St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School

Villanova Relay for Life raises over $50,000

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The fight against cancer got a major boost Friday thanks to students at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School.

Villanova held its annual Relay for Life with tents and events being inside the school’s track while a Survivors’ Lap and other relays took part on the track itself. Events were held throughout the afternoon and evening with the luminary ceremony taking place at night prior to the closing ceremony.

When all was said and done, the Catholic high school raised over $50,000, far surpassing their goal of $35,000.

A Survivor’s Lap got the Relay for Life started last
Friday at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School.

Thalia Pandolfi, one of the students on the 14-person organizing committee, noted that “we’re here for one reason – because cancer has impacted our lives in some way.” Pandolfi shared her story, which saw her mother hit by the disease multiple times though now she is cancer-free.

Pandolfi said her mother survived breast cancer but, unfortunately, the fight wasn’t over. Pandolfi recalled a couple of years later, when she was 11-years-old, being pulled from school by her grandmother because her mother was in the hospital. When she arrived at the hospital to find her mother crying, Pandolfi was told she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

After beating that, Pandolfi’s mother was diagnosed with more tumours again a few years later. When she beat that, unfortunately the fight was still not over.

“When I was in Grade 9, I was told my mother had another brain tumour,” Pandolfi said.

This was a particularly “mentally taxing” period for the family, she said, given all that they had already gone through.

“After you go through something that many times, it’s mentally deteriorating,” she added.

However, Pandolfi’s mother beat that as well and took the survivor’s lap with the other cancer survivors. Pandolfi said it shows how strong her mother is as well as the other cancer survivors.

Pandolfi said it was very gratifying to take the Survivors’ Lap with her mom, and that she couldn’t explain the feeling of walking beside her knowing she doesn’t have to worry about her right now.

There were about 40 teams taking part in Villanova’s Relay for Life. She said the relays on the track were symbolic of what a cancer patient can go through as when a person is tired doing their relay, “you just have to keep going.”

Other events included escape rooms, Family Feud games, a slip and slide, bubble soccer and a variety of themed-relay laps.

Megan Veldhuis and Riley Mayville have fun on the slip ‘n’ slide that was at June 1 Relay for Life event at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School.

“We’ve got a lot of really fun stuff,” said Pandolfi.

Approximately 450 students participated, she said, most of them being from Villanova although some students from Lajeunesse joined in.

“We have an amazing committee,” she added, noting there was a lot of work put in to make sure the Villanova Relay for Life was successful.

“Artists of the Future” shine at Gibson Gallery

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

About 100 students from St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School and General Amherst High School had an opportunity to show their art work at the Gibson Gallery the last several weeks.

The “Artists of the Future” exhibit closed Sunday with a reception where artists and their teachers stopped by to look at the exhibit.

“It’s a nice ray of sunshine on a cloudy day to see so many people come out to see the art,” said Lisa Bastien, one of two Villanova art teachers that turned out.

Bastien said about 70 students from Villanova participated. She picked out various works from first semester art students and came up with a variety of work to submit, though noted there wasn’t a competition. The students created acrylic paintings, water colours, sculptures, mixed media and more.

Jessica Dass, a Grade 10 student at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School, stands with her work that was part of the Artists of the Future exhibit.

Many of the students came up with their own original ideas, she said.

“The students were encouraged to problem solve in creative ways,” Bastien noted.

The art program is thriving at Villanova, she continued.

“We have about 150-200 students going through the art program every year,” said Bastien. “The arts are alive and well at Villanova.”

Pam Burke, the second Villanova art teacher in attendance, said she was impressed to see the quality of work in the exhibit. She said it was fun for the students to be part of the “Artists of the Future” exhibit.

Burke said she was at the gallery a few days earlier and overheard people talking about some of the works.

“It makes you feel a sense of pride,” she said.

Some students enter high school stating they are unable to draw, but Burke added she sees the skill level in them. There were those with work in the show who previously believed they couldn’t draw at all.

“For me, it’s trying to get them confident in their skill level,” she said.

Sophia Fallea, a Grade 12 student at Villanova, shows her work during the recent Artists of the Future exhibit.

Andrea Craig-Wammes, art teacher at General Amherst, said there were about 25-30 of her students involved. She said she teaches 70 students this semester and had 120 last semester.

General Amherst students submitted everything from drawings and photography to sculptures and paintings. Craig-Wammes said she likes to keep art interesting for the students and makes choosing what gets into the exhibit part of the curriculum.

“It’s very important,” she added, of seeing the works on exhibit. “They absolutely love it.”

Craig-Wammes added she brought students to the gallery recently on a field trip so they could see the exhibit and experience the ambience of the gallery.

“We’re just thankful to be part of the show,” she said. “We’re just excited. Amherst keeps growing and a lot of kids are involved in the arts.”

The current exhibit at the Gibson Gallery is “Flashback: Threadworks 2016.”  It runs through May 13. The gallery is located at 140 Richmond St. in Amherstburg.

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.