Great place. Great program. Great people.

Our Verbum Dei gentlemen are starting their 4th week of internships with the Corporate Work Study Program. Can you believe that! I’m still processing that summer is almost over and the school year is in full swing.

And so, we have managed to seamlessly pull off the start of another academic year. By we, I mean Mashanda, Lizette, Jeff, Joe, Caisen and myself! And, it’s not because we’re pros at what we do, it’s because we have a phenomenal team tirelessly pouring our hearts out to ensure the multi-layered details of our program fall perfectly into place. You’d think doing so gets easier the more we do it, but the start of a new academic year brings about multiple challenges… will our partners show up to our annual job fair, too many freshmen, not enough seniors, will we have sufficient job placements, how many students can we put in a van, and the list goes on and on. Each team member tackles different aspects of this logistical monster and they do it with care, poise and confidence.

The ins-and-outs of the Corporate Work Study Program would be more challenging to undertake were it not for the A-list qualities we possess as a team – organizational expertise, student-centered decision making processes, individual personalities, passion-filled hearts, goal-oriented mentalities, go-getter attitudes, flexible temperaments, and a willingness to strive for departmental success. Sound like I’m bragging? I am. I definitely am. Verbum Dei is a great place with great people.

While we have an entire school year ahead of us, I am certain that it will be a productive one. We can finally sit back, breath and reflect on our undertakings.  No major mishaps or set-backs during the first weeks…well maybe one or two, but manageable and they actually made us chuckle!  We did great team! I am proud of you.


What’s New for the 2015-2016 School Year

Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.- 2 Corinthians 9:6

Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. – Psalms 126:5

I remember when I was in high school it seemed like every time I turned around someone in my family or at my church wanted to talk to me about the future. “Where do you want to go to college?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Maybe this is happening to our students. Sometimes those questions can be overwhelming.  I have told our students to keep in mind (and in their hearts) that the decisions they make today will impact the choices they have tomorrow. The verse above explains just that. The sacrifices our students make today- to study, attend office hours, persevere in times of struggle- will always, ALWAYS pay off. As we embark on a new school year, let us take heed to the scripture found in 2 Corinthians and Psalms and have faith that God will honor our service, passion, and sacrifice.

In Him,

Dr. Odom Lucas

Interim Principal
Verbum Dei High School


What’s New in 2015/2016

Verbum Dei Writing Lab

The VDHS Writing Lab, open Monday through Thursday from dismissal to 3:45 P.M. in Room 103, is an as-needed resource available to all Verbum Dei gentlemen regardless of grade level.  All students are welcome to work on writing assignments and papers for any course in a focused, productive environment.  VDHS laptops and personal electronic devices may be utilized in the classroom for word processing and research assignments only.  English teacher Mr. Stradley is available during this time for assistance with revision, editing, research, and formatting and citation.  Individualized assistance may be limited depending on the number of students requiring assistance on any given day, but all students should expect to have an opportunity to interact with the teacher on a one-on-one basis when working in the Writing Lab.  No reservations are required; however, as the Writing Lab is available on a first come, first served basis, it is important that students begin long-term assignments early to avoid a last minute rush and to avoid encountering a full Writing Lab.

AP Classes

We are offering a total of 5 AP courses for the 2015-2016 school year. New courses are noted in bold italic.


AP US History                            AP English Literature

Instructor: Jesse Jovel                   Instructor: Ken Favell


AP Calculus                                 AP Government

Instructor: George Chahrouri       Instructor: Maria McDonald


AP Spanish Language

Instructor: Max Olmedo


On August 7, I was invited by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to give the introductory invocation at the reopening of the Martin Luther King Hospital.  Besides the Supervisor, in attendance were Mayor Garcetti, Congress Member Janice Hahn, other dignitaries as well as hundreds of community participants.  I wanted to share my invocation comments with the Verbum Dei community:

  • Verbum Dei
    • Founded in 1962 as a School of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, run by the Society of the Divine Word
    • The Jesuits were asked to assume the leadership of the school in 2000, to build on its proud history and to devise a new model of education:
      • We are a College Prep School for the young men of the Greater Watts Community
      • Every student works one day a week in a corporate office which provides career training and scholarship money.
      • The Verb offers a full range of sports and club activities
      • 100 % of those that graduate are accepted into college.
    • We are dedicated to the students of Watts, and the Verb provides a special education for any young man who has the grit and determination to be successful
    • We are also dedicated to the community of Watts and support every effort that makes life better for all members of the community.
  • Because Verbum Dei is dedicated to the community, I am delighted that Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has asked us to participate in this event today.  The reopening of MLK hospital speaks of a New Day for the hospital and for South Los Angeles.
  • These days especially, we recall the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s
  • This year we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Riots/Revolution that occurred in 1965.
  • Whatever we call it, there was some movement forward in civil rights at that time, but there were lots of people hurt in the mayhem.
  • Today, we are experiencing another Civil Rights Moment in this country.
    • What we are celebrating here today is what can happen when people come together not for the destruction of an old order, but the for the building of a New Day
  • The words that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize come to mind on this occasion of the reopening of MLK Hospital.
  • Dr. King stated:
  • “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
    • (December 11, 1964 upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize at which he acknowledged all those who non-violently work for justice)
  • Today is such a moment. So let us pray together as a community:
  • Loving God, bless our efforts today;
    • Bless the doctors and nurses and staff who will work in this facility;
    • Bless the administrators with the wisdom to direct the hospital for the good of all;
    • Bless our civic leaders with compassion and continuing support for these efforts;
    • Bless the community with insight and patience as we move forward together to a New Day.
    • We ask this all in your holy name.
  • Amen

I write these comments in the aftermath of the horrible massacre of 9 people of faith participating in a Bible Study in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.  I write also in the light of the encyclical letter, Lberato Si, of Pope Francis warning that we human beings are degrading the planet with pollution and putting future generations at risk. Given the challenges that humanity faces, I look for signs of hope.

One such sign of hope took place at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angeles in Los Angeles on June 11, when the Senior Class of Verbum Dei High School graduated and stepped into the future. These young men from South Los Angeles have beaten the odds and mastered their fate.  They have proven themselves worthy, and they are now ready for the next step on their life’s path.  They prepared themselves not only academically, but also morally and spiritually.  Besides completing their course work, they recognize injustice in the world and want to take prophetic action to address it.  They have felt the love of God shown to them by their families, classmates and mentors, and they want to share that care for people and creation with the world. These young graduates of Verbum Dei are not our future, they are our present.  The will make a difference by making the world a more just and loving place for all to live.

I want to congratulate our graduates and to thank them for their hard work.  Congratulations also to the dedicated faculty and staff of the Verb and to the families of our graduates.  In addition, on behalf of the graduates, I want to thank the Benefactors and Corporate Sponsors of Verbum Dei High School.  Without you, these young graduates would not be where they are today.  We are all grateful.


Rev. Michael J. Mandala, S. J.



I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.-PHILIPPIANS 4:13

What an amazing year! We have grown so much as a community and our focus- to get Verb students in and through college- is stronger now than ever before. Below I’ve included an excerpt from a conversation I had with Nicholas Spates, Valedictorian for the Class of 2015. I am sure you will find his responses demonstrate both maturity and thoughtfulness.  As we move forward, please know Verbum Dei remains committed to ensuring college entrance and graduation for all its students. The faculty and staff recognize we cannot accomplish our goals without your help.  Students, we need your commitment. As Nicholas states in his reflection, you have to “work harder”.  Every year strive to have a BETTER GPA, complete MORE Christian Service hours, and STRENGTHEN your relationship with God.  Parents, we need your support. Students that have supportive parents are more successful. Email us, call us, stop by and visit us. You are important to us and we value our partnership!  Verbum Dei Community, we are unstoppable as long as we work together- Faculty/Staff, students, parents, corporate partners and supporters! Let’s continue to work together to set the world on fire!

In Him,

Dr. Odom Lucas

Senior Spotlight

Student Name: Nicholas Spates

City: Watts, California

Junior High School: The Accelerated School

College Destination: Georgetown University,

Washington, D.C.

How was Verb different than your junior high school?

Verb is far more structured.

What were your keys to success here at Verb?

Organization, teamwork, mentorship, and a flat out dedication to working hard every day until my work ethic became a habit.

How have you benefited from the CWSP program?

The CWSP program gave me insight on how to work in the workplace and gave me a taste of certain careers. I have connections I couldn’t have dreamed of before.

If you had to do your high school career all over again what, if anything, would you do differently?

I would make sure to balance work and play a bit more. At times I wish I could be less serious!

Which was the hardest year of high school? What did you learn from that year?

Sophomore year! I had to learn that it doesn’t matter how tough it gets you have to persevere!

What was your most favorite memory during your time here at Verb?

Playing basketball with my older brother (Verb alum Darrius Spates, c/o 2012)

We have no doubt you and the other members of the Class of 2015 will do amazing things. What message would you like to leave for the underclassmen?

Work harder. It doesn’t matter how hard you are working now, every last one of us can work harder, so do it!

What message would you like to leave for your Verb teachers?

I love you all for giving us your time and expertise because I know it’s not about the money at verb. You guys really love us.

What message would you like to leave for your CWSP supervisors and other supporters of Verbum Dei?

It just isn’t possible without you all. At the end of the day, I can go to school because of you. Thank you!

Finally, what would you like to say to your family who have supported you through your time at Verb?

The foundation is made at home and my foundation A1. I couldn’t be who I am with you all. Thank you!


I have been a member of the Verbum Dei community for eight years, and in that time, I have come to understand how significant this work is.  Verbum Dei is preparing students to create the best life possible for themselves.  The task is arduous, as it is unreasonable to assume that we can tell our community members what is best for their lives, and they just accept it, as if receiving a holiday present or a phone call from an old friend.  In reality, families desire to understand how we plan to assist students in seeking and pursuing opportunities that will allow them to create a successful future, most specifically college graduation.  After all, there are many educational options, and some are tuition free.   We are asking these families to make financial sacrifices in extremely tight situations.

I would argue that this is the difference at Verbum Dei…

The characteristics of our school are quite unique and the student body is comprised of students with varying levels of skill and ability.  One of the most common threads possessed by our students that most of them come from households that have been economically underserved.  More importantly, however, is the combined desire for intellectual acumen and postsecondary success.  When students become seniors, upon reading their college essays, I have come to understand the struggle that they have had to overcome growing up.  These challenges have given them the type of character that is not often seen in people so young, yet, they do not use their circumstances as a crutch.  In fact, that they often fail to realize that their experiences are extraordinary and they must be reminded of what they have overcome, especially during the college application process.

In my opinion, it is the collection of these varying experiences that has created a sense of community that is not often seen in schools.  As students attending a Jesuit school, the young men embrace social justice principles, while collectively working to become proficient at corporate decorum through the Corporate Work Study Program and academically adept by way of a college preparatory education.

For these reasons, we are the best choice for students from underserved communities seeking an amazing opportunity and a worthy vehicle to carry our students to their future aspirations.


On my wall in my office is a prominent poster outlining Verbum Dei’s Grad-at-Grad principles.  Whenever I quickly glance up at them (every day, seemingly), I am reminded of several obvious applications which immediately seek impact with our students through the use of technology.    Certainly, I can clearly connect the benefits of technology to its enormous role in one being Work-Experienced, as well as being Intellectually Motivated.   Those are obvious.  Yet conversely, when I ponder the other values – Open to Growth, Spiritual and Loving – it seems to be more of a challenge and difficult to directly connect their attributes to technology.  That may be the case, but at Verbum Dei, we seek to mold well-rounded gentlemen ready to take on – with confidence – every hurdle tomorrow’s world will throw at them.  The value of each principle is equal and ever-lasting.  There is however one last Grad-at-Grad value that – although at first glance seems afar from our technology goals at school – actually delivers the strongest cue to what I ultimately seek to achieve for our boys at Verbum Dei.   That is, I am – as Tech Director for the school – Committed to Doing Justice for our guys.  Let me explain.

The impact of a Verbum Dei education – and the school’s ability to set afoot tomorrow’s leaders – is ultimately what our work here is judged by.  Every aspect of the school’s operations is ultimately measured by the success of our graduates and the influence they’ll make in society.  To me, the real grit of Verbum Dei’s mission is less about rescuing or accommodating lives and families in need, and more about fairness, equal footing and preparation for an ever-increasingly competitive job market.  I’m not interested in salvation so much – I’m more concerned in getting our young men ready to compete.   That’s what drives me.   In my zeal to ensure our guys will have “the skills to pay the bills,” I need to be confident in my mind we’re delivering every opportunity for them to interact and master the latest forms of technology in the classroom.  That is the Justice I’m Committed to; I feel mandated to having helped create an atmosphere of learning where – through the use of technology – we are equipping our students with the finely-honed study and research skills they’ll need down the road.  I want – and expect – our graduates to go toe-to-toe with any other student – from all communities and all social boundaries – to compete in the college classroom.  And in turn, I want – and expect – for those same young men to compete in tomorrow’s job market as well.

My mission is clear, and the constant reminder is there –every day – on my wall.   When you walk the halls of Verbum Dei on any given day, you’ll see a diverse array of technology actively integrated in each classroom.   Having an eager and intrepid group of faculty here helps this process immensely; I feel blessed to work with such gifted individuals who are willing to experiment and deploy new methods of learning.  But they can’t do it alone.  Information Technology is – at its core – a service department.  My department is here to assist our faculty and help them enhance their teaching environment.  Together, we will distinguish Verbum Dei as a superior institution which confidently builds tomorrow’s leaders.  I take my role in that process seriously – there are no choices here.   I am Committed to Doing Justice for these young men.


I would like to thank all who have helped me transition into my role as the Vice President of Corporate Recruitment at Verbum Dei; faculty, staff, administration, board members, corporate work study partners – and students. It has been a warm welcome. I look forward to nourishing and sustaining the many long-standing partnerships already established amongst Verbum Dei and the Southern California business community – and thank you for your continued benevolence. As well, I relish the opportunity to expand our corporate partner base – so that any capable young man that desires a Verbum Dei education is ‘afforded’ one. The role of corporate recruitment at Verbum Dei is one of relationships, friendships, connections and introductions. Please never hesitate to reach out to me via email, phone – or stop by campus. I look forward to meeting you.


As the school year comes to an end, I am happy to have time to reflect on the shifts that have taken place in the math department this year.  Although there is often apprehension when parents hear the words “Common Core,” the math department has found incredible success implementing a common core math curriculum in all levels of math.

The two major focuses of the math department this year were rigor and growth mindset, which truly go hand in hand.  Students often come into our classrooms with an idea that they are just not good at math.  It is our job to help each student realize that he has the potential to learn and grow in any area he chooses, including math.  The way that we have accomplished this feat is through instruction in growth mindset.

We teach our students that the brain is a muscle that can be taught new information, that our attitude towards learning new things affects our ability to learn that mindset, and the power of the word, “yet.”  The statement, “I don’t understand this,” changes entirely when we add on that one, extremely powerful three-letter word.  Our students now say, “I don’t understand this yet,” giving themselves time to learn and recognizing that they can and will learn.

Paired with an increase in rigor, we have seen a shift in our students’ willingness to attempt challenging problems as well as an increase in their proficiency.  By teaching our students how they learn, we have allowed them to accept struggle as part of the learning process.  As our students analyze their failures, they are able to re-attempt problems in new and interesting ways.  I find myself continually impressed by the grit and hard work of our students as they learn new material.

Presenting at the OLA regional in-service in March, I had teachers from other schools come up to me and ask if we were really implementing Common Core and challenging problems at Verb, and I was proud to say that we are not only implementing, our students are improving every day.


Often, many people, usually supporters, ask us for materials they can use to help spread the word about the good works we do at the Verb.  So, we put together three links that will help you tell the story of the Verb— video links which explain our programs and mission. Please feel free to forward these links to your colleagues, friends, family and anyone who may be interested learning more.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Michelle Cordova – 323.564.6651 x5120. You can also email her at

  • Developing Men for Others 2015: Talks about the school, CWSP, and Adopt-A-Student Program—This video is best for an overview of the Verb.
    • Verbum Dei High School is a Catholic, Jesuit, college and career preparatory complemented by our corporate internship program, serving young men of Watts and the surrounding communities who are economically and academically underserved. We develop self-confident gentlemen who are intellectually motivated, spiritually rooted, contemplative, and courageous in their pursuit of a more humane and just world.
    • To learn more please click here:
  • Corporate Work Study Program: Talks strictly about CWSP—This video is best for those interested in sponsorship.
    • Verbum Dei adopted an innovative Corporate Work Study Program created to fund inner-city College and career prep education. Companies contract with the Corporate Work Study Program for full-time, entry-level, clerical jobs.
  • Adopt-A-Student Program: Talks strictly about AASP—This video is best for those interested in sponsoring a student

    • Participating in the Adopting-A-Student Program simply means being financially supportive of the funding gap between actual cost and actual funding—$4,000 to $5,750 of our students. By participating, you will get to know “your” student(s), as they will send you acknowledgement letters, photographs, class assignments, etc. You see, part of our mission is to teach our gentlemen to appreciate the support of our benefactors—we feel it will help them to remember to give back to important causes when they achieve success.
    • To learn more please click here:
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