VASJ opens its doors to eighth-graders in new Viking Edge program

Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School is offering a group of students from Our Lady of the Lake a unique opportunity this fall. Seven eighth-graders will be coming to VASJ during first period every day for the entire year to take Ms. Jessica Linnert’s Algebra I course.

Teachers at Our Lady of the Lake selected these students whom they deemed capable to take a high school-level math course and who would need more of a challenge than they would receive in an eighth-grade course.

The OLL students are rising to the challenge with gusto.

“I am pleasantly surprised on a daily basis how much the eighth-graders participate in the classroom discussion,” Linnert says. “Whenever I ask for answers to problems, or for them to come to the board and show how to complete a problem, almost all of them volunteer without hesitation. They are very enthusiastic about this program.”

VASJ faculty and administrators are enthusiastic about the program, too.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for years,” says VASJ Math Chair Gary Minadeo ’74. “We felt a need to build a Viking bridge to the middle schools.”

Minadeo’s hope is to fill an entire class of 20-25 eighth-grade students from local schools next year.

In addition to offering these students an opportunity to advance their math knowledge, VASJ is integrating the eighth-graders into a classroom with high school students for their first glimpse at the high school experience.

“When they enter the room, they become a Viking,” Linnert says. “I told them on the first day that I am not treating them any different. They will follow the same policies and procedures as if they were a full-time student at VASJ.”

Khalid Mitcham was intimidated by attending a high school class at first but is now quite comfortable at VASJ.

“It makes me more excited for high school,” Mitcham says. “I feel like I know more of what to expect and it seems really fun.”

His classmates also like being a part of the high school atmosphere. In their weekly reflection papers, the eighth-grade students share with Ms. Linnert how much they are enjoying being a part of the high school environment at VASJ.

The Our Lady of the Lake eighth grade students taking part in the Viking Edge program join the
VASJ freshmen in Ms. Jessica Linnerts Algebra I class during first period every day of the week.

“The freshmen that are in their class welcome them with open arms and assist them whenever needed,” says Linnert.

At the completion of the year, the eighth-grade students from Our Lady of the Lake will receive a transcript for one high school math credit.

Parents or administrators of current seventh graders who are interested in joining the Viking Edge program next year may contact Mr. Gary Minadeo at for more information.