The Rev. Mark R. Francis, CSV, International Program has supported students from different countries at Saint Viator High School for more than 10 years and increasingly those countries are more diverse.
This year, the program serves more than 35 students from nine countries, including China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Colombia, Guatemala, Taiwan, Poland and Ukraine.
The students from the Ukraine stand out, since they fled their war-torn country seeking a safe and welcoming environment. According to the two enrolled now, they found that at Saint Viator.
“I am from Kyiv, which is the capital of Ukraine, so obviously Russia wanted to take the capital, which affected the city a lot,” says junior Olha Slobodianiuk. “Leaving Ukraine was hard. Getting together all the documents and visas was harder than it would be in a country without war.”
Last year, Ohla attended a school in North Carolina, but through the help of a family member discovered Saint Viator.
“Luckily, I had my Godmother who was in Chicago and Saint Viator was very nice to accept me to their school,” Ohla adds. “The community of Saint Viator is friendly, so the transition was very easy.”
Senior Vitalii Strutynskyi arrived last year after he and his family fled the city of Kalush in western Ukraine. While he struggled with the language barrier last year, joining the hockey team has helped him adjust. In fact this year he is one the team’s top forwards and his coaches are looking to him for leadership.
“What I like the most is that teachers can help you to adapt to class and their lessons,” Vitalii says, “and explain hard things that I didn’t understand the first time.”
The international program was named for Fr. Francis in 2012, the last year he served as Superior General of the Viatorians. Consequently, the program reflects his years of international study and service. It is intended to focus on student needs, and enable them to develop cultural understanding and performance skills necessary to succeed in academic and social situations.
Ms. Stefania Svejnoha is the moderator for Saint Viator’s international program. She says welcoming these students from Ukraine not only adds cultural awareness to the school but compassion as well.
“As Viatorian educators and administrators,” she says, “giving them the opportunity to study safely and not sacrifice their education due to war, I believe represents Saint Viator High School, and the program’s mission perfectly.”