Lutheran Academy Class Revels in Its Size

Article excerpt

Byline: Kathy Downing Daily Herald Staff Writer

Surrounded by public high school classes 50 to 75 times larger, the 10 graduating seniors from Fox Valley Lutheran Academy might invite the comparison of David pitted against Goliath.

But the seniors of this private school, originally based in Roselle and now in temporary quarters in Elgin, have accomplished as much as any of their fellow members of the Class of 1997.

With an Illinois State Scholar and IHSA Scholastic Achievement Award winner counted among their number, the class can compare to the best in the state. The group includes a foreign exchange student, Kathy Serrano of Brazil. And nearly all these graduates are bound for college.

It goes to show that size is not necessarily a measure of quality. Nor does a smaller class mean experiences are more limited.

The students have seen their share of both joy and sorrow this year. The kooky fun of a homecoming "car bashing" fund-raiser or successful "Pack the Place" basketball event was tempered by the deaths of two local children - one from kidney problems and the other from cancer - for whom the Fox Valley Lutheran student council had been raising funds.

Through it all, the members of this class have learned even a small group can have a large impact. And while they may be overwhelmed in arenas such as organized sports, life lessons have balanced that out by showing them the importance of one individual.

Take Erica Sitze, of Wayne, who was determined to complete a fund-raising walk for multiple sclerosis even though she was the only participant from her school. Or Kristi Barnes, of Maple Park, who volunteers with Special Olympics. Or Pete Mensching, of Dundee Township, who helps out with the Kane County Emergency Management Agency.

The lesson of self-determination is evident.

"Being in a small school, you can make it what you want to," Mensching said, adding that students can choose either involvement or a more laid-back attitude.

The students know each one of them is an important part of a group that feels like an extended family.

Attending a smaller school also gave some senior class members opportunities to develop in ways not offered by larger venues.

Scott Ross, of Roselle, was 6 or 7 years old when he went into a series of seizures that were symptoms of a malignant brain tumor.

After undergoing brain surgery that still was experimental in 1984, he lost the use of his right arm and some of the use of his right leg. His short-term memory also was impaired, making some subjects, such as accounting, difficult to master.

But working with computers is Ross' passion, and he won a business award one year from Fox Valley Lutheran for his word processing skills - skills he says he would not have been allowed to develop at the public high school in his home district. …