St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School opens its doors at Grade 8 open house



By Ron Giofu


A large crowd of prospective students, parents, guardians and Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board officials packed into the theatre at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School last week to see what the school has to offer.

The area’s Catholic high school held its Grade 8 open house last Wednesday evening with the night opening with a presentation in the theatre before tours of the County Road 8 building were held. Principal Amy Facchineri told students and parents from the Catholic feeder schools that attending Villanova would be an extension of their education.

Villanova students perform a song and dance number as part of the school’s Grade 8 open house Dec. 12.

“For those of you that may be new, don’t worry,” she continued, stating their children would be “embraced” by the staff and students at Villanova.

Facchineri said they had a tremendous number of current students that wanted to help with the Grade 8 open house.

“We were overwhelmed by the number of students here that wanted to help,” she said.

Facchineri also pointed out that every department within the school was represented at the Grade 8 open house. She noted the students at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School excel in the classroom, using their EQAO test scores as one example, and they also have a wide range of athletic and extra-curricular activities as well.

“We really do have something for everyone,” Facchineri stated.

Villanova students clown around in a “car” that was built at the school. It was displayed during the Grade 8 open house Dec. 12.

The evening also featured performances by Villanova students, who sang and danced for the large crowd in the theatre. Lindsay Pietrangelo, head of the school council, also promoted Villanova and said becoming involved with the school council is a great way to be “plugged in” on what is happening at the school.

Frank DiTomasso, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board trustee for Amherstburg and LaSalle, also promoted Villanova.

“I think this is the greatest school in Essex County,” he said. “They have a lot to offer.”

“Adopt a Family” program at Villanova yields big results for area families



By Ron Giofu


The Christmas season was alive and well at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School last week.

Prior to a Thursday morning mass in the school’s gymnasium, students brought in a large number of gifts and food items that will be going to families in need in the Windsor-Essex County area.

Teacher Maggie Ducharme explained that students bought clothing and gifts that met the needs of families that require them this holiday season.

“They also provided a monetary donation to help with Christmas dinner for the families,” she stated.

A canned food drive in November raised over 5,000 cans and non-perishable food items.

Students at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School proceed into the gym last Thursday with their gifts for the Adopt a Family program.

In all, St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School is assisting 38 families this holiday season. Ducharme said they are in their 15th year of the “Adopt a Family” program and the Catholic high school has assisted over 700 families in that time.

Charities of choice this year are the Divine Mercy Food Bank, the Essex and Area Food Bank and the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).

“All members of the school community have been part of the project,” said Ducharme.

Students Ethan MacKinnon and Isabella Kaschalk were happy with the efforts of their school.

“I think that compared to past years, it’s a large quantity of stuff we have collected,” said Kaschalk. “Many of these families come from nothing. We’re allowing them to have a great Christmas their parents can’t afford.”

“The whole school got involved,” said MacKinnon. “We can’t ask for more than that. It’s a really good cause.”

Kaschalk said they feel proud as a school community because they helped those in need at Christmas.

“It helps (the families) feel better during Christmas time,” she said.


Villanova honours veterans with stirring Remembrance Day ceremony



By Ron Giofu


Students and staff at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School paid tribute to those who served with a stirring ceremony last Friday morning.

As 300 white crosses adorned the front lawn of the County Road 8 school, staff and students were joined by area veterans and their families in the gymnasium for a service that lasted just over one hour. A bagpiper led veterans and their families into the school’s gymnasium where students and staff paid tribute to them and reminded one another of the importance of Remembrance Day and the service of veterans.

The families of veterans Glenn Dibbley and John White were on hand, with both veterans having been described as people who often educated youth about their service and the sacrifices of others.

A group of local veterans observe the Remembrance Day ceremony held at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School Nov. 7.

Master Corporal Mike Akpata, an Afghanistan veteran, spoke to the students about his experiences and the difficulties he and his comrades went through both in battle and since they have come home.

“Afghanistan was not peacemaking. It was not peacekeeping. It was war,” said Akpata, who pointed out the Taliban fired at them as soon as they arrived.

“They attacked us the minute we got off the plane,” he recalled.

Akpata, now a town councillor in LaSalle, recalled laying on the ground with a wounded member of his regiment waiting for a helicopter to come. He also recalled losing a friend when they stepped on a landmine.

After returning home, Akpata said it wasn’t always easy to readjust for him or his colleagues.

“Coming home is hard,” he said.

Adjusting to the life they once had is not easy and Akpata noted that it is very difficult to shut down the adrenaline they had in battle.

“When we come home and people say, ‘it’s over,’ it’s not over,” he said. “It stays with you.”

Master Cpl. Michael Akpata speaks to the Villanova students during the Remembrance Day ceremony Nov. 9.

Noting that many have committed suicide since returning from Afghanistan, he said many couldn’t cope after returning home. Smells can stir up memories, he noted.

Akpata urged all students to do something with their lives, regardless of what that something is, as they have the freedom that people like him and his regiment and other veterans fought for.

“We want you to know the freedom you have came with a price,” he said. “For you as the next generation, I don’t want you to experience war. I also don’t want you to take what you have for granted. All I ask is for you to do something. Revel in your freedom, but the gift that was given can be taken away.”

Schools celebrate eco-school status



By Ron Giofu


St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School has undertaken environmental initiatives for a number of years but now they are being recognized for it.

The Catholic secondary school has been awarded gold status and teacher Andy Paling said this is the first time they have put in for any sort of designation. Villanova has been performing a number of environmentally-friendly activities for years, he stated, and that is the reason they achieved gold so early in the designation process.

Anderdon Public School’s eco-team helped earn their school platinum status.

Among the projects undertaken at Villanova have been recycling, composting, creation and maintenance of a butterfly garden, a number of tree plantings, maintenance of a trail around their County Road 8 property. They also have an “eagle’s nest” program where Paling said they can view a nest on a neighbouring property through a telescope.

“It’s bringing awareness of what is going on around us,” said Paling.

Anderdon Public School achieved platinum status again this year. Their eco-team performed many different activities with Harrison Kulic explaining one of those was a “boomerang lunch” where garbage is brought home so parents can see how much trash is created.

Anderdon encourages re-usable containers with Claire Brown stating they do garbage audits and have litter-less lunches as well. Sofia Kulic said such things as plastic straws and bags were banned on eco-day with Ava Soucie stating there have also been “lights out lunches” as well where the lights were turned off to save on utilities.

Other projects have included trying to attract bees, recycle batteries and working with a Harrow church to turn milk bags into blankets for those in third world countries. They also compost and do a variety of other environmentally-themed activities.

St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School earned gold status the first time they entered as an eco-school.

Teacher and eco-team supervisor Jodi Nolin said they have diverted probably in the neighbourhood of 10,000 milk bags from the landfill over the years.

Nolin added that Anderdon Public School welcomes community groups and parents to help them with projects.

Amherstburg Public School also achieved a gold eco-schools status for the most recent school year as did St. Joseph School in River Canard. Stella Maris School earned a silver designation.

“Hyperrealism” by local youth artist on exhibit at the Gibson Gallery



By Ron Giofu


The work of Madison Young has made it to the Gibson Gallery.

The local teenager’s work is now on exhibit at the gallery, with previous displays of her work having been at G.L. Heritage Brewing Co. and the former Mudpuppy Gallery.

“This is my first exhibit at the Gibson Gallery. It’s really special to me,” said Young.

Young said she was pleased that, as a 16-year-old, she was able to get her own exhibit at the gallery.

“It’s a really great feeling as an artist,” she said. “Thank you to the Gibson Gallery for giving me this opportunity.”

Young, who just completed Grade 10 at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School, is hopeful the more exposure she receives will allow her to continue to have exhibits at art galleries.

“To have this whole room to myself is really special,” she said.

There are both original works and prints as part of the current “Hyperrealism” exhibit. She uses mediums such as pencil, markers, pastels and has now added an oil painting to her growing collection.

“I’ve been selling a lot of them,” she said, but noted some of the works that are part of the exhibit are not for sale.

Local artist Madison Young is the current artist with an exhibit at The Gibson Gallery. Young’s “Hyperrealism” exhibit runs through July 29.

Young added she has been hearing a lot of good input on her art.

“The feedback has been super-positive,” said Young. “It’s been great.”

Noting she has been drawing since she was three or four, Young said she started getting into hyperrealism when she was 12-years-old.

“I drew a cupcake and that turned out well,” she said. “I decided to pursue it and now I’m here.”

Young defines hyperrealism as drawing something and having it really look the object she was drawing, including using the colours needed to make it look as real as possible.

Young will be one of the exhibitors during Art by the River, which is scheduled for Aug. 25-26 at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada.

The opening reception for “Hyperrealism” was last Saturday afternoon, but Young is also having a closing reception July 28 from 2-4 p.m. The exhibit runs through July 29.

“It’s been super fun already and I’m excited to meet as many people as I can,” she said.

For more information on Young and her work, visit

The Gibson Gallery is open daily from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and is located at 140 Richmond St. For more information, visit or call 519-736-2826. Their Twitter account can be found at while their Facebook account is found at