The last of five students introduced on College Signing Day Wednesday at Saint Viator High School, stood up like his classmates to announce what college he would be attending and why. The fact that Vitalii Strutynskyi had the confidence to speak publicly to the packed crowd, let alone commit to playing hockey in college, spoke volumes about his ability to adapt and Saint Viator’s role in supporting him.
At first, he thanked his coaches and teammates, saying how they had helped him adapt to his new surroundings. But then he explained more about his desire to attend college — and continue playing hockey.
“I wanted to play hockey and they had the academics I was looking for,” said Vitalii of his decision to attend Purdue Northwest University and major in cyber security. “I’ve dreamed of playing at the next level, in college and even beyond, and this will help me get there.”
When he sat down to sign his letter of commitment, he received a long, heartfelt round of applause.
Vitalii arrived at Saint Viator last year after he and his family fled the city of Kalush in western Ukraine. While he originally struggled with the language barrier, joining the hockey team has helped him adjust. In fact this year he is one the team’s top forwards and his coaches look 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.”
Vitalii also benefitted from the support of the Rev. Mark R. Francis, CSV, International Program. While Saint Viator has had an international program since 2005, it 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.
Vitalii is one of 35 students from nine countries — including China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Colombia, Guatemala, Taiwan, Poland and Ukraine — in the program this year.
Ms. Stefania Svejnoha is the moderator for Saint Viator’s international program. She says welcoming Vitalii and another student 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.”