineri wished this year’s graduates all the best.

“I hope and pray your future will be a successful one, filled with everything you want it to be,” she told the graduates.

Facchineri said that success is defined by some as money and possessions, but Villanova tries to teach that success is also defined by personal character rather than material success.

Graduates need to be out of their comfort zones, but not their talent zones, she continued, and further stated that failure is not the enemy, complacency is.

The graduates have contributed from an academic, athletic, extra-curricular and community perspective, Facchineri added, and that the school “feels blessed” to be part of that.

Facchineri encouraged the graduates to meet all the challenges that life gives them to meet and to keep doing the right things in life.

Villanova students raise big bucks in fight against cancer

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Students at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School led the way in the fight against cancer last Friday.

The Catholic high school held a Relay for Life event on and inside of the school’s track with early estimates on fundraising totals exceeding $38,500, with more expected.

The organizing committee for last Friday’s Relay for Life event at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School pose for a group photo. Top row (from left): teacher Mark Strong, Elizabeth Sauve, Meaghan Frank, Alanna Sauve, Madison Laramie, Emily MacKinnon and teacher Ellen Nolan. Bottom row (from left): Rachel Levang, Connor Sloan, Johnny Rosati, Jordan Gaudette and Morgan Keys. The event raised $38,500 at press time with more expected.

The organizing committee for last Friday’s Relay for Life event at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School pose for a group photo. Top row (from left): teacher Mark Strong, Elizabeth Sauve, Meaghan Frank, Alanna Sauve, Madison Laramie, Emily MacKinnon and teacher Ellen Nolan. Bottom row (from left): Rachel Levang, Connor Sloan, Johnny Rosati, Jordan Gaudette and Morgan Keys. The event raised $38,500 at press time with more expected.

Alanna Sauve, one of the organizers of Friday’s event, said Villanova has a “youth troop” set up that works with the Canadian Cancer Society.

“We build awareness and fundraise,” said Sauve.

Relay for Life teams do laps of the track at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School last Friday. There were roughly 250 student volunteers from the school involved with the event.

Relay for Life teams do laps of the track at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School last Friday. There were roughly 250 student volunteers from the school involved with the event.

The “youth troop” worked with the committee that Sauve established to run the Relay for Life, which lasted from 12-11 p.m. It featured teams of students as well as about ten cancer survivors doing laps of the track, games, therapy dogs, music from Villanova students and a concert by The Autumn Kings. A number of teams were part of the event with several in different coloured T-shirts seen walking the Villanova track.

A “luminary ceremony” was held during the evening.

“Unfortunately, everyone has been affected by cancer somehow,” said Sauve. “(The Relay for Life event) has been a great learning experience and we’re having some fun as well.”

Josie Sleiman performs a song as part of the entertainment that was offered during last Friday’s Relay for Life event at Villanova.

Josie Sleiman performs a song as part of the entertainment that was offered during last Friday’s Relay for Life event at Villanova.

Sauve, a Grade 12 student, said all organizational efforts were performed by Villanova students. In all, roughly 250 people volunteered for the event.

“It’s a win-win for our students at Villanova and our partners at the Canadian Cancer Society,” she said.

It was the first time Villanova hosted a Relay for Life event, Sauve added.

“It’s been a pretty good success so far,” she said.

Mudpuppy’s featured artist for May is Grade 9 Villanova student

 

By Danica Skakavac

At only fifteen-years-old and in the ninth grade, Madison Young of St. Thomas of Villanova has made quite a name for herself.

While she has loved art since the age of four, Young has been interested in her current style, hyperrealism, for only one and a half years. Despite the short period of time, Young’s skill has only grown dramatically and her wonderful artwork is being showcased again and again. She has been featured in a couple of local magazines, attended a couple of charities where she donated original artwork for auction and, as well, was the Mudpuppy Gallery’s student artist.

This month, she became the gallery’s featured artist. Only recently has she been spotlighted in a much different way; when local musician Christian Vegh’s mother contacted Young’s mother, Sharon, about designing the cover art for his brand-new single, “Worthy.”

Madison Young, a Grade 9 student at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School, is this month’s featured artist at the Mudpuppy Gallery in Amherstburg. (RTT Photo by Danica Skakavac)

Madison Young, a Grade 9 student at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School, is this month’s featured artist at the Mudpuppy Gallery in Amherstburg. (RTT Photo by Danica Skakavac)

Young jumped at the opportunity and designed a stunning cover, the picture a very realistic pair of diamond-encrusted lips.

“It was an exciting opportunity and I’m very fortunate they asked me,” Young said.

Young isn’t planning on letting her talent go to waste either, as she has opened an online store so people can purchase prints and paintings they like. In the future, she wants to attend medical school to become a surgeon (though unsure of what specialty in particular) but is adamant about continuing her artwork, just maybe not full-time. She is very proud of the textures she incorporates into said artwork, since she is able to render those textures with only coloured pencils.

“My favourite thing about creating art is a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “It is exciting when people want to purchase my artwork to hang in their homes or businesses.”

If you are interested, you can visit Young’s website at www.diamonddraws.com. Young’s exhibit at the Mudpuppy Gallery will be running through the month of May.

Villanova girls hockey team captures SWOSSAA championship

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The St. Thomas of Villanova girls hockey team is heading for OFSAA after winning the SWOSSAA “AAA/AAAA” title last Tuesday afternoon.

The Wildcats and the Chatham-Kent Hawks couldn’t settle things in the first three periods or in the first three overtime periods but Alessandra Schembri ended things with just 11.4 seconds left in the fourth overtime to give the Wildcats the 1-0 win.

Schembri said she pushed the puck past the Hawks’ defense and ended up on a breakaway. Stopped on her first attempt to score, she picked up the rebound and ended the game.

“Before I knew it, the puck was in the net,” said Schembri. “It was surreal. I didn’t know what happened. I was at a loss for words. I was trampled by my teammates.”

The St. Thomas of Villanova Wildcats  gather for a group  picture after capturing the SWOSSAA AAA/AAAA title last Tuesday.

The St. Thomas of Villanova Wildcats gather for a group picture after capturing the SWOSSAA AAA/AAAA title last Tuesday.

It was a fast-paced game, Schembri added, but the scoring chances were kept to a minimum.

“There wasn’t a lot of room out there but we worked hard and pushed through,” she said.

Captain Carli Dumeah motivated the team between every period, Schembri added, and “we all worked hard for her.” It was also an emotional game for the senior players, as they are in their final year of high school hockey.

Villanova head coach John Purdie pointed out that Chatham-Kent was undefeated coming into the game while the Wildcats lost only once during the season. Both teams allowed less than one goal per game during the season.

Purdie said their loss was to Chatham-Kent, a 3-1 defeat at a Christmas tournament. He said the Hawks “snuck up on us” as the Wildcats were not expecting them to be as strong as they were.

Since that game, the Wildcats made beating Chatham-Kent one of their missions this year.

“Our goal from Day 1 was to get to OFSAA and win OFSAA,” said Purdie. “We said it all year, this was a step towards the end goal.”

The Wildcats figure they can do well at OFSAA, which is March 21-24 in Mississauga. Purdie said they may be one of the smaller schools there, but they have a lot of elite players and have proven they can play with some of the best in Ontario.

Villanova’s Allison Langille (87) drives around Chatham-Kent’s Kirsten Horney during last week’s SWOSSAA title game at the Libro Centre.

Villanova’s Allison Langille (87) drives around Chatham-Kent’s Kirsten Horney during last week’s SWOSSAA title game at the Libro Centre.

“This is the most complete team we’ve ever had,” said Purdie. “The depth of this team is amazing.”

Both goalies – Kristen Swiatoschik and Erica Fryer – give the team a chance to win and Purdie believes they could medal with either of them.

The Wildcats expected the SWOSSAA final to be a tight hockey game and Purdie stressed to the players to not let a bad bounce beat them. He also credited the referees, who “did a great job letting them play.” There wasn’t a single penalty called in the game.

Players come from Amherstburg, Harrow and LaSalle, Purdie noted.

“I think this is the kind of hockey team that brings communities together,” he added.