Chris Cole: Alumni Spotlight

In honor of International Women’s Day in March, we took the opportunity to have one of our seniors interview St. Francis de Sales alumnae and business leader, Chris Cole.

Chris Cole graduated from St. Francis de Sales in 1971. She went on to graduate from Northern Illinois University with a BA in Accounting. After four years at Deloitte as an accountant, she left and started her long career at McDonalds Corporation.

Anissa Vanna, a senior at St. Francis de Sales, interviewed Chris on what it means to be a woman in the business world and what her advice would be for the students of today. Chris had lots of good advice and stories. Both women talked about their St. Francis de Sales education, their dreams and experiences.

Click the link here and read up on what Chris and Anissa talked about. 

Meet Gabe

Work hard. Life isn’t always easy. Take your opportunities.


These are just some of the lessons that Gabe Barker has learned during his tenure at
St. Francis de Sales. With college acceptances coming in (many of them and with scholarship money), he answered some of our questions about his experiences during high school.

Why did you choose St. Francis de Sales?
I came from C.I.C.S. Longwood and chose St. Francis de Sales because I wanted a school where I could play more than one sport and get a good education. St. Francis de Sales gave me that. I started right away playing football my freshman year and have played both baseball and basketball my last three years. I am currently part of the choir and was also a part of the student council. 

I know basketball is your favorite sport, can you tell us a bit about your experience on the basketball team?
I have played on the team for all four years as a small forward/power forward and played center too at times. I have been a leader on the team because I was able to play from freshman year on. Being on a team is so important. My game has evolved over the course of years. In the beginning, others doubted my ability but I pushed myself to overcome my inner struggles, a lot of problems come from internal battles. My goal is to give my best no matter whether we win or lose. My favorite memory came during my sophomore year and our sectional win. We played a super - sectional game at Northern Illinois University. What a memorable experience! I knew I still had two more varsity years. The school was electrified and everyone rooted for us and alumni even came to cheer us on.

Being on the basketball team for four years has been a great experience. I have learned that you have to work hard and if you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.

Are you glad you attended a Catholic School?
Yes, Mr. Warner, our Theology teacher, has taught me so much. I have talked with Mr. Warner countless times about problems or questions I have. He’s been a great supporter of me in everything I want to do and he gives great advice. Kairos, our retreat, was another great opportunity for me to express myself and grow stronger in who I am.

Do you have any specific stories that you want to share about your high school journey?
First semester of my freshman year, I was in and out of school due to a concussion from playing Varsity football. Throughout the course of the school year I went out to prove my ability to perform in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. I didn’t allow a rough start to affect how I finished the year. I wasn't up to par with all the material that was covered in the class while I was out for my concussion and my teacher at the time didn't make it easy for me.

Although this happened, I bounced back and squeezed in the top ten for the B honor roll for second semester. I had to go to summer school to make up my algebra class and I did it! I didn’t let that concussion and the time out of class stop me. 

Now because of my hard work and St. Francis de Sales education, I’ve been accepted into a number of schools with scholarship money including: Iowa Wesleyan, Youngstown State University, Central State University, Lewis University, Holy Cross College, Eastern Illinois University, Eastern Michigan, St Xavier University, Bradley University and Alabama A&M.

Meet Natalia

Natalia Hill, a senior at St. Francis de Sales (SFDS), talks about her experiences at SFDS and what advice she has for incoming families.

Why did you choose St. Francis de Sales?

I chose St. Francis de Sales High School because at the time all my friends from St. John de La Salle were attending and I also had friends already attending so I thought it would be fun to be with all my friends. Then, after the entrance exam, I got a scholarship, so it made the decision easy!

What do you plan to do after your graduation?

After college I will be majoring in nursing with the hopes that I will eventually go to medical school to be a pediatric surgeon. Nursing will enable me to make money in the profession while I continue to work toward the future goals.

Where do you think you will go to college next year?

I have applied to ten schools and heard from six so far -- I have been accepted to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Northern Illinois, Eastern Illinois, St. Ambrose University, Clark Atlanta University and University of Illinois at Chicago. I got a merit scholarship from St Ambrose.


What would you tell an incoming freshman family as to why they might consider St. Francis de Sales?

First, the teachers are great! Mr. Fennessy has been a big help on the college process and my theology teacher, Mr. Warner, is amazing. He gave me the opportunity to get to know who I am and to get closer to God. I am also able to talk with Mr. Warner about anything after our Kairos retreat. Second, you can do a lot at St. Francis de Sales. It is good to be at a small school. My freshman year I played basketball. My sophomore year I played volleyball, my junior year I played volleyball and softball and my senior year I played volleyball and was the manager for the soccer team. I am a part of the National Honor Society. I am doing yearbook this year. I was a part of the Culinary and Chinese clubs. There are lots of opportunities here to get involved. If I could tell a family two reasons why their child should attend SFDS, I would say “your child will get a good education and make lots of friends because everyone at SFDS is welcoming and friendly.

What advice would you give an incoming freshman?

Three pieces of advice I would give an incoming freshman for their first year at SFDS would be: focus on your work, have fun, and make the best of all situations you are put in.

Quinceaneras: A Celebration of Womenhood by Ileana and Kassandra

Many of us have attended a Quinceanera or celebrated one but not all of us. We invited two of our students Ileana and Kassandra, who both celebrated their Quinceanera in the last year, to share with us the meaning of the day.

A Quinceanera is a Mexican tradition that girls celebrate when they turn fifteen. It is a dream for a Hispanic girl to celebrate her fifteenth birthday. This celebration is unique to the Hispanic community. It is ”a tradition passed down from our ancestors, to our grandmothers, and mothers” said Ileana. Kassandra agrees “. It runs in the Mexican heritage and is a dream to most every Hispanic girl”.

Ileana said “My Quinceanera was a simple party to celebrate my 15th birthday and to celebrate that the Lord gave me life. A Quinceanera is a big party when you present yourself to the world as you turn into a young woman. There is a number of customs, including the changing of the shoes into slippers, the crown, the waltz, and your special dance with your dad”. 

The memories of your Quinceanera stay with you. According to Kassandra, “this special celebration will be with me and a memory that I will always have in the bottom of my heart, and one that I am grateful to my parents and God for making come true”.

The St. Francis de Sales High School community is enriched by all our students. We learn from them as they learn from us. Both Ileana and Kassandra are thankful to attend St. Francis de Sales. “Mr. Strus is such a great teacher. He has shown me that math isn't that hard as long as you practice and do the work. I've been struggling with math ever since I entered grammar school but now I feel like I can work through problems.” Kassandra agrees “the teachers and staff at St. Francis de Sales teach me to never give up on myself. Yes, you might have a bad day but that doesn't mean you have to give up.”

We are thankful for Kassandra and Ileana and they are thankful for the education they are receiving from St. Francis de Sales High School. Thanks to both of them for sharing with us their Quinceanera story.

Student: Ileana Gallegos Class of 2019
Grammar School: Sacred Heart Grammar School
She celebrated her Quinceanera this summer

Student: Kassandra Acevedo Class of 2019
Grammar School: Immaculate Conception
She celebrated her Quinceanera this summer

Meet Tabitha

St. Francis de Sales Sophomore Tabitha Delion plans a future in film

Tabitha Delion was always interested in the film industry, but after a ten day summer experience in New York City, she has set her goal to work as writer/director in the film industry.  She believes SFDSHS will help her reach her goal.

In NYC last summer, Tabitha experienced and learned many things –including technical things such as what cameras are best and motivational stories on how to be successful and reach your goals.

Tabitha knows she has to work hard – not just some of the time.  She knows she can do that because she already does work hard. In just her first year and a half at St. Francis de Sales she has already participated in numerous activities including Soccer, Student Council, STARS, Chess Club, Podcasting and Yearbook.  She believes these activities will help her reach her dream job. On Student Council, she was the Historian documenting the year in words and pictures. On Podcasting Club, she learned about storytelling. And through all these activities with her school work, she was reminded that hard work makes a difference.

Coming from George Washington School, Tabitha likes the small class sizes at SFDSHS where she knows all the teachers and they know her. Mr. Stowe, her art teacher, is one her favorite teachers because he pushes his students to go above and beyond. While setting high expectations for his students, he manages to keep a smile on his face and keep the joy in education. He inspires Tabitha to be her best.

When Tabitha first got to New York City, she was nervous traveling around the city, staying in the dorms and taking classes at the NY Film Academy.  But over time, she felt more comfortable and she learned so much. She heard different speakers, stayed on the campus of Manhattan College, worked as a managing editor on her film project and created a website. It was an eye-opening experience.

One woman who spoke, BJ Simons, made empowering videos. She told the students to work hard, to network, to follow their dreams and to be empowered to make the change they want. And that is what Tabitha will do as she follows her dreams while at St. Francis de Sales and after she graduates, in college and in the film industry.