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Verb’s Junior Statesmen plan first meeting

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

Verbum Dei High School’s own Junior Statesmen of America (JSA) chapter will meet for the first time as a chartered club Wednesday, January 30 at lunch in Room 101.  The student run organization seeks to develop citizens “who are the people that the United States Constitution describes: people who are educated and knowledgeable about current issues and are therefore prepared to shape government,” said senior Jared Rhaburn, the enthusiastic spokesperson for the fledgling organization.  Rhaburn’s various school wide announcements have promoted the club for students who are interested in careers in politics, law, advocacy, public policy, and public administration.

The organization, co-moderated by American history teacher Mr. Jovel and Ms. Bernal, will chart its course for this first year beginning with the first meeting.  Plans include awareness-raising, discussion groups, film nights that feature discussion and screening of issue-related feature films, and participation in JSA conferences and events in the Los Angeles region.

“I learned about it [Junior Statesmen of America] through a scholarship that was awarded to myself and to other Verb students,” said Rhaburn.  This opportunity led Rhaburn to apply and to be accepted in the JSA Summer Program at Georgetown University in our Nation’s capital.  The summer program was a formative experience, said Rhaburn.  He raised funds for his program expenses through a letter writing campaign and through presentations to churches, civic organizations, and other groups.  Rhaburn earned high school credit for courses at the summer program.

“Unofficially created when the scholarships were awarded, the organization was revived to be a viable club and to be a chapter of the JSA,” said Rhaburn.  The Junior Statesmen, said Rhaburn, is international in scope, as there are chapters in such far-flung places as China and Uzbekistan.

Weekly meetings will continue on Wednesdays at lunch in Room 101.

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Verb delegation to attend national social justice conference Nov. 16-18 in Washington, D.C.

Press release from the Ignatian Solidarity Network

A delegation of 12 students and three staff from Verbum Dei High School will join nearly 1,000 other attendees at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ), a national conference for those passionate about social justice grounded in the Catholic Social Teaching and the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The 12 students engaged in a competetive selection process that considered their leadership qualities, their passion for social justice, and their willingness to share what they learn from the experience.

The 15th annual Teach-In will take place in Washington, D.C., from November 16-18, 2012.The program is sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

The Teach-In is an opportunity for members of the Ignatian family (those connected with Jesuit institutions and the larger church) to come together in the context of social justice to learn, network, reflect, and act for justice. Teach-In attendees represent twenty-eight Jesuit universities, over twenty-five Jesuit high schools, Jesuit parishes, Jesuit volunteer communities, and many other Catholic institutions and organizations.

Started in 1997, in Columbus, Georgia, the IFTJ takes place in mid-November to commemorate the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador.  The six Jesuit priests and two companions were murdered on November 16, 1989, in El Salvador for their work advocating on behalf of the economically poor in that country. The IFTJ moved from Georgia to Washington, DC, in 2010, to respond to the growing interest in integrating educational opportunities and legislative advocacy into the Teach-in experience.

When asked about the Verbum Dei High School delegation’s presence, Christopher Kerr, ISN executive director said, “We are grateful to have the Verbum Dei High School delegation at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. The annual Teach-In is such a unique place to explore the relationship between faith and social justice while networking with others who share the same passion. We are also hopeful that the issue education and advocacy training the Verbum Dei High School participants receive at the Teach-In will prepare them to be effective advocates during Ignatian Family Advocacy Month in February 2013.” Ignatian Family Advocacy Month (IFAM) is a national effort initiated by ISN to build on the experiences at the Teach-In.

Keynote speakers at the IFTJ include: Rev. Fred Kammer, S.J., director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans; Merlys Mosquera Chamat, regional director of Jesuit Refugee Services-Latin America and Caribbean; Gabriel Bol Deng,founding director of Hope for Ariang, and former Lost Boy of Sudan; Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS,executive director of NETWORK Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

The Teach-In also offers 50+ breakout sessions presented by national and international speakers.

On Saturday evening, attendees will gather at Lower Senate Park (adjacent to Capitol Hill) for a public vigil to call attention to the importance of legislative advocacy in working for social justice.

The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice is sponsored by the University of San Francisco,  the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkley, America Magazine, the Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, and Loyola Press.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network promotes leadership and advocacy among students, alumni, and other emerging leaders from Jesuit schools, parishes, and ministries by educating its members on social justice issues, by mobilizing a national network to address those issues, and by encouraging a life-long commitment to the service of faith and the promotion of justice.

LAPD officers teach Brazilian Jui Juitsu at Verb

Verbum Dei students watch a demonstration of a Brazilian Jui Juitsu technique by their instructor.  Photograph by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

By Bryan Moriera, Staff Writer

“Tap! Tap! Tap!” is a constant sound heard in the MPR after dismissal on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since September 25, Los Angeles Police Department officer Pete Zarcone and a few of his fellow officers have come to the Verb to teach a class on Brazilian Jui Juitsu, a type of fighting done on the ground. Some of the techniques learned thus far include submissions such as the “Kimura,” “Triangle Choke,” and the “Arm bar” and sweeps and tosses such as the “Sit-up Sweep” and “Hip-Toss.”

In a confrontation, fighting may begin in a standing position; however, it can move to the ground. At one point during the first few classes, Officer Zarcone said that “…people may often panic in a fight if it goes to the ground.” Consequently, Jui Juitsu offers students an effective form of self defense. Officer Zarcone was asked about his hopes and goals in offering Jui Juitsu classes at Verb. “My goal is to get as many students interested and giving them a good and healthy physical activity to which they may grow a passion for as I did when I first started,” he replied after a moment of pondering.

To this point, the classes are still being held weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. ”Everyone present has shown a good attitude and willingness to learn,” Zarcone said. Twice a week, groups of students on campus show up, are ready to learn new techniques, and are evidence to what Officer Zarcone observed. José Gasca, one of the assistants, commented, “Everyone is doing a good job and show open mindedness at a young age which is a very good thing.”

Students practice wearing gi, martial arts clothing similar to that worn by karate enthusiasts; the clothing is provided and is kept by the students until they stop attending classes. The students and teachers practice barefoot on mats set up in the MPR before practice and put away after the session has ended.

Zarcone plans to offer the classes at Verb ”as long as students are interested.” So as long as any students are interested in learning and make an effort to come out, the classes will continue to be held twice weekly.  Anyone interested is encouraged to come join the free classes.  The officers are encouraged to see students come out and show a willingness to learn.

Verb seniors Jorge Contreras (left) and Raul Erazo (center) practice martial arts techniques following instruction in Brazilian Jui Juitsu.  Photograph by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei.

Alumni maintain Verb presence at St. John’s

Recent Verbum Dei alumni Joel Jimenez, Jesus Real, Matthew Usher, Victor Perez, and Dennis Cornejo assemble at St. John’s University in Minnesota (pictured left to right). These graduates of the Class of 2012, and their classmate Larry Hardnett (not pictured) follow in the footsteps of 14 other VDHS alumni attending St. John’s.  Christian Aguilar, VDHS Class of 2007, is the first Verbum Dei alumnus to have graduated from St. John’s.  He continues his association with the college through his employment in its Admissions Department.  Photograph by Gisselle Cornejo.

Present Dei online news source seeks student writers / photographers for 2012-2013 year

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

The Present Dei, Verbum Dei High School’s online news source, is seeking student journalists, photographers, and interested parties to join the staff of this fledgling publication. Whether one’s interest lay in athletics, politics, the arts, personalities, or graphic design in the electronic age, The Present Dei is a venue to explore electronic journalism.

Student staffers will serve as editors, staff writers, copy editors, photographers, and graphic designers. Present Dei staff attend and report upon campus and off-campus events of interest to the Verbum Dei community.

Contact Mr. John Stradley, Room 103, for more information. Look for The Present Dei table on Club Day.

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Final Present Dei Puzzler stumps many

There were no correct answers submitted by students or staff for the first of two final problems for the 2011-2012 school year.  The answer is 11/15.

Staff member Kevin Nguyen and Fr. Michael Mandala, SJ both submitted correct answers to the second puzzle; the final answer is PUSH.  They were each awarded $2.

The Present Dei thanks Mrs. Sue White, math teacher, for creating and supporting The Present Dei Puzzler this past semester; the contest served to promote math and logic skills and to grow the readership of The Present Dei.

Junior Verb gentlemen read essays at CAAM

Verbum Dei High School juniors Eduardo Ramirez (above), Kevin Lopez, and Andre Perez read their novel study culminating essays before a crowd of 75 people at the California African-American Museum in Exposition Park, April 28.  Students participated in the presentation in conjunction with The Big Read, a National Endowment for the Arts program that promotes a nationwide reading and dialogue on a specific novel.  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston is this year’s Big Read selection.  “Found poems,” culled from two chapters of the novel by Verb students, were displayed on the panel behind the speaker.  Photograph by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei.