Last Friday, July 20, 2012, the administrators of Verbum Dei High School were witness to an awesome culmination of the 2012 Summer Orientation for Academic & Employment Readiness program (S.O.A.R):

The Almond Joy award is an honor which is to be bestowed upon the best performing student during the full four weeks of the S.O.A.R. Program. It is typically extended to the student who actively participates in class to the highest measure and shares their knowledge with other students. The Almond Joy Award is awarded to the quintessential S.O.A.R. student who is a joy to have in class.

~ Ms. Brandi Odom-Lucas, S.O.A.R. Principal and Verbum Dei High School Dean of Students

Affectionately referred around campus as The S.O.A.R. Kids, these young men have now transitioned to being identified as the Gentlemen of Verbum Dei High School. Four years from now upon graduation they will be known as Verbum Dei Gentlemen. Their awards ceremony was truly a celebratory experience only to be surpassed by the tremendous display of maturity demonstrated by the newly crowned Gentlemen of Verbum Dei High School as they presented themselves to the Corporate Work Study Program’s (CWSP) corporate partners at the job fair. Each of the CWSP Partners was seated behind their stations about the Eagles Nest, our gymnasium, prepared to listen to every one of our new students highlight their intelligence, their capabilities, and eagerness to work. The entire Verbum Dei High School community is extremely excited as the summer activities come to an end and we prepare for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. Extra special kudos is extended to Monica Gonzalez, Admissions Coordinator, and Joanne Flynn, Admissions Data Entry Specialist, for their outstanding service during the 2012- 2013 prospective student recruitment campaign. Without their sweet symphony of combined effort we certainly would not be able to consider ourselves successful in identifying and recruiting these outstanding Gentlemen of Verbum Dei High School.

These young men are prepared! They are ready to achieve all, which “The Verb” experience provides: A resume detailing four years corporate work study experience; a high school diploma; and, college acceptance. As stated by Christopher Lewis, ’09, who served as a teacher in the S.O.A.R. program this summer home from successfully completing his junior year at Amherst College:

As you move forward I want you to accomplish two things: (1) Identify and articulate those experiences which are essential to your story here at Verbum Dei High School. (2) Identify and articulate the experiences that will prepare you to change the perspective of how Black and Brown Boys from inner city communities like South L.A., Watts, Compton, and the surrounding communities are perceived when they present themselves on College Campuses across the nation. This is the foundation of all the young men that follow this path.

If we are to appreciate the truth about ourselves as educators, we need to reflect upon our own educational experiences and continue to serve in a greater capacity. The young men we are serving are encountering experiences from which they are now unsheathing the conclusions of life. It is natural for them to do so. Nevertheless, without careful reflection, the skill that should be refined and exercised regularly, our suppositions about the best practices to follow when teaching them will at best be inadequate, and at worst invalid.

Remember, our goal is to reach them and teach them. To be educated is better than the alternative. If our students are to truly learn, they need to rely on our knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and insight. The process of discerning and identifying truth is the mechanism that works best when the process is stimulated through careful instruction.

I believe this is the process that is essential for developing men of conscience and reliability, leading to choices for positive change. Ultimately we want to graduate these young men to a level of leadership, character and integrity, so that they can become people who will change the world, and change it for the better.

Peace…

Lorenz B. Willis

 

Another busy summer of athletics has been completed with three teams practicing and playing summer basketball, soccer, and football. We officially began our yearly Dead Period as mandated by California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). CIF now has an online presence, so most forms will be completed in that manner. Therefore, if you are a transfer student, please see Mr. Wood for more information. Our football, basketball, baseball, and soccer staff attended a coaches’ conference the last week of June at Concordia University. We learned many new and exciting things that we will introduce and teach our student athletes.

Basketball competed in Watts Summer games and continued to show signs of improvement. Mr. Tresor Tulanda is our new head basketball coach.  He and his staff have been working all summer to get our boys in top shape. Our incoming freshman class looks very promising and coach is very excited about our upcoming season.

Coach Durk is back for his fourth season and is excited to have almost 60 students tryout for football. They also competed in the Watts summer games and played in a couple of passing league games. Football season kick off this year will be a little different, as the team will hold a six-day camp with three overnights in our gym. Our annual Blue Gold game will commence on Saturday, August 11th beginning at 8am. Mark your calendars and come out to see some good football.

Soccer has completed another exciting summer showing signs of improvement and team building all summer. We started with the Watts Summer games then travelled to the Travis Jackson Tournament at Cal State Dominguez Hills. At the Travis Jackson our boys won four games and just missed the championship round. Then we went to Monrovia for a side tournament where we competed against many teams from our division and played very well again just missing out on championship round with two teams finishing third in their bracket. We finished up with our second annual summer wrap-up tournament in which we had a chance for our incoming freshman to play. The tournament was followed by a family picnic that was attended by over 60 people. This was a great way for soccer to wrap up their summer routines.

Stayed tuned for more exciting athletic news in the future!!

 

Both of these special events give me great pride and appreciation for all the challenges overcome and the hard work accomplished by the students, faculty and staff at Verbum Dei. It is hard to describe accurately the love, support and pride displayed at these life defining moments in all of the Verb family lives.

There is so much good to celebrate from so many different perspectives. In sitting with my thoughts since the end of this current school year, the greatest and most lasting achievement for the young gentlemen of Verbum Dei going off into the world is their perspective on their lives and the world around them is permanently altered. The world is an unlimited space with no boundaries or boarders, with so much to explore. Their lives are filled with opportunities – possibilities, challenges, failures and successes. Their chances and choices are theirs’.

There are no words to express the gratitude owed to our Corporate Partners and Donors for helping all of us at the Verb. They’ve helped us grow and sustain this life changing opportunity for the young men of Watts and the surrounding communities.

 

“Where have these four years gone…” a senior stated last week as I signed his yearbook. I smiled and continued scribbling in his yearbook words of encouragement. There was truth to his statement given that the last four years flew past us, but the years are not gone. These four are only a fraction of his life, but they are formative years that impact his future in higher education and years to come.
Here at the Verb, he has learned the value of a college prep education by taking on an academically rigorous schedule. He has appreciated the experience of a four-year work study position. The numerous service excursions allowed him to be a man with and for others. Participation in extracurricular activities enabled him to strengthen brotherhood and kinship with his peers. His involvement in sports made him a competitor and a team player. These four years gave him endless opportunities to thrive and while he will not re-live these days, the memories, experiences and relationship are forever present in his mind and heart.
This is what the Verb is all about…providing opportunities for young men to learn, grow and experience. And this senior succeeded because he took full advantage of all we have to offer. He is on his way to St. John’s University in Minnesota and without a doubt, will reach great heights. I am honored to know him and be witness to his development.

 

As I write this our graduating seniors are leaving for their last day of work with their corporate sponsors. Some are jazzed to be ending their high school life and some are a bit unsure at the prospect of leaving.

I passed Ms. Stephanie Andrade’s advancement office a few minutes before the seniors had to gather for the last time for morning prayer, pick up their time-cards, and get any last (really) announcements and found six seniors crowded into her small office. I stopped and commented that it was sad that these guys who have been regular visitors to Stephanie’s office all year long won’t be there next week – but I did suggest they come back and visit from time to time. One young man said, “no way, I’m gone” and then with a big smile that said he was only kidding, his classmates jumped all over him (figuratively speaking).

The Latin poet Catullus’s Ave atque Vale seemed most appropriate to me as I left amid their laughter: I salute you; fare you well!

What wonderful young men we are graduating. What terrific faculty and staff we have who care so deeply for our young men.

 

The Chinese proverb “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand” explains the day in the life of a Verbum Dei High School math or science classroom. Here you will see students “doing” math and science. This year the math and science department partnered with Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Math and Science Teaching Program (CMAST) in an effort to increase student achievement on standardized tests and college placement. Once a month teachers received professional development and one on one training with LMU faculty to implement the interactive strategies. As a result of the implementation, students are more engaged and can better articulate the depth of their math and science knowledge.

Last week if you walked down the 300 hallway, you may have noticed a smell coming from the science labs. Students in the Biology classes learned first-hand the ins and outs of the digestive system in their dissections of fetal pigs. When asked what their favorite part of dissection was, students responded with “pulling out and seeing how long the intestines are!” or “being able to take out the brain!”

Science students were not the only ones getting their hands dirty. Math students used quadratic formulas to launch Angry Birds to hit a point on a graph (the green pig). Because this game is so popular on their smart phones, students quickly understood how math related to their lives.

As the school year comes to an end, the science and math teachers are excited to see how the implementation of CMAST strategies increase student achievement on final exams and spark an interest in science and math related fields in college.

 
Freshmen racing to the finish!
The freshmen class went on a recent field trip to the land before High School. This place is magical, where you worry about getting tickets for rides and getting tickets for prizes. This place has games, rides, music and food. Golf N’ Stuff – as featured in the original Karate Kid movie, has the makings of a destination all on its own.

I was lucky to be part of the adult contingent that included veteran teacher and golf moderator Nicolas Hogan and theology teacher Ms. Jazmin Jimenez. It was at this magical place that I was also transformed into a pre high school kid. It was halfway through the trip that I started to think about how these Verbum Dei Freshmen are now embarking into the true and rough waters of manhood. They are stepping into the place where they will soon start to develop as men and no longer boys. It was such a revealing trip to see them enjoy their last few days as freshmen and also kids. They had worked hard during the year so now it was time to see them loosen up and play hard.

These boys had a great time. From the start, they ate pizza, drank soda, and got more sugar fuel by sampling some good old ice cream. We played an hour of miniature golf in which everybody knows that boys will climb, kick and hit anything that has moving parts. You also know that you don’t let the ball go at the 18th hole because then your game is over. We skipped from course to course on the 4 course park. We definitely had our fill by the time it was announced that the Lil’ Indy car racing track was open for us. I don’t think that Mr. Hogan has seen these boys run as fast as they ran to the open cars waiting at the starting lines in any of his Physical Education classes. I mean, the race started as soon as you passed the turnstile.

I raced a few races but quit as soon as everyone wanted to crash and spin my car around. It didn’t help that I ended up with the slowest cars on the track. The boys on the other hand, had a blast racing around and around. This was also true in the bumper boats. At the end of the day, it was great to see the boys really enjoy themselves and play without care. It was great to see them just be themselves and have a blast.

 

What a strenuous year this has been! I am not sure how I make it through each year, but I thank God every day for keeping me, if only just a half step ahead.

This year there were so many changes to the college application process that I thought I had perfected. From changes to the financial aid application, to the different way for students to register for placement testing, this year was full of changes that impacted the way that we do things here in College Guidance. Through it all, we were able to send our students to college, in a system that was designed to keep them out.

In an effort to keep from being too militant, offensive, or politically incorrect, I will try to express my true feelings. I have a serious concern about how many of these changes are communicated. For example, this year, California State University (CSU) system has decided not to accept paper and online payless registrations for their placement tests. These tests are required for all students who are planning on attending a CSU. I typically have all students take the test, even if their plans do not include a CSU, just as a back-up. It is just a way for students to be on the safe side since there is a window for students to take these tests that usually closes around the first week in May. Originally, students just needed to register for the test by mailing in a form or registering for a place online. Students would pay with a check or money order when they arrive on campus for the test. This year, the way students register, changed. This change was not discussed at the annual CSU conference, which is designed to update counselors on changes for the new year. This change was discovered when the class of 2012 was trying to register for placement testing.

The way the new registrations works is as follows: Students go online to ETS (Educational Testing Service), the same organization that works with the College Board and the SAT. Students have to register online only and they must use a credit card at the time of registration. I can understand the changes, I mean, I am sure that had plenty of no-shows with the old system which would result in spaces being reserved and not used. I understand the benefits of a more streamlined process that would allow for universities in the system to be able to seamlessly retrieve registrations. I truly understand how this helps the CSU system but how does it help the student?

How does this system help the student who does not have access to internet at home? Or a computer? Or better yet, how does this system help the student who does not have access to a credit card? Many would argue, there is access to internet everywhere, and a credit card, who doesn’t have a credit card these days??? The truth is that there are many luxuries, or even things that we would consider basic, that thousands of people do not have access to, including a credit card.

So finding a way to help my students navigate this system is rewarding even if I have to collect cash from a student and use my credit card to pay for a mom does not have a credit card. Unethical? Not in the least. I like to think that it is the price that we pay to have a future of leaders who represent the true America. I know that I will be ok. I am here to make sure that each and every young man who walks these halls will be. And I believe, with the dedicated souls who come to work here every day, they will.

 

Cristo Rey’s “transforming urban America one student at a time” has been one of the Verb’s slogans for the ten years we have been a Cristo Rey school and is a great mission statement, but it’s clumsy as a motto. The Jesuit slogan “men and women with and for others” certainly captures the imagination and I delight when I hear one of our students, even in jest, telling another student to be a “man for others.” The Jesuit superior general suggested when he visited the Verb a few years ago that we ought to add “grow with others” because growing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually with others is essential to honest learning and living. But “men and women growing with and for others” is a bit awkward.

Many years ago Jesuit high schools in the United States used this for their public relations: “Give us a boy and we’ll give you back a man.” That was before many Jesuit high schools were coed; now it would have to be “give us boys and girls and we’ll give you back men and women” which seems even more conceited than the original.
Sacred Heart Schools use “educate the whole child” as both their slogan and their mission statement. Brophy Prep has two mottos I like: “foundations for the future” and “brotherhood since 1928.” I love Loyola High School’s new PR piece entitled “I will be a man.” These are, it seems to me, terrific slogans.

In two separate videos we’ve made almost three years apart, two different Verb students have said on camera that their Verbum Dei experience taught them that “I am a man.” Maybe our motto ought to be “how to be a man” or “be a man” or as one of our advisors (a minister in our area) says “man up.”
But “brotherhood” is also a big deal at the Verb – what about “it’s about brotherhood” or “brotherhood at the Verb”?

And the work-study program defines an essential part of our educational program. “The school that works for the 21st century” is painted on some of our vans. The Cristo Rey school in Boston uses “Education that Works” as their motto.

Well. So what do you think? What’s a good motto for the Verb? What’s the Verb’s slogan?

 

Soccer Club Moderator Oscar Rosa in action during lunch time activities.

Whether you participate in afterschool sports or are in a club, studies show the more physical activity you have the healthier you will be. Studies have also shown that physical activity increases brain power as well. There are many benefits for young men to participate in athletics/physical activity.
-Athletics develops character traits like responsibility, respect, and teamwork to name a few.
-Athletics builds friendships that last a lifetime.
-Athletics, through participation, helps each athlete set and achieve goals both physical and mental.
-Being physically active is a stress relief for anyone who participates.

The New Verbum Dei Soccer Club is just such an opportunity afforded to the Verbum Dei Gentlemen. They have begun a new lunchtime soccer tournament which has over 30 participants.
Verbum Dei also offers lunchtime intramurals and activities that get the heart rate going. We open our weight room up for those who want to lift. In the spring we offer The Fastest Man at Verb, and the always popular grass volleyball.
Eagle for a day and spirit week activities are two other changes that gives students and adults the opportunity to shake a tail feather.
Physical activity would not be complete without interscholastic competition. In the spring, we offer baseball and track.

 
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