Kai and Aidan Solonka chose St. Mary’s University to continue the Marianist education they first encountered at Central Catholic
by Michelle Mondo
Education centered around service and perseverance is important to brothers Kai and Aidan Solonka. Their first experiences with Marianist education came as they each entered Central Catholic High School.
Kai Solonka first, as the oldest, then Aidan Solonka two years later.
When it came time to choose a college, they said St. Mary’s University stood out as a way to continue that kind of education.
“The Marianist ideal in education is about perseverance and a duty that education — and knowing what to do and what not to do in certain situations — is the most important thing as opposed to just memorizing facts,” Kai Solonka said.
Born and raised in San Antonio, it was their grandmother’s and mother’s wish that they continue their family tradition of Catholic education. Both attended the school with the help of the Marianist Excel Program, formerly known as the Marianist Urban Student Program (MUSP), which offers financial aid and other support to incoming freshmen at Central Catholic.
“The Marianist ideal in education is about perseverance and a duty that education — and knowing what to do and what not to do in certain situations — is the most important thing as opposed to just memorizing facts.”
Kai Solonka, a senior Philosophy major, plans to go to graduate school to become a licensed professional counselor and then get a Ph.D. in Philosophy. His goal is to focus on post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and the intersection of free will. He is publishing a paper through the McNair Scholars Program, titled “Neuropenitentiary: The Mind’s Tragic Autonomic Sacrifice of Free Will in the Battle Against Trauma.”
Kai Solonka, who originally thought he would study business, was inspired by professors in the Department of Philosophy to pursue his unique focus, including Associate Professor of Philosophy Andrew Brei, Ph.D.
“Kai is an intensively creative thinker and a natural collaborator whose perspective on the world will serve him — and others — very well,” Brei said.
Sophomore Aidan Solonka hopes to get his bachelor’s degree in Criminology with a minor in Psychology. His goal is to become a criminal profiler. Knowing his brother was attending St. Mary’s helped him make the decision to attend. After getting involved in the service-based group Guardian Angels at Central Catholic, Aidan Solonka realized that St. Mary’s would be a university that allowed him to continue his tradition of service.
Both brothers, through the Marianist Excel Program, were part of the National Hispanic Institute, a youth organization focused on public policy that held events at St. Mary’s.
“I felt at home going there because of my experience at Central,” Aidan Solonka said. “When I found out about the Marianist Leadership Program at St. Mary’s, which was so close to the Excel Program, I wanted to continue that kind of education and lifestyle. Being of service to other people is really important to me.”
The Marianist Leadership Program, or MLP, is a faith-based leadership and community service program. Aidan Solonka is also on the Student Leadership Team.
In the time Amy Arismendez, Program Director of the Marianist Leadership Program and Student Initiatives, has worked with Aidan Solonka she has seen his capacity for service shine through his actions.
“Aidan is a true servant leader and someone willing to help whenever and however he can, not just in our program but in his classes and with his fellow peers,” Arismendez said. “Anytime a fellow MLP student needs help or encouragement, Aidan steps up and becomes present. I’m excited to see how Aidan will continue to grow as a student and deepen his faith life and leadership here at the University.”
As the brothers continue their journey from university life and into the workforce, they both are grateful for how their education has prepared them.
“St. Mary’s is an excellent place to do research on yourself,” Kai Solonka said. “You have the opportunity to sit down and really digest who you are and what your potential is in different fields. It’s all about attaching knowledge to your own sense of duty.”