When the doors to Lake Catholic High School opened in 1970, 221 ninth graders walked through. It was the beginning of something new and exciting.
A few years ago, the school celebrated its 50th anniversary of those school doors opening. The celebration, however, was muted because of the global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.
Those 221 students, back then, eventually became the first graduating class of Lake Catholic. That was in 1974. One by one, year by year, students continued their march through high school and eventually across the stage to receive their diplomas, adding to the number graduating classes. So now, not slowed by the pandemic, we are able to countdown the months until we can celebrate Lake Catholic High School’s 50th graduating class – the Class of 2023.
Over the next five months, as we move toward May 20, 2023, when this year’s seniors will turn their tassels and become alumni, we will look back at the decades of classes that came before them.
First up, the 1970s.
There were only six graduating classes from that first decade, but that doesn’t mean they were without accomplishments.
The very first class attended school for the first six months at Shore Junior High. Moving from temporary classrooms to a new building that was only 25% finished did not stop the Class of 1974 from making the most of its first year of high school. This class continued to be the pioneers of Catholic education in Lake County and began to form many of the traditions that are still near and dear to everyone’s hearts more than 50 years later.
The second graduating class celebrated the school's football team that finished with a 10-0 undefeated season, and the school's first state wrestling champion - Dean DiLillo at 132 pounds.
The Class of 1976 celebrated our nation’s Bicentennial and the teachers, extracurriculars, clubs and sports that made Lake Catholic “the” school to attend!
Highlights from the fourth class to graduate from Lake Catholic include the first Varsity Girls Basketball and Volleyball teams; the first Senior Mass and Breakfast; Homecoming Court; Turkey Day; Senior Poll results; and do you remember the “Bachelor Survival” Elective Class?! Enjoy talented artists’ renderings of the Torch staff and a creative map of the Lake Catholic neighborhood.
The class of 1978 is remembered for the infamous “Snow Bowl” Football Game; two All-State athletes in Football and Soccer; the 1978 Prom; the “friendliest” seniors; Fifties Day; Project Green; and Lake Catholic Principal Joe Radican – fondly known as Curly Joe taking to the “streets” of the school in style! Do you remember sunbathing in the courtyard?
Highlights from the sixth Lake Catholic graduating class includes the inaugural Baseball and Gymnastics Teams; The Sound of Music Musical; the Honors Assembly and Christian Life Awards; the tradition of the Powder Puff Football Game; Senior Boys Retreats; Senior Class Representatives; Life as a Class of 79 Senior; and the hustle and bustle of the Lake Catholic parking lot when the school day ends!
Select pictures from the yearbooks for these classes can be found at here.
(The image is just a sample illustration of what the space could look like.)
Lake Catholic High School is pleased to announce a major gift to benefit collaborative learning. The Skalicki family has made the generous pledge that will help fund the school’s innovative project-based learning program.
The Skalicki family has been a supporter of Lake Catholic for many years. This latest donation is a testament to their commitment to the school and its mission of educating students in a collaborative learning environment.
“Lake Catholic is blessed to have many multi-generational families with aunts, uncles and cousins sharing the Lake Catholic experience – The Skalicki Family is no exception with a dozen relatives from three families attending Lake Catholic,” said Lake Catholic President Mark Crowley. “They shine in academics, fine and performing arts, spiritual life, student government and really anything they put their mind to.
“They have also been generous in helping us transform the educational experience with this investment in our Media Center. We expect it to serve as a catalyst throughout the building.”
The project-based learning program at Lake Catholic encourages students to take an active role in their education. Through the use of technology and collaboration, students are able to work together to solve problems and complete projects. This type of learning encourages students to think critically and develop the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.
“This transformational gift will provide state-of-the-art educational facilities for our students and faculty,” said Lake Catholic Principal Tom McKrill. “The Skalicki family has been a strong supporter of Lake Catholic, and their vision aligns very well with the future of Lake Catholic.
“We are taking the time to rethink old norms by examining a broader more individualized perspective on what our students’ success is and how they achieve it. The Media Center project will come with faculty and student development to gain knowledge, acquire practical skills, and develop personally. We are excited for this opportunity the Skalicki family is providing us with, as we enter a new era at Lake Catholic High School. “
The donation will be used to purchase the necessary equipment and materials for the project-based learning program. This includes capital improvements to the space, furniture upgrades and improved technology.
McKrill said he plans on putting together a focus group comprised of faculty, staff, and students, to come up with the best working solutions for the entire media center space. The school will work with Ohio Desk, an office furniture dealership in Cleveland, to reimagine, plan and build the new space.
“Our family’s contributions over the years have always been geared towards strengthening the school’s technological capabilities and improving the opportunities available to both current and prospective students,” said John Skalicki (Lake Catholic Class of 1993), who made the donation along with his brother Robert (’89), sister Barb Schoen (’95) and their parents, Zeljko and Amalija. “We are excited to be considered a catalyst in Lake Catholic’s project-based learning movement and hope our financial commitment inspires others to help fund this initiative for years to come.”
The family’s donation is a major boost to the school’s efforts to provide a top-notch education for its students. By investing in the project-based learning program, Lake Catholic is ensuring that its students are prepared for the future.
“Our faculty are already teaching with Ben Franklin’s adage in mind, ‘TELL ME and I’ll forget; SHOW ME and I may remember; INVOLVE ME and I’ll LEARN’,” Crowley said. “Research has shown that the contemporary furniture we will be purchasing with the Skalicki Family donation engages the students and teachers even more, thereby increasing the student’s learning.
“We are so grateful for their support.”
If you, your family and/or your business are interested donating for future projects, please contact Carla Ronnebaum, our Director of Advancement, either by email or by phone (440.578.1020 ext. 234).
The second annual Career Fair, which took place right before the Thanksgiving break, offered the entire Lake Catholic student body a chance to talk to many different professionals to get a glimpse of a few careers that might be options for them as they move on to the next steps of their lives.
For one senior, though, the Career Fair ended up being a springboard to a professional shadow day over the Christmas break, a set-up for his senior project and introductions to key contacts for a possible career after college.
David Mordini, who wants to have a career as a government analyst or investigator, turned a conversation at the Career Fair into a day at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland Field Office and said he hopes it turns into much more after graduation.
“Two days after Career Day, Mrs. (Brandi) Mandzak (Lake Catholic theology teacher) called me and told me I was going to be able to get into the FBI headquarters,” Mordini said. “I freaked out.”
Mrs. Mandzak’s husband, Thomas Mandzak, who is the Captain in the Cleveland Division of Police, was the key contact for Mordini. He spoke with him at the Career Fair because of his interest in criminology and criminal justice.
“I want to be an analyst or an investigator,” Mordini said. “So, I was talking to Mr. Mandzak about possibly doing my senior project with the Cleveland Police.”
It was from that conversation that turned into his five-hour day at the Cleveland Field Office of the FBI. Mordini was with one of the FBI’s analysts, as she gave him a tour of the entire facility and introduced him to many members of the office – surveillance teams, cybersecurity, bilingual agents and international security.
“Even though each group has different roles and responsibilities, most all of them work in a big bullpen area,” Mordini said. “Everyone works together. They are all part of the same team.”
He also was given a look at the office’s clinic, drone room, media/conference room, gym, and cafeteria. He met a few of the lawyers, and the supervisor of specialized agents.
“The supervisor of specialized agents oversees all the agents,” he said. “We got to talk for a little bit. She gave me her card and even told me to reach out to her once I’m ready to take the FBI entrance exam.”
For now, Mordini will focus on finishing his senior year, including completing his senior project with the police and/or FBI, but then hopes to study criminology and criminal justice, probably at Kent State University, he said.
It’s a career path that might have been accelerated because of one simple conversation.
“Career day was initially started as a means to extend the senior project,” said Mrs. Mary Ridler, Technology and Innovation Department Chair and Career Fair coordinator. “It allows students an opportunity to connect with different careers prior to graduation. The hope is to make the connections with the career day speakers in the field of their choice and to allow an opportunity for our seniors to engage in those careers for even just a week (senior project) for a 'real life ' introduction to that professional world.”
Mark Crowley, who has served as President of Lake Catholic since August of 2017, has announced his plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2022-2023 school year.
“Mark has provided steadfast leadership to Lake Catholic through an important time in its history by focusing on mission and the unique charisms of the Lake Catholic experience. Today the school enjoys steady enrollment and growing community support to ensure financial stability and position Lake Catholic for future growth,” commented Frank O’Linn, Ed.D., Superintendent of Catholic schools. “Mark has also assembled a talented team to lead and sustain Lake Catholic for the future.”
“Mark has done a phenomenal job at Lake Catholic. It’s been my honor to work with him,” said John Redmond (LC ’80) current chair of the advisory board. “He deserves much credit for keeping Lake Catholic relevant and his work on crafting a strategic plan has been very helpful in restoring us on a pathway to success – I wish him the best of luck.”
Crowley shared, “This past fall I turned 64 and my wife Lea (’78) and I started talking about our future plans at our 41st anniversary dinner. I realized that from a Lake Catholic perspective, now would be a perfect time to retire. We introduced a great administrative team on the academic side of the house this year, we also hired several staff members in key revenue positions who are either alumni, parents of alumni or parents of current students. The school’s strategic plan envisions an extraordinary future for all aspects of the school.” Crowley continued.
O’Linn, added, “It will be a challenge to replace Mark’s passion and commitment to Lake Catholic, but we remain confident in our ability to continue the trajectory that Lake Catholic is currently on. This is an exciting time to be in Cougar Country.”
The search for the next president of Lake Catholic High School will begin immediately.
Crowley's letter to the Lake Catholic community can be read here.
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