St. Thomas of Villanova

Villanova welcomes prospective students at Grade 8 open house



By Ron Giofu


Grade 8 students from the area got a chance to see what St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School has to offer last week.

The Catholic high school hosted its Grade 8 open house last Thursday night with students from their feeder schools as well as other elementary schools in the area getting a chance to tour the halls and hear what programs are available.

“St. Thomas of Villanova is a school like no other,” said principal Amy Facchineri.

Facchineri touted the school’s slogan – “Excellence in Heart, Mind and Body” – and said students could look forward to being part of a friendly, welcoming school community. She said she is proud of how socially minded and active in the community the students are. About 150 students volunteered for the open house with very little effort needed to recruit them, she noted.

“The kids love the school,” she said.

Cosmetology students Sabrina Colussi and Madison Street demonstrate their skills during St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School’s recent Grade 8 open house.

Facchineri also promoted the academics at Villanova, noting that Grade 9 EQAO math scores exceeded the averages of the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board as well as other area school boards. Villanova saw pass rates of 65 per cent in the applied category and 93 per cent in the academic category.

Literacy scores were also promoted, with Villanova having an 88 per cent pass rate for first-time eligible students.

“Other boards in the area aren’t quite reaching the standards we are,” Facchineri stated.

She added: “Last year, just under 80 per cent of Grade 9 students earned honour roll status” and that graduates earned about $500,000 in scholarships.

Patti Weir, chair of Villanova’s Catholic school parent council, said there is a connection between parents, teachers and students.

“There is a place for every child in this school,” she said.

Students don’t disperse as quickly at lunch or after school, Weir added, due to its location.

“When your children come here, they are here the whole day,” she told the packed auditorium. “They spend time with each other.”

Lydia Manchurek, student council prime minister, said the students help each other as well.

“There’s so many opportunities,” said Manchurek. “You really can’t go wrong.”

Villanova donates 4,500 cans, hundreds of toys to those in need



By Jolene Perron


Nearly 650 families have been affected by St. Thomas of Villanova’s Adopt-A-Family Christmas program over the last 14 years.

This year was no different.

Not only did the 1,200 students come together to purchase gifts for families in need, but they also collected 4,500 pieces of non-perishable food items, which were distributed to two local food banks – Essex Area Food Bank and the Devine Mercy Food Bank, which is affiliated with St. Vincent De Paul.

Staff and students at Villanova donated cans and toys to those in need recently.

Department head of special education Maggie Ducharme explained first they hold the canned food drive, and then they have “adoption day” where they set up tags on a Christmas tree, and classes can choose which family they want to adopt. The members of the class bring in money or gift donations and they collect everything that family needs.

Ducharme explained it’s not just classes who do this, it’s administration, parent council, support staff, and anyone else who is involved within the school. They all work together to sponsor the families.

Villanova has helped food banks and charitable groups again this year.

“I just start around Halloween getting information from our organizations,” explained Ducharme. “I’ve worked with most of them for a long time and so it is just preparing the cards and figuring out which classes want to adopt. It’s a bit of a process but it’s extremely rewarding when you see the results.”

Ducharme said she and her many coworkers at the schoolwork together with the two food banks as well as the Children’s Aid Society to assist the families in need.

After all the cans are collected and the gifts are purchased, the school holds a special mass where the students bring all of the gifts forward. Representatives from each of the benefitting organizations are also invited to attend.

Coordinator from Devine Mercy Foodbank Yvette Drouillard explained without the help of Villanova staff and students, their shelves would be “minimal.”

“It’s astounding the number of canned goods and boxes of cereal and pastas we get from them,” said Drouillard. “It’s so wonderful to see when the kids come up with the boxes of toys and you can tell the spirit of giving is there and I think that Maggie and teachers there do a good job because lets face it, we’re all here to help one another. I think you have to have great pride in them to say ‘wow.’ There is so much negativity against these kids but you have to see their giving hearts. They want to give. They want to help and I think it makes you feel good to know they are caring about somebody else in unfortunate situations.”


Villanova student earns softball scholarship to American university



By Ron Giofu


The softball talents of Chloe Gignac have earned her a scholarship to an American university.

Gignac, a Grade 12 student at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School, has earned an academic and athletic scholarship to Spring Arbor University, located in Spring Arbor, Michigan. While she verbally committed about six months ago, the 17-year-old officially signed with Spring Arbor University last Wednesday afternoon in Villanova’s auditorium surrounded by friends and family.

“I’m pretty excited,” she said. “I’ve been working towards this goal for a while. It’s nice to finally get it accomplished.”

Chloe Gignac, a Grade 12 student at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School, officially signs with Spring Arbor University at a ceremony last Wednesday afternoon. At left is Spring Arbor head coach Deb Thompson with pitching coach Joe Robertson being at right.

Gignac said she started playing T-ball when she was five-years-old and transitioned into softball. She started playing in the United States when she was 12-years-old for the increased competition and has been playing there ever since.

Her choice of post-secondary institutions is something she is happy with.

“It’s obviously close to home. The coaches are great. It’s like a big softball family,” said Gignac.

Gignac pointed out it was “a choice between a couple of schools” but landed on Spring Arbor, adding the university has a beautiful campus. She also said she met the Spring Arbor team and that helped her with her decision as well.

The shortstop/outfielder said she enjoys everything about the sport.

Chloe Gignac (seated, at left) is joined by her family at the signing ceremony in the St. Thomas of Villanova auditorium last Wednesday. Also pictured are her
mother Deb, father, Perry and sister Avery.

“It’s a whole other world to escape to,” said Gignac. “I like the team atmosphere. I have such a good time.”

Gignac’s goals softball-wise is to help the Spring Arbor team be the best it can be over the four years she is there. Career-wise, she is undecided as to what her major will be.

Spring Arbor head coach Deb Thompson said they first noticed Gignac while she was playing for her U.S. team and it seemed like she would be a good fit for their program.

“She’s a great person. It seems she works very hard,” said Thompson. “We’re always looking for athletes who want to give it their all.”

Thompson said Gignac has good speed, a good arm as well as a good bat. Spring Arbor spent about one year scouting Gignac.

“She’s got a lot of tools she can use,” Thompson stated, who plans on using Gignac as a middle infielder and an outfielder.

Lady Gens come close against Villanova in one of two games last week



By Ron Giofu


The General Amherst Lady Gens were close to their first victory of the season last Tuesday but fell just short.

The Lady Gens went to Villanova but were defeated 42-38 in overtime. The game saw the Wildcats take a 20-17 lead at the half with Amherst tightening it to 27-25 after three quarters. With four minutes to go, Dani Brindley put the Lady Gens up 32-31 with the fourth quarter going back-and-forth the rest of the way.

Villanova had a 38-35 lead but Ramie Tytgat’s three-pointer with five seconds left in regulation put the game into overtime. However, Tytgat’s three-pointer would be the last points the Lady Gens would score as Villanova outscored the Lady Gens 4-0 in the four-minute overtime period.

General Amherst’s Lexi Dodds (35) drives to the basket during second half action last Tuesday at Villanova. The Wildcats defeated the Lady Gens 42-38 in overtime.

Lexi Dodds led Amherst in scoring against the Wildcats with 14 points while Brindley had 11 points. Tytgat scored nine points.

“There were crucial mistakes we made,” said General Amherst coach Dom Silvaggio. “In the first half, our defensive rebounding was non-existent. Out of (Villanova’s) 20 points, 14 of them came on second shot opportunities.”

Silvaggio believed the Lady Gens did a better job rebounding in the second half but added they also had problems with their shot selection.

“I think it comes down to making the right decisions when to shoot and when not to shoot,” said Silvaggio, adding there were three shots in the overtime period the Lady Gens took when they shouldn’t have.

The effort was better in two of the last three games, he said after the Villanova game.

“They didn’t quit,” said Silvaggio. “That’s good to see.”

The Lady Gens dropped to 0-7 on the season two nights later in a game at first-place Holy Names. The Knights knocked off the Lady Gens 42-22 with Holy Names improving to 5-1 with the win.

Taja Holmes scored nine points in the game for the Lady Gens.

General Amherst’s last scheduled regular season game is Thursday afternoon at Sandwich. The Sabres were 0-6 at press time.

Students at St. Thomas of Villanova put talents on display



By Ron Giofu


Students from St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School took to the stage late last week to showcase the various talents they have.

There was an evening performance last Thursday where 16 acts went on stage in the school’s festival theatre. Judges pared the number of performers down to a list of ten for a daytime performance Friday.

Celine LaBrecque shows her rhythmic gymnastics skills during St. Thomas of Villanova’s talent show.

Celine LaBrecque shows her rhythmic gymnastics skills during St. Thomas of Villanova’s talent show.

Music teacher Ann Marie Brunet said the students auditioned to be part of the show. Once all is said and done, the annual talent show awarded a $100 first prize (won by Nick Unis and Lucas Rivard), a $75 second prize (won by Alexia Mathews) and a $50 third prize (won by Shawn Evon) with the “fan favourite” award also being $50. The latter was won by dancers Julian Alfuente, Gabe Madla and Nathan Serre.

“We do this every year. It helps to showcase their many talents the kids have here at the school,” said Brunet.

Brunet pointed out the acts were diverse in nature, from vocal performances to instrumental acts as well as dance and gymnastics. It is something the students always look forward to.

“They love it,” she said. “It gives them a chance to shine and be artistic.”

“It was amazing,” Mackenzie Caradonna said of the experience. “I love being on stage and I love being a part of the talent show.”

Regan White sings during St. Thomas of Villanova’s talent show last Thursday night.

Regan White sings during St. Thomas of Villanova’s talent show last Thursday night.

Caradonna performed the song “Different,” a song that she wrote herself when she was 13-years-old. She said it was inspired by her life and the tough times she has gone through.

“I really wanted to express that you can get through (tough times),” she said.

Nick Unis and Lucas Rivard had a drum battle. The pair closed last Thursday evening’s show with a rousing performance. Both said they have been playing the drums for approximately five years.

Regan White said she also enjoyed being a part of the talent show, and that she performs in a variety of places.

“I’m always performing,” said White. “I perform all the time.”

Mackenzie Caradonna sings “Different” as part of the show. It is a song that Caradonna wrote herself.

Mackenzie Caradonna sings “Different” as part of the show. It is a song that Caradonna wrote herself.

Performing at Villanova is always special for her, she said.

“I love performing at my school,” she said. “It’s so much fun.”

White added: “Performing is my life. I just love it.” She said she is thinking about doing it as a career, and credits teachers Brunet and Mary Jo Grado for helping to pull the talent show together.

“We’re all so grateful for that.”