WARREN, Mich. (May 20, 2019) – Valedictorian Joseph Edmund Schaeffer is one of 10 De La Salle Collegiate seniors to post the graduation trifecta – National Honor Society, Summa Cum Laude, and being a Michigan Competitive Scholarship qualifier.
Schaeffer, who is on the Pilots baseball team this spring, plans to attend Michigan State University in the fall.
Here is his speech from Monday’s 91st commencement ceremony in school history:
“When I look back at my time at De La Salle, there are many memories that have shaped these amazing four years. These include:
– Witnessing four different state championships.
– Learning about the fundamental theorem of calculus, which I am sure everyone here clearly remembers from their time in high school.
– Winning spirit week not once, but twice.
– Finally defeating Coach Schypinski in two-ball after four painful years of losing to him.
“While all these moments were special, the most important part of my time at De La Salle has been forming relationships that will last for life. These relationships have provided me with the support necessary during high school in order for me to develop into the man I am today. I formed these bonds with a couple different groups of people, and I would like to acknowledge each of them here tonight.
“First, I would like to focus on the importance of the relationships I have formed with my teachers. These connections extend beyond the classroom, as they have allowed me to not only grow as a student, but also as a person. There’s Mr. Kirck, who would always proofread my essays and talk with me about baseball. Mr. Novak, who would provide our class with practice AP calc tests during lunch, while also teaching us how to get buckets in IM basketball. Mrs. Meier, who was the chillest teacher in the school, as she was always understanding when it came to cooperating with us students and our busy schedules.
“And of course, there’s ‘Saint’ Berlin, who genuinely cared about each and every student in our class, as he always set a great example for how to act as a man in today’s society. These teachers are just a few of the many who have touched my life at De La Salle. The staff as a whole deserves the utmost respect for all that they have done for the school community, as they have played a pivotal role in both my development and the development of my fellow classmates. For their efforts, I am forever grateful.
“Next, I would like to highlight my relationships with the students at De La Salle. During these years, there have been a couple groups of students who I have formed especially strong bonds with. One such group is my baseball teammates.
“Another important group is my close friends. We had so many great memories, from Lebron vs. Jordan arguments at the lunch table, to chilling playing 2K on the weekends, to all the inside jokes making fun of each other. With you guys by my side, there was never a dull moment. Staying with the theme of friends, I can’t forget my best friend, my brother Ryan. It’s amazing how far we have come, from arguing over wiffle ball in the front yard as little kids, to being the only brother tandem in the two-ball tournament this year. Our friendship will only continue to grow, as I look forward to you visiting me on the weekends next year at Michigan State.
“And finally, to address the class of 2019 as a whole. We have been the class of change at De La Salle, as we have had a new schedule every year and even experienced a change in the advisory program this year. A weaker group of young men would have allowed this to ruin our senior year and tear our class apart. Because of our strong brotherhood, however, we embraced these new challenges, and have left our great school in better shape for the future. I am thankful to have undertaken this journey with such a great group of guys, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact that the class of 2019 makes on our community.
“Now, to the most important bond in my life: my relationship with my parents, Lee and Nancy. In case anyone here is unaware, attending De La Salle costs a little bit of money. My parents could easily have sent me to a public school and bought themselves a fancy car or a big house. Instead, they valued providing me with a Catholic education, as they made my future and success their No. 1 priority. Their support, however, extends beyond just sending me to De La Salle. From never putting any pressure on me to finish as valedictorian, to staying patient with me and my indecisiveness when choosing a college, to always showing 100 percent confidence in my abilities even when I doubted myself. Through all of this, your love has remained constant. You have taught me that the most important job of being a parent is to provide a better life for your children. You have far exceeded this role, as I would not have developed into the man I am today without the strong foundation you have given me. I am so lucky to call you two my mom and dad and I love you for all that you do. I would like to take this time for all of us students to give our parents and families a round of applause for the sacrifices they have made for each and everyone of us.
“In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the entire class of 2019 on their graduation, and I wish you all the best of luck in the future. Go Pilots!”
WARREN, Mich. (May 20, 2019) – One of 16 seniors who were in De La Salle Collegiate’s rigorous International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, Kevin Allen Kathawa gave a Valedictorian Speech at the school’s 91st commencement ceremony at Grace Christian Church on Monday evening.
Kathawa, who plans to attend the University of Detroit Mercy in the fall, was on the National Honor Society and graduated Summa Cum Laude.
Here is his speech:
“In the words of the great philosopher and Dunder Mifflin Paper Company Branch Manager Michael G. Scott: ‘Don’t ever, for any reason, do anything, to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what. No matter . . . where. Or who, or who you are with, or where you are going, or . . . or where you’ve been . . . ever. For any reason whatsoever.’
“That is the Michael Scott philosophy. I stand by it wholeheartedly, and I believe it is a principle that we should all adopt in our lives. It’s centered around creating respectful human relationships, which happens to be one of the goals of Lasallian education. Whether it be with teachers or fellow classmates, I hope we can all think of someone from De La Salle who has impacted our lives during our time here.
“Personally, there are two groups of people, both involved with the International Baccalaureate Programme, who have made a significant impact on me: the 15 other brave kids in the IB Program and Mrs. Howay — aka our IB mom. I want to first thank Mrs. Howay for making IB a reality and treating me with nothing but respect these last two years. I truly appreciate your unwavering support for me these past few months, in particular. And so, to my IB mom, always remember — keep up the good vibes.
“I’d also like to recognize my graduating IB brothers: Dom Balice, Nicholas Binno, Vince Compton, Rob Cornwell, Ian Earle, Athan Konon, Jacob Kujawa, Noah Lundgren, Nino Minniti, Joe Pierce, Conner Popa, Alex Scotta, Jack Studnicka, Anthony Stull, and Connor Weir. These 15 guys have worked so hard the last two years in what is a very rigorous program.
“Although our transcripts will read 187 students in our graduating class, today and forever, we as the Class of 2019 stand 188 strong. I pray that we are all welcomed into Heaven by our Lasallian brother, Joey Gangola.
“I would be remiss if I did not mention my family as an enormous source of support for me throughout these four years. Mom and Dad, thank you for instilling in me a strong faith and an excellent work ethic. And thank you for always believing in me. To my older brothers, Deion, Navin, and Jason, thank you for being such outstanding role models for me. And finally, to my little sister Isabella, thank you for always brightening my day.
I can confidently say that, without the contributions from each and every one of you, this moment would never be possible.
“Before my closing thoughts, I would like to offer a word of advice on De La Salle’s motto ‘Builders of Boys. Makers of Men.’ I want to share a quote by Gus Fring from the series ‘Breaking Bad’ which shows, in part, what it means to be a man. Fring states, ‘What does a man do? A man provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.’ Gus Fring may not exactly be a role model in the series, but there is, in fact, wisdom in those words.
“It is absolutely imperative that we strive towards this vision of manhood. We are not automatically men just because we walk across this stage and receive a diploma. Being a man is not a once-and-for-all proposition; it is a process. We become men. We strive for it.
“I’d like to end this farewell speech by quoting the famous pre-game speech given by Herb Brooks to his players at the 1980 Winter Olympics just before their game against the undefeated Soviet Union. Just as those 20 men representing the United States in 1980 were inspired despite facing the most daunting task in the hockey world, so, too, to can all of us be inspired here tonight. My hope is that we can all take these words to heart and harness them for the road ahead to college and beyond.
“And so, in the words of the legendary Herb Brooks:
” ‘Great moments . . . are born from great opportunity. That’s what you have here tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Now, go out there and take it.’ ”
WARREN, Mich. (May 16, 2019) – A few dozen members of De La Salle Collegiate’s Lasallian Youth Group spent Thursday morning helping out at the eighth annual Lancers Walk, Roll, Run event at Bovenschen School in Warren.
Bovenschen provides educational services for Macomb County students, ages 3 to 26, who have moderate to severe cognitive impairments or severe multiple impairments and have been referred by their local school districts.
This was the third straight year that De La Salle students have participated in this community event.
WARREN, Mich. (May 13, 2019) – De La Salle Collegiate senior Joe Zynda is one of 22 students nationwide who is a recipient of Western Michigan University’s 2019 Medallion Scholarship. The scholarship is valued at $60,000.
Dr. Staci Perryman-Clark, associate dean of Western’s Lee Honors College, presented Zynda with a certificate in a brief ceremony held at De La Salle.
Applicants for the scholarship need a minimum grade-point average and standardized test scores. Zynda carries a 4.0 GPA. Over 1,000 students applied for the scholarship this year.
Zynda plans to major in aviation science. He is currently taking pilot lessons and working toward a private pilot’s license. He flies out of Romeo State Airport, and has logged 26 hours thus far. The license requires a minimum of 70 hours, which Zynda plans to complete before he heads to Kalamazoo this fall.
He says completing the lessons now will save him money in future lessons, and ready him for instrument training at WMU.
“This scholarship means everything to me,” he said. “It allows me to achieve my dreams to become a pilot, which is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
He has been recognized for his academics on the sports side as well, receiving an Academic All-State medal for his track achievements. He throws discus, and recently threw a personal best at the Catholic League championships. Zynda finished seventh in discus the 2018 state finals. State regionals are this weekend.
Zynda has also played football for four years, earning two state championship medals, and was a three-year member of the Pilots powerlifting team.
He received a preferred walk-on for football at Hillsdale College, but wants to pursue his aviation dreams.
Zynda lives in Shelby Township with his parents, Steve and Sharon Zynda. His older sister Haley just graduated from the University of Kentucky and will attend Ohio State University for her master’s; older brother John graduated from Utica Eisenhower High School, and is earning a welding license from the Industrial Arts Institute in Onoway, Mich.
De La Salle alumnus Aaron Brzezinski was a Medallion Scholar in 2012.
WARREN, Mich. (May 13, 2019) –
For nearly 60 years, De La Salle Collegiate alumnus Tony Versaci has been involved with football in some way, from high school to college to the pros.
The son of De La Salle alumnus Samuel Versaci, who graduated in the first class of 1929, Versaci is proud of his Pilots affiliation.
In early May, Versaci visited De La Salle and spoke with a group of student athletes about his coaching and professional life. His post-coaching career includes active involvement with the Michigan chapter of the National Football Foundation, which honors high school and college seniors, as well as the Michigan All-State Dream Team.
Versaci played football at the University of Detroit as a walk-on, and then spent 11 years at Dearborn Divine Child High School. There, his Falcons won 84 percent of their games, which included three undefeated seasons. Among his players was Gary Danielson, who went on to star as the quarterback at Purdue, and then spent 12 years in the NFL. Danielson is now a college football analyst and color announcer for CBS Sports.
Versaci also mentored Bill McCartney, who went on to coach at the University of Colorado.
Named Michigan High School Coach of the Year in 1966, allowing him to visit any university in the country, Versaci chose the University of Alabama, and ended up being mentored by the legendary coach Bear Bryant.
Versaci also spent a season at Michigan State University as an assistant coach, before spending two years as a special teams coach with the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals.
He currently partners with Detroit Lions’ great Mike Lucci, and owns several Burger King franchises. Versaci and his wife Sally live in Bingham Farms, Mich., and have three children and five grandchildren.
On this episode of the De La Salle Spotlight Podcast, Chirco, a 2011 De La Salle graduate, talks with Versaci about his coaching time at the high school, college and NFL levels. He discusses his Dearborn Divine Child teams, which included current CBS College Football analyst Gary Danielson. Versaci also talks about his season as an assistant coach with Michigan State, his relationship with former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney, and much more.
WARREN, Mich. (May 10, 2019) – Family and friends of the late Gary Karas gathered Friday at De La Salle Collegiate to celebrate the memory of the 1969 alumnus who passed in October.
His classmate, Alan Rudziewicz, who handles the Karas Trust, presented De La Salle with a generous gift, in keeping with Karas’s wishes.
“Just as De La Salle impacted Gary’s life, this gift will impact the lives of our current students,” President John M. Knight said.
Rudziewicz said that Karas’s estate gave a sizeable donation to Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
“Gary was very fond of De La Salle,” Rudziewicz said. “He wanted to help the students of De La Salle, thought that he would best accomplish that by leaving the school a gift in his estate planning.”
The donation is also in the name of Karas’s late father, Alex, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, in an infantry unit that traces its roots back to the U.S. Civil War. His father was very proud of his service.
“We appreciate all the work that Alan Rudziewicz did to make this gift happen,” said Greg Esler, De La Salle’s major gifts officer.
John Monigold, director emeritus of alumni relations, knew Karas as a high school freshman, and reconnected with him in later years.
“Gary loved De La Salle, and the De La Salle experience,” Monigold said.
Karas who was born in Hamtramck, worked as a logistics engineer with the U.S. Government. He worked at the TACOM location in Warren during his entire career, and received commendations for his work with the military.
Karas had three sisters who live out of state; he never married and had no children.
WARREN, Mich. (May 9, 2019) – With less than two weeks until graduation, thoughts of college and the next step in their lives are uppermost in the minds of most of the 185 seniors.
Because seniors can be anxious about living in a dorm, away from home, meeting new people, and adjusting to their new-found independence, De La Salle Collegiate arranged with Ascension-St. John Health Systems to provide some assistance.
Dr. Karen Alton, Director of Adolescent Health, presented a talk entitled “Adolescent depression and anxiety: a general pediatrician’s perspective.” A graduate of George Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Alton has been in practice for more than 20 years. She has presented a similar lecture at other schools.
This is the first time De La Salle has specifically addressed mental health issues with graduating seniors.
Alton’s visit was arranged through Michael Badali, vice president, market growth and business development for Ascension. Badali is the father of three graduates (Michael, ’11, Anthony, ’13, and Francesco, ’14), and current sophomore Mario.
Ascension has relationships with local schools, and is interested in presentations for other groups, such as parents, alumni, and faculty and staff.
The event was sponsored by the 1926 Society, a De La Salle alumni group specifically aimed at young alumni, beginning during their senior year.
Major Gifts Officer Greg Esler, who established the 1926 Society this year, said, “Giving our seniors resources that will help them understand some of the challenges that they will be facing in college life can only benefit them.”
While many of their classmates were relaxing at home or on family vacation during the two-week spring break in April, six De La Salle Collegiate students and two adults spent time at Nazareth Farm Center in West Virginia.
Service Coordinator Jo Marie Ragona, along with theology teacher John Berlin, accompanied junior Julian Bourdreaux, sophomore Gabe Lueck, and freshmen Matt Lachajewski, Connor Baan, Peter Wotta, and Keegan Burns on the six-day service trip.
Along with students from five other U.S. high schools, including a Lasallian school from El Paso, Texas, the eight provided service at Nazareth Farm and in the nearby community in Salem, which is 120 southwest of Pittsburgh.
Traveling by rented van, the group lived at the farm, which accommodates 40 people. Young adults, called sojourners, sign up for a year or longer, and oversee the program. Started in 1979 by a religious order priest, there are now four Nazareth farms east of the Mississippi that follow a similar program.
The students hiked in local hills, and participated in a Eucharistic service, before beginning service projects on Day 2.
Each day opened and closed with a prayer. Students then worked each day on the various ongoing projects, mixed in with the students from other schools.
The farm chores included clearing a wood pile, chopping wood with an ax, mowing lawns, and working in gardens.
“I chopped wood with an ax, something I’d never thought I’d do in my life,” Ragona said,
Work in the local community included housing projects. Ragona said the families can handle their day-to-day expenses, but are unable to handle emergency expenses. The students helped with drywall repair, household siding, painting, and repairs at the local library.
Students paid a fee for the week, to cover the cost of the all-vegetarian meals, transportation, and boarding. De La Salle paid a portion of the fee.
Ragona said she heard about the project from a friend, and when she mentioned it to some students, four freshmen immediately signed up.
“I think the students learned how capable they are when they have to work outside of their skill set,” she said. “They learned about how other people live in another part of the country.”
Lueck said he enjoyed the trip.
“I’ve never been on a mission trip, and wanted to see what it was like,” he said. “I got to meet new people and learned how to do siding, drywall, and painting. I have never done anything like that. I would definitely go again if given the opportunity.”
GROSSE POINTE, Mich. (May 7, 2019) – The generosity of the Grosse Pointe Sunrise Rotary will make college expenses a little easier for five De La Salle seniors.
In an awards ceremony, held at the Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe, the Rotary group awarded scholarships to Damian Anonick, Catino Cammarata, Robert Cornwell, Christian Dean, and John Lietzow.
Each student received a $1,000 scholarship.
Anonick received the special Harvey Hohlfeldt Memorial Scholarship, and later met Kaye Hohlfeldt, Harvey’s widow, her son Dale Hohlfeldt, and grandson Jeff Hohlfeldt. The family owns Northern Industrial Manufacturing in Harrison Township. Because of Anonick’s interest in majoring in product design at Western Michigan University, the Hohlfeldts have invited him to contact them about a possible summer internship.
“That internship offer is very exciting,” Anonick said.
Last fall, the District of Northeastern America used Anonick’s Christmas card design for their 2018 greeting. Read more
The other students and their college plans are: Cammarata (Wayne State University, Nursing or Business); Cornwell (Albion College, Political Science, Spanish, and Music); Dean (University of Michigan, Art and Design); and Lietzow (Wayne State University, Finance).
Exemplifying Rotary International’s motto of “Service Above Self,” the group annually awards the one-time scholarships to deserving area high school students to assist in furthering their education plans.
In addition, to a recommendation by his or her counselor, each student must provide a transcript of grades, a college acceptance letter, and a brief biographical sketch detailing community service involvement.
Proceeds from Sunrise Rotary’s Annual Grosse Pointe Run, held each September, are used for the scholarships.