Homecoming, 2013: A testament of spirit and resolve


By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

A week of school spirit and celebration of all things Verb ended Friday night at the
Verbum Dei High School home field at Southwest College, but did the spirit end then and there?  I think not.

There is a new mindset evident in the varsity football squad this year. The squad’s 2-1 league record says much; however, that better than average record is only a part of the story.  In years past, the varsity football teams have been prone to becoming discouraged when the tide of a game goes against them.  While most teams begin their games with exuberance and zeal, those positive manifestations can and do fade rather quickly when the fates deal an unwelcomed hand. Starting well is easy, but finishing well requires commitment, resilience, and, yes, spirit.

The 2013-2014 varsity team has all of those qualities and more. Behind 21-14 at the half, Verb rallied to take the lead late in the fourth quarter.  It was a narrow lead at that time, 42-40, and the clock still showed ample time for a LaSalle scoring drive.  But the Verb defense did not throw in the towel, did not give up, rather it stood its ground yard by yard with determination and focus.

From my vantage point in the stands, it was inspiring to see.  There is a refreshing spirit alive and well at Verbum Dei High School in the form of a tireless squad – many playing both sides of the ball - in a quarterback who would just as well be the one receiving the passes rather than the one sending them aloft, and in a team that generally refuses to give up or to let an adversary run roughshod over them.

I am not alone in recognizing this spirit, for after the squad’s narrow defeat, many of the dozens of the diehard spectators stood in solidarity with their team as the recited St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity:

“Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.”

A standing ovation accompanied the close of the prayer in recognition of the team’s valiant spirit, its never-say-die resolve, and its gritty determination in the face of adversity.

Coach Miller is to be commended for fostering a new mindset in the varsity squad.  They, under his influence, see the power of teamwork and of a positive attitude.  When the breaks were beating the boys, they found the resolve to continue and see the game through to the best of their ability. In doing so, they did Saint Ignatius and their school proud.

Present Dei Puzzler contest returns with a brain-teasing trio of mind-benders

Current Verbum Dei gentleman and staff are encouraged to demonstrate their logical prowess in this latest contest.  “These are problems anyone can solve,” say the Whites.  “They do not require any particular level of mathematics or other knowledge.”

Rules:  Answers must be submitted to Mr. White, Mrs. White or Mr. Stradley by Friday, October 25.

Prizes:  There will be a $5 award per problem to the first student with the correct answer.  Additionally, there will be a $1 award given per problem to a student whose name is drawn from the pool of correct answers.

Note to faculty and staff:  Feel free to enter to win bragging rights.  If no correct student answer is submitted, you will become eligible for the cash prize.

Problem 1:

Ms. Odom painted each rung of her
ladder a different color and leaned the ladder against a wall. The middle rung
is blue, the yellow rung is 3 rungs above the blue rung, the green rung is 7
rungs below the yellow rung, and the red rung is 11 rungs above the green rung.
The red rung is also 3 rungs from the top rung. How many rungs are there on Ms.
Odom’s ladder?

Problem 2:

Suppose the positive even numbers
are grouped in the following way:

{2}, {4,6}, {8,10,12},
{14,16,18,20}, …

What is the sum of the numbers in
the 15th group?

Problem 3:

Form six 9-letter words by combining two 3-letter blocks below with the endings in the
grid.  All blocks will be used.  If you do it correctly, two of the vertical columns will spell a common two-word phrase.


Drake’s third release Nothing Was the Same not a game-changer, yet has glimmers of hope


By Dylan Juarez, Staff Writer, Arts and Entertainment

“Nothing Was the Same” is Young Money’s recording artist Drake’s third studio album. Drake, one of Hip Hop’s most known new age artists has made his presence known in the past five years. His previous album “Take Care” was loved world-wide. The lead singles for this album are “Started from the Bottom,” “All Me,” Featuring 2 Chainz and Big Sean, “Hold on We’re Going Home,” and “Pound Cake.” Most artists on their third album tend to either get bigger or are forgotten. An example would be Eminem. His third album “The Eminem Show” was a success and even won him a Grammy. On the other end, Soulja Boy’s third album “The DeAndre Way” was his worst selling album, and he has not released an album since. Can Drake make magic happen again or will his career never be the same after this release?

The first song “Tuscan Leather” begins with a song being played backwards, but it is very mesmerizing. Drake is opening up to how he feels since his last album and to events that have taken place since becoming famous. “Furthest thing” is at a lower tempo then the first song, but it is very enjoyable. It changes beat, and it turns into a very soulful rhythm. He sounds happier, but more aggressive at the same time. “Started from the Bottom” is a song many people hated because Drake never had a struggle. He used to be a child star, so how did he start from the bottom? The song does not fit its placement. It possibly could have fit if it were near the end or even in the middle, but not this early in the album.

“Wu-Tang Forever” is another song for which Drake has been getting a lot of hate. The main reason being that he doesn’t really represent the Wu-Tang Clan in this song at all. The Wu-Tang Clan was an aggressive rap group, and this song is very slow. It talks about how Drake is facing difficult choices involving friends and a girl. This song was a disappointment. The fifth song “Own It” starts off with this very creepy vibe to it. It is a song that tries to have a story, but it feels forced. The chorus also sounds like it says “On It” instead of “Own It.” “Worst Behavior” makes Drake sound hungry and very egotistic. This song feels the right fit for the album as if he is saying “Hey nothing is gonna be the same because I’m Drake, and that’s the only reason you need.” This is a very different sounding Drake, but it is very enjoyable. His third verse also pays homage to Biggie’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” song.

The song “From Time,” Featuring Jhene Akio is great. Jhene Akio’s vocals are so bright and sweet. It gives this song a very sad feeling to it. Drake also takes this opportunity to revel his problems with family, especially with his uncle, dad, and mom. “Hold on We’re Going Home” fits the vibe of the song before it. After such a deep song like “From Time,” the album still needs to feel calm, and this song is so very relaxing that it can be played in the background during dinner. The ninth song “Connect” begins with the very soothing vibe of the previous two songs. It starts very slow, but builds the beat up and the whole vibe changes.

“The Language” is definitive proof that the vibe has changed, but the changed vibe is very arrogant. His flow sounds like his flow on “Versace.” It is nothing impressive just the same flow and same topics. The eleventh song is “305 to My City.” It is a garbage song; it can be skipped. “I hope you don’t fall, ‘cus you on top of the ceiling” is a line he says and just proves his writer must have wanted him to fail. “Too Much” starts off with a very smooth, but unknown, male vocal performance. This song gives the album a lot more hope that it can still be good even this late in the game. It is a hungry Drake again, but now he seems less arrogant. He to opens up more with problems of family, but it is not sad.

The thirteenth song “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” featuring Jay Z, is very interesting because it has samples from Wu-Tang Clan. It is surprising that this song was not “Wu-Tang Forever” because this is the hungry Drake and it would fit. Jay Z’s verse is not great, but it was enjoyable. The “Paris Morton Music 2” is a small song, but is a celebration song. Drake talks about how people expect him to act at events and how to take awards without looking stupid. He also begins to brag about how fame has made him happier in life and recalls events before his fame. The fourteenth song “Come Thru” is a song about picking up a girl and telling her to come over to chill and maybe even more. Yet near the end of the song it turns into Drake talking about how he feels lonely repeating “Why has it been so long?” The Last song is “All Me,” featuring 2 Chainz and Big Sean. It is a radio song that brags about the money and women that stereo typical rappers have. It is not a great way to end an album. The ending should have been “Paris Morton Music 2.”

This album was over hyped. Drake had enjoyable songs, but he did not deliver in the end. He lacks in so many songs and even copied a flow he had on a remix for Migo’s song “Versace.”. That isn’t going to work. Close listening people will catch that. His production was better than usual. Where Drake lacked, his instrumentals picked up the slack. This album is a 4/10. His album may not be what most people expected, but hopefully Drake’s next album is better. He might not be as loved as Eminem, but he will not be forgotten as quickly like Soulja Boy.

Present Dei online news source seeks student writers / photographers for 2013-2014 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 Activities Day.

Big Sean’s latest: “Hall of Fame” or “Hall of Lame”?


By Dylan Juarez, Staff Writer, Arts and Entertainment

“Hall of Fame,” the sophomore album from Big Sean, the Detroit rapper, was released the 27th of August. His first project “Finally Famous” made many people keep their ear open to him, but will this one make the cut?   This album is rumored to have been approved by Eminem because of the influence of one Detroit rapper upon another. The leading singles are “Beware,” featuring Jhene Akio and Lil Wayne, “Guap,” and “Fire.” Did the Detroit rapper give us another album to keep our eyes on Detroit or did he let his city down?

The first track is “Nothing is Stopping You.” The song doesn’t hook the listener; it leaves one kind of empty, expecting him to go a bit stronger. His flow on the song was good, but his execution was not. The mixing on this song was done poorly as well. The chorus is sampled, but instead of sounding like “Nothing is Stopping You,” it sounds
like “Nothing is Stalking You.” The second song is the single “Fire.” He should
have made this his introduction. It is well executed, and his flow is well. It
picks up where his first song lagged. “10 2 10” is the third song. One would
think from the title would be a specific date, but it means he works from 10 to
10. His word play is weak, and his references make no sense. For example he
says “Call me a Mexican ‘cus I work from 10 2 10”. It lacks the punch of the
previous song.

The fourth song “Toyota Music” is an average song but nothing great. The fifth song “You Don’t Know” was okay-another just average song. It seems like he is doing the bare minimum in this part of the album, which no artist should ever do because the listener will then not care for the song and soon forget it. The sixth song is “Beware,” his other single. This song is a great single. It’s very catchy, and it is a song people
will catch themselves singing during the chorus. Jhene Akio’s vocals are what
make the song and the chorus. Big Sean also did his part and got out of the
ditch he dug in the album, but the thing that kills this song is Lil Wayne’s
part – it is so unimpressive. The song can do without it. The seventh song “First
Chain: featuring Nas and Kid CuDi, is good. The song talks about how Big Sean
saw his heroes wear a chain, and when he finally got his, he was proud of
himself. Nas’ past was good, but it wasn’t impressive like other Nas verses. Kid
CuDi did deliver in his verse, and it completed the song.

The eighth song “Mona Lisa” is just a basic rap song of money, women, and drugs. I think this song fits Sean’s personality, but it was not a good add to the album.  He just climbed out of a ditch, so why dig another one? The ninth song “MILF” featuring Nicki Minaj and Juicy J is led into by a snippet called “Freaky.” It was comic relief for the album, and the snippet fit the song well. It is catchy and good compared to other songs. Nicki and Juicy J’s verses add to the song. The tenth song “Sierra Leone” is good. It calms one down from the comic relief and brings the listener to this state of
lovey dovey and how Big Sean has the hook up to make sure his girl feels good.
The eleventh song “It’s Time,” featuring Jeezy and Payroll has a very strong
beat, but the first verse takes time to get going. Jeezy’s verse is good and is
not off-beat as he is in some of his features. Payroll lacks in this song just
like Big Sean.

The twelfth song “World Ablaze,” featuring James Fauntleroy, slows everything down and it suggests how Big Sean struggled in his area and how Detroit use to be a great city but fell off. The thirteenth song “Ashley,” featuring Miguel, keeps this slow feeling. Big Sean’s flow is very well performed and Miguel’s vocals help make a good song. It could do without Big Sean’s small singing parts, but it is still a good song. The
fourteenth song “All Figured Out” was a more serious song about his struggle in
life before the fame and during fame. He admits that just because he is famous
does not mean that he has all the answers. The fifteenth song “Mula Remix,”
featuring 2 chainz, Meek Mill and Earlly Mac, is a club song that will have
people dancing. This feels like Big Sean just added this on the album for more
sales. “Switch Up” the sixteenth song is just mediocre and not impressive. The
Last song is “Guap,” and it is a good radio song, and was the first single to
get listeners excited for the album.

This album at the end of the day is average. There are only six stand-out songs, and this isn’t an album someone can go back and listen to repeatedly. It is more of an album that one hears once, and that’s what it was good for: a one-time listen. To answer my own question if he let down Detroit, the answer is not really. He did improve from his last album, but it was not a huge improvement to have me say this is album of the year.  It is a 5 out of 10.

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.

New face Machine Gun Kelly offers more inspiration than fright in his debut “Lace Up”


By Dylan Juarez, Staff Writer, Arts and Entertainment

When someone says the name Machine Gun Kelly, most people will have a confused face and ask, “Who?” Machine Gun Kelly also known as MGK is a Cleveland-bound rapper who signed with Bad Boy Records. The record label possibly sounds familiar because it is the record label that Notorious BIG was signed to and also is a label owned by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs.

Named “Lace Up,” this is MGK’s first studio album. The reason behind the name is the movement that he started. Now, do remember this is his first album. The first song in the album is “End of the Road,” and it is a story that the artist is pulling together of how he was before he came up and how it is different now. “On My Way” is such an inspirational song; it speaks of when MGK was kicked out, but he made the best out of it with his best friend and began to make music. The line that sticks out to me is when MGK says “My team throws up L’s, but now we just winning.”  In the middle of the song, he starts to talk about memories before all of the fame.

Another inspirational song is “Runnin.”  The vocals for the chorus are good and on-key and flow smoothly. “All We Have” features vocals from Anna Yvette. She helps the chorus run very smoothly. MGK speaks of overcoming problems, no matter how hard they are at the given time. “What I Do” blows away the inspirational feel and has a pumped up feeling; it gets a listener to do something. “Lace Up,” the album’s self-titled track, is an average one. It’s not his best, and I feel that the “Lace Up” from his mix tape was more to the meaning. However, the cut does fit with the hard feeling he had. The song, “Save me” is embellished by appearances of the guitarist and vocalist from the Avenged Sevenfold. The song is very inspirational, and Kelly talks about how his EST will still be together no matter what. “Invincible,” the album’s lead single, is so inspirational and just blows me away with the vocals of Ester Dean. “Edge of Darkness,” featuring Tech Nine and Twista, can get some one pumped and is inspirational – both elements that make up the album combined into a song.

“D3mons” is scary and is part of the hardcore rap. It sends me into the uncomfortable place that makes me want to stop the track but not enough to skip it or stop it. DMX is on the track, and it is a great add-on to the whole feel of the song. “See my Tears” is another inspirational song, but it was featured on one of his past mix tapes, which does confuse me a bit. “Stereo,” the final song, features Fitts of the Kickdrums. It is a heart lifter and is a good way to end the album. All around I feel in love with this album. I give it a 9 out of 10. People should listen to this album because it is a big up-lift for Hip-Hop.

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.