Viatorian Valentines

Saint Via­tor Stu­dents and Alum­ni Team Up to Spread Love for Valentine’s Day

In addi­tion to strong aca­d­e­m­ic and extra-cur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties, Saint Via­tor High School is deeply root­ed in a tra­di­tion of giv­ing back to oth­ers, ser­vant lead­er­ship, and com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment. After sup­port­ing Ken­neth Young Center’s Adopt a Fam­i­ly by pro­vid­ing more than 120 gifts to area fam­i­lies for the hol­i­days, many Via­tor fam­i­lies were intro­duced for the first time to KYC’s diverse port­fo­lio of pro­grams rang­ing from youth empow­er­ment to old­er adult ser­vices, men­tal health to cri­sis inter­ven­tions. Then learn­ing that two mem­bers of KYC’s Lead­er­ship Team are Saint Via­tor grad­u­ates deep­ened the connection.

As stu­dents returned to school after win­ter break, many were look­ing for local ser­vice oppor­tu­ni­ties to sup­port those impact­ed most by the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Sarah Mik­lius, SVHS Class of 2015 and cur­rent staff mem­ber of the Stu­dent Min­istry Team, reached out to KYC to see how stu­dents could make an impact.

Ms. Mik­lius and stu­dents gath­ered sweet treats, craft sup­plies to make hand­made cards, heart-shaped bas­kets, and more to cre­ate Valentine’s Day care pack­ages for KYC’s clients. On Feb­ru­ary 3rd, more than 30 stu­dents gath­ered to assem­ble over 100 care pack­ages with mes­sages of friend­ship to the adults and old­er adults who would receive them. At the begin­ning of their meet­ing, Kate Gar­barek, Direc­tor of Devel­op­ment and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, shared how the pan­dem­ic has specif­i­cal­ly impact­ed clients and the strain iso­la­tion can put on someone’s men­tal health.

Katrina Speaking at Viator

Students gathered in the cafeteria to talk with expert panelists about mental health.

Once their pack­ages were com­plet­ed, stu­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed in a pan­el dis­cus­sion on men­tal health, with experts from SVHS’s Coun­sel­ing Depart­ment, Clau­dia Carone and Michael Leahy, and Kat­ri­na Flesvig, KYC’s Direc­tor of Behav­ioral Health. 

Red Heart Monochrome Photo Valentines Day Photo Collage

Saint Viator students packing care packages for KYC clients.

Most of the bas­kets will go to seniors receiv­ing Home Deliv­ered Meals, while oth­ers will be dis­trib­uted to adults liv­ing with seri­ous men­tal ill­ness, many of whom are liv­ing inde­pen­dent­ly for the first time in years. Lisa Hen­drick­son (SVHS Class of 1999), Direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ty Liv­ing, leads this expand­ing pro­gram to build inten­sive out­pa­tient men­tal health and social work ser­vices that ensure these adults suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion from long-term care facil­i­ties to inde­pen­dent apart­ments with wrap­around support.

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A Valentine made by one of the students.

I’m deeply proud to be a Via­to­ri­an and recon­nect­ing with the school through ser­vice projects has been a priv­i­lege” shared Gar­barek. I had a joy-filled four-years as a stu­dent and see­ing cur­rent stu­dents’ com­pas­sion toward oth­ers and their desire to des­tig­ma­tize men­tal ill­ness has been inspir­ing. These bas­kets will bring so much joy to peo­ple who tru­ly need it.”

Like many Via­tor grad­u­ates, Hen­drick­son and Gar­barek cred­it many of the val­ues instilled dur­ing their days at Saint Via­tor with their desire to work in the social ser­vice sec­tor. After grad­u­at­ing, Ms. Hen­drick­son stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut and then grad­u­at­ed from Pur­due Uni­ver­si­ty with a degree in Psy­chol­o­gy. She worked as a Men­tal Health Out­reach Coun­selor for a cou­ple years in Boston, then moved back to Chica­go and began work­ing for KYC. After earn­ing her Master’s of Social Work from the Uni­ver­si­ty of St. Fran­cis, she helped estab­lish the Com­mu­ni­ty Sup­port Team at KYC serv­ing the North­west sub­urbs of Chica­go. Her irrefutable dri­ve to lift up oth­ers, some­times from their low­est point, has not only large­ly built the depart­ment that she now over­sees, but has changed count­less lives for the bet­ter. From help­ing com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers find per­ma­nent and sta­ble hous­ing to con­nect­ing them with the ongo­ing sup­port ser­vices that help each indi­vid­ual reach their per­son­al goals for inde­pen­dence, her work makes an impact each day.

After grad­u­at­ing from Saint Via­tor, Ms. Gar­barek earned dou­ble degrees in Strate­gic Communication/​Public Rela­tions and Com­par­a­tive Reli­gion from Mia­mi Uni­ver­si­ty. She’s held fundrais­ing roles at both East­er Seals Met­ro­pol­i­tan Chica­go and the Friend­ship Senior Options Foun­da­tion before join­ing KYC’s team to lead their com­mu­ni­ca­tions and advance­ment efforts. Her goal is to empow­er impact through phil­an­thropy, vol­un­teerism, and service.

Both of these St. Via­tor alum­ni are proud to car­ry on the val­ues and skills they learned as Lions through­out their pro­fes­sion­al careers by giv­ing back to our com­mu­ni­ties and hon­ored to con­tin­ue that rela­tion­ship through projects with today’s Lions.

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Students packed large moving boxes with care packages, ready for distribution to KYC clients.


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