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.
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?
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.
It pleases me greatly that during a time that African American and Latino American inner city young men are being described as confused and spiritually ill, we are getting it right. I am proud to illustrate the relevance to the relationships we have cultivated. This blog is representative of our effort. It hopefully will provide an explanation and offer greater understanding of our collective accomplishment. In this account, hopefully you are apprised of what you have done to assist our young men to enter an experience that is certainly not promised. I have chronicled this for you to continue to work toward our goal of changing lives. The major theme is that we are winning and it strongly implies that the events evidenced are written and designed as examples to observe and continue.
I have had the distinct pleasure of serving in several capacities here at “The Verb” over the course of my tenure and one-thing remains constant; our young men are focused and, in most cases, well prepared to accept the challenges that lie beyond Verbum Dei High School when they graduate. This observation comes to mind by way of a recent visit to Cal State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). Verbum Dei High School College Guidance Coordinator Mrs. Bowie and I served as chaperones for several Verb Gentlemen who were identified as campus leaders and were invited to participate in The Third Annual Male Success Alliance Spring Summit: Saving Lives and Salvaging Dreams. As soon as we arrived on the campus we were greeted by two Verb Graduates working as CSUDH student advisers for the conference. The Male Success Alliance Founder and President David Lopez 06’ and Mariano Rojo 11’ stepped on board our bus and welcomed us.
The goal of the conference was to partner with local high schools to raise awareness and promote success. We spent most of the day finding out how to improve our educational experiences and reach our goals in life. We were encouraged to connect with other students who shared our common goals and to build a support system that will be a part of our success in the future. This was the start to believing differently about ourselves so that we can reach our full potential. We encountered people from other schools who were totally excited and motivated. Although I was truly delighted and inspired by the presentation I spent a great deal of the time throughout the day making observations, drawing suppositions, doing comparison and contrast exercises. This all lead me to the same understanding… Damn We’re Good! The whole of the Verbum Dei community would have been equally proud of the way our young men presented themselves while representing The Verb. As a result of the experiences and the influence The Verb offers, our young men set themselves apart. They were distinguished, well dressed, well educated, well spoken, and extremely mature. Several of the other partner school representatives approached me asking, “From what school are your boys?” “Oh… Verbum Dei… they are so well behaved and attentive too!” “I knew they were students from a private school.”
I encourage everyone (students, faculty, staff, donors, board members, volunteers, etc.) to reflect on your Verbum Dei experiences and think about what they mean to you, perhaps there are a number of ways in which you can consider yourself to be ultimately blessed, and in some situations having the opportunity to bless others through your blessings. I truly believe God has an out of this world blessing in store for me! A universal blessing, that is inclusive with the effort and energy that each of us within the Verbum Dei High School community can share. I want each of you to know that we have gotten the chance to witness the transition and transformation of our young men and I am truly grateful for all of those who have contributed to the goal of getting our boys ready for greater understanding. We in our own unique way have asked God to reveal to us in detail the signs of the increased growth of his kingdom. Although it is not always evident to me when I am self-reflecting it is truly a blessing to witness our collective effort and the evidence that God is moving, in the manifestation of our boys. Keep up the good work! Peace…
Recently we had a faculty staff retreat day on campus. The topic for this retreat day was gratitude. While working our way through the exercises of our retreat, I realized what I am most grateful for is the privilege to work for Verbum Dei High School. It is an honor and a gift to participate, and in some small way, to contribute to this success of our critical mission of providing this life changing opportunity to our young Verb gentlemen.
At this time of the year I am focused on bringing in new Corporate Partners so we can sustain and grow this opportunity for the young men of Watts and the surrounding communities. This can be challenging and frustrating at times. I worry because it seems this year the jobs are harder to get and it is taking longer to bring the new partners on board.
Then I walk across campus and our young men call out, “Good morning Mr. Scott” and will run to make certain to shake my hand. I always ask how work is going and they smile as they tell me what they are learning and doing at work. It amazes me to feel their enthusiasm when it seems to me they are so young and have so many challenges in their lives. They have to work hard in their classes to be college ready. They have to work hard at their jobs developing both professional and life skills. Most of them work hard on the athletic field as they participate in our sports programs. Then I realize what I am grateful for.
I am grateful to our students for clarifying for me what is really important in life. They remind me that we are all connected and together we can overcome and accomplish so much. I am grateful for and humbled by, our faculty and staff, our Verb family, who work so hard, do such great work and care so much. I am grateful for our Corporate Recruitment Cabinet, professionals with careers and families, who give so much time, effort and expertise to bring in new Corporate Partners; more jobs for more students. I am grateful every time I call one of our Corporate Partners for help, advice and direction. Their generosity of time and expertise as well as their financial support reminds me how many good people there are and how willingly and eagerly they support our students and our Corporate Work Study Program. I am grateful to our donors who are so committed to our mission and give so willingly and generously.
One day last week, a young man who grew up in Nickerson Gardens, a Verb graduate, a Marist College graduate, called to tell me how much he loved his job, how well his career was going and in fact had received his first promotion.
I find every day at the Verb I become more grateful. I am grateful to God for leading and sustaining all of us in His mission.
If you have not been to our campus lately, please come down and meet the amazing Verb Family, and talk with these incredible young gentlemen you so generously support by sustaining this life changing, college and career prep opportunity.
We have many visitors to the Verb in the course of a month – prospective students and their families, prospective corporate partners, and prospective donors for sure, but we also have a variety of people who come for many different reasons.
A wonderful artist who works in stained glass visited to offer replacing three sets of windows in our chapel to celebrate our 50th anniversary. Representatives from Veritas, a Catholic publishing house in Dublin, walked our theology faculty through their latest series in connection with the Catholic Conference of Bishops guidelines. Fr. Ed Harris, SJ, the Provincial’s assistant for the Jesuit secondary schools in the Province, made his spring visit to check us out – he reported that the highlight was his conversation with our students!
Three visits that were particularly good occurred within the same week. A handful of teachers from a couple of the public middle schools in our area came for lunch to learn more about what we can offer their students. It still amazes me how much people in our own community do not know about us! We have to do a better job of promoting ourselves which was the purpose of the lunch. A group of Rotarians from the Los Angeles Rotary Club came for lunch because they wanted to find out more about us. One big goal this year has been to introduce our school to as many people as possible. And finally a few days later five educators from Down Under spent two hours with us, folks from St. Laurence’s College (high school) in Brisbane, Australia. They were visiting Catholic schools and sharing best practices.
We are used to getting a lot of visitors, so if you haven’t been on campus for a while (or even if you have) please know you are always welcome!
The Verbum Dei Eagles varsity baseball team warms up by playing catch prior to the first game of a March 3 doubleheader in Avalon on Catalina Island. Photograph by John Stradley, English Department Chair
“You wanna have a catch?” It’s a line of dialogue from 1989’s Field of Dreams that is certain to tug at the heart of anyone. The question in the film speaks to lost opportunities, to times past, and to new beginnings. When I pose that same question to the gentlemen of Verbum Dei, I speak of new opportunities, of better understanding, and also to some new beginnings. Playing a pick-up game of catch has become a cherished part of my lunchtimes at the Verb. My classroom faces Senior Square, and on any given day, several members of the varsity baseball team congregate at the tables outside in the corridor. I have taken to storing my equipment bag in my classroom for such opportunities.
Playing catch in that space allows my students and former students to see me in a new light and under a blue sky, far removed from the classroom setting that is the basis of our most frequent interaction. As their thrown balls smack into the pocket of my favorite glove or my throws find their mark in their mitts, we enjoy the celebration of baseball – the delight in throwing accurately and catching decisively. I see these gentlemen in a different light as well, for many who squeeze their hands into one of my two extra child-size gloves are not current players on the Verb roster, but former park-leaguers and Little League players who have left the game for other pursuits. Still, the feel of the stitches and the warmth of a leather glove draw them back.
I had the good fortune to accompany our baseball team to a double header against Avalon High School on Catalina Island a few weeks ago. It was a wonderful day for baseball in any setting, and the Verbum Dei squad represented themselves well in play and in spirit. The team is forming anew with different coaching and many new players. Along with their equipment bags, the players bring a desire to learn, to grow, and to contribute. While the viability of fielding a baseball team may have seemed dubious earlier in the school year, all elements have come together to make Verbum Dei baseball a reality. “If you build it, he will come,” whispers the voice of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams. The dedication of many at the Verb has shown that if you build it, they will come, and they will come with heart and a desire to contribute.