I first walked into the “Viking Village,” at E. 185th St. and Lakeshore Boulevard in Cleveland, as a freshman in the fall of 1969. I remember how overwhelmed and intimidated I was. My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t remember the combination to my locker.
What I cherish most, though, are the teachings of the Marianist Brothers, who instilled in us a sense of social purpose. We were taught that it is noble and honorable to look out for the less fortunate and to seek justice whenever possible.
I am happy to report that those teachings are as prevalent as ever at VASJ. Last year, the enrollment for the incoming freshman class was up 25% and all indicators show that this fall’s enrollment will be augmented in a similar fashion.
But the most impressive statistic is that 100% of VASJ’s most-recent graduating class is attending college. And in doing so, they have received in excess of $3.5 million in tuition scholarships.
In my brief encounter with the VASJ students during my question and answer exchange yesterday, I am even more encouraged about not only the future of this proud institution, but the young lives that will eventually emerge beyond the high school walls and become leaders in our society.
When St. Joseph merged with Villa Angela in 1990, they integrated two religious orders, the Marianist Brothers and Ursuline Nuns. These two fabled teaching religious orders continue to produce men and women who possess not only exceptional educational aptitude, but also of equal import, a rock solid moral code that can withstand even the most corrupting influences that our modern society has to offer.
As I told the students yesterday, they may not realize yet just how fortunate they are to be attending Villa Angela-St. Joseph, but I guaranteed each and every one of them that some day they will appreciate the sacrifices their parents made, the loving dedication of staff and faculty, and last but not least, their own hard work.
I can’t wait to return to the Viking Village. Because in the words of the late, great VASJ football coach, Bill Gutbrod, “Once a Viking, always a Viking!”