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.
The Verb community celebrated Latino Heritage Month from September 17th – October 12th. Students, faculty and staff came together for a time of learning, sharing and having fun.
Immigration is one of the topics that the Latino Student Union and the Latino Heritage Committee has embraced to share with students. In the classrooms, students were challenged to break down the word “undocumented” and describe the words, feelings and images that come to mind when it is said. For many, the term took on a new meaning as they now understand it. Students were open to learning more about those without legal status while being respectful of their status. While for others, a new found commitment to the undocumented was formed. Students also read about prominent leaders in Latin American culture and discovered that the accomplishments of Latinos are many.
During the month-long festivities, students were introduced to Operation Dream, an organization that collects rice, beans and canned meat to send meals to orphans in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. While as a school we fell short of our goal, we showed that our community is one that loves our neighbors and gives without expecting anything in return.
Second period classes were in competition with each other for a bag of sweets if they answered a question about Latino culture correctly. During lunch, a mechanical bull brought students together as they competed to stay on the bull the longest. After school, students enjoyed the flavors of sugar and cinnamon on churros.
We will continue celebrating Latino Heritage all year long, but we culminated the month on Friday with a mass celebrated by Fr. Ted Gabrielli from Dolores Mission. He challenged us to look beyond racial status to fully embrace our brothers and sisters. He urged us to celebrate each other and accept our differences as gifts of God.
After mass, our parents prepared a tasty meal of enchiladas, rice, beans, horchata and dessert for all to enjoy. A group Salvadorans and Dominicans performed for our students and even encouraged some brave students to dance with them.
A busy month for Verb, but full of culture!
A few years ago a student in his junior year remarked in US History class that he really liked history and was thinking about becoming a teacher when he graduated from college. “Wow! That is so awesome, Jesse!” I replied. The next year, the same student, now a senior, and I were having a conversation about his college plans, “I would really like to come back to Verb” he said, “and teach US history.” “So, what you’re saying is that you want my job?!?” I replied jokingly. “Oh, No! Nothing like that, Ms. McDonald” Jesse responded. Well, I am happy to share with you that Jesse Jovel was successful in his plan to return to Verbum Dei as Mr. Jovel; our new US History teacher! And, I am happy to add, that I still have a job as well.
It seems inadequate to call what I do here at “the Verb” a job. It is so much more than that; it is a passion, a mission, a source of fulfillment and joy every single day. Verbum Dei is a dynamic community where we are challenged to innovate within our sphere of influence, whether that is in our departments, classrooms or extracurricular activities. As such, I am very excited about the establishment of the new Humanities Department. We have combined the English and Social Science Departments and instituted policies designed to integrate curriculum and increase student achievement.
The 2011-2012 school year was a very productive and successful year for The Verbum Dei Foreign Language Department. A group of juniors took up the challenge of spending their last year of our Spanish program in the demanding setting of the Advanced Placement Language class. It was a year of hard work and demanding assignments in order to be prepared and soar on to the College Board Examination. It was all worth it, as there was a passing rate of 100% for the final result! All 15 students (David Gómez , Aaron Ruíz, Andre Pérez, Anthony Arce, Anthony Reynoso, Emmanuel Cáceres, Jonathan Salazar, José Herrera Kevin Lopez, Omar Meléndrez, Ricardo Placensia, Roberto Placensia, Eduardo Ramirez , Raúl Erazo, and Henry Salguero), now seniors, came back from their summer break feeling proud and happy to report and share their individual scores with me and each other. The following chart summarizes our students’ performance in the Advanced Placement Exam in the last five years. Way to go Eagles!
Students and their personal and academic needs is always the Foreign Language Department’s top mission. In fulfillment of our mission and to make sure every gentleman that passes through our doors takes away the best experience possible, whether it is learning or improving their skill in the Spanish language, an Intermediate section of Spanish was created to accommodate students who are not ready to succeed in a Native Speakers setting or to advance to be placed in a Non-native setting class. With this little change we are seeing students placed in Intermediate Spanish I and Intermediate Spanish II have a great learning experience; they clearly are in an environment honed to their individual and collective academic growth. It was truly a much needed addition to our department curriculum. Special recognition to Mr. Olmedo for taking on the task of putting together and implementing a curriculum that was clearly done with our students’ needs in mind.
We are enthusiastic about having another great year and already planning for the future. Our department vision is to give our students an opportunity of a third year in a Spanish classroom. Hopefully, all juniors taking Advanced Spanish Culture and Language right now will be up to the challenge of making it possible to bring our Advanced Spanish Culture and Literature class back. For our non-native speakers, our expectation is to offer them a section of Spanish III both regular and honor.
Our daily prayer is to be able to offer our students only the best and to make sure they are challenged enough to use their talents and gifts to their highest potential.
Fr. Muller has often mentioned in his liturgies the idea of “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Beyond its powerful spiritual message, that framework equally resonates with me when I think of the relationship I see with our young men of Verb and technology. I’ve professed to anyone who’s asked me – with sometimes astonished looks – and believed it to be true; our students are exposed to the latest trends in technology more than we think, and have high expectations for the interaction of technology and education in the classroom.
So, recently in our new school year orientation, my assertion was to be put on public trial. Gathered in front of me was our entire student body. The purpose of our meeting was to inform them on some new policies involving tech this coming year. I also wanted to introduce to our boys our latest addition to the technological arsenal at Verbum Dei: Ipads. I knew they would be excited to hear the Ipads were ready to be used in the classroom — Their eyes certainly widened and many edged up in their seats when the word came. I felt compelled however – and completely off my script – to ask the boys: “How many of you have ever worked with and used an Ipad before?” So here was a moment of truth – would my contention hold true. How many hands were going to rise? I believed it, but will I see it? Well, there wasn’t much hesitation – and the result was clearly pronounced – as dozens and dozens of hands shot to the air. I formed a wry smile, and blurted on the microphone the first reaction in my head, “Right on!”
Later, I was meeting with a fellow staff member. She told me she appreciated me asking that question during the orientation. What she liked most about the poll – and its visceral results – was the reaction it produced with some of the faculty members present. You see, there are some teachers and staff members interacting closely with our students on a daily basis – who know much about their lives outside of academics, who may not fully realize how technologically savvy Verb students actually are. It belies what many of us may think socioeconomically – but our young men know and follow the latest tech trends and reach out to them wherever possible. My interaction with our students has proved to me that they have a thirsty desire to utilize technology and recognize how tech can be used educationally. I know this most simply by the questions they ask our IT group. I can tell they follow the newest developments in the tech world.
What we need to appreciate is that the Men of Verb have been surrounded by tech their whole lives; hence, the classroom should be no different. As IT Director, my mission must take this fact in consideration. Not only must IT provide the means for educators and students to access information and assimilate it in a timely and efficient manner, we must in parallel prepare our young men – in all aspects – to become tomorrow’s meaningful contributors to humanity. Thus, they must be exposed to and comfortable using all the tools – tech included – that in turn form Men for Others.
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.
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.