VDHS students to learn and to serve in the Xavier Service Plunge, December 4-6

By Alejandro Jimenez, Staff Writer

On December 4-6, 2015, VDHS’s Campus Ministry, the Xavier Prep Campus Ministry, and members of the class of 2016 will participate in the Xavier Service Plunge, an on-and-off -campus social justice awareness and service opportunity. The event offers a convenient way for students to immerse themselves in several social justice organizations to expose them to the injustices that are occurring around them from a particular community’s point and view.

 “The service plunge at Xavier introduces students to a rural community and opens their eyes to social justice issues happening outside of what they see in Los Angeles,” said Laura Wagner, a Jesuit Volunteer who works with Campus Ministry.  “It is an opportunity for students to broaden their understanding of service as well as engage and form relationships in a different community.”

 “Over the past two years these immersion weekends have helped Verbum Dei and Xavier Prep form and strengthen a unique relationship,” Wagner continued. “While the two schools are miles apart, students are able to meet like-minded people interested in building community and discussing justice issues, and continuing these relationships past the weekend and throughout the year.”

The Service Plunge trip was formed two years ago by Mr. Stockbridge, a former VDHS Christian Service Coordinator, and Ms. Wagner. In the Arrupe Summit Conference, all the Jesuit campus ministry leaders joined together to discuss their schools and possible improvements to their campus ministry programs. Mr. Stockbridge and Ms. Wagner started to chat with Xavier Prep Campus Ministry team and decided to have the students from the two high schools swap places to understand the social injustices in their respective communities and to do volunteer work.

“I think the Xavier Service Plunge is amazing because we get to have fun and do service with other students,” said senior Huber White, who plans to participate in the Xavier Service Plunge this year.

Present Dei Puzzler returns for a third year to challenge and to confound students and staff

Problem 1:  House Call

A hardware store has a puzzling way of charging for individual letters to spell out house number signs.  Mr. Stradley is waiting in line but there are three guys ahead of him.

  • The first customer buys the number ONE (O, N, E).  He pays two bucks
  • The next guy buys the number TWO and pays three bucks
  • The third guy buys the number ELEVEN, and he pays five bucks 

Mr. Stradley wants to buy TWELVE.  How much should he expect to pay based on the store’s pricing policy?

Problem 2:  What time is it anyway?

My watch loses 12 minutes every hour.  I set my watch this morning at 9:00 a.m. using an accurate clock.  The time on my watch now reads 2:00 p.m. What is the correct time?

Problem 3:  Cost Cutting

The letters C-O-S-T have been cut from the words below, with any resulting spaces closed up.  The letters C-O-S-T always appear in left-to-right order, although not necessarily consecutively.  What are these words?

Example:  ARTONI becomes CARTOONIST





5.  AUIC




Open to all Verbum Dei students, faculty and staff.  Deadline for submission of answers is Wednesday, November 26, 2014.  Turn in answers to Mr. Stradley, Mr. White, or Mrs. White.


Prizes to be paid by Mr. and Mrs. White.  $5 to the student who turns in the correct answer to any question first; $1 to any student who turns in a correct answer but is not the first to do so.  There are three questions, so it is possible to earn $15.  Any money not won by students will pass to faculty and staff members who submit correct answers.


Verb STEM students represented at Herndon Science Competition at Aerospace Corporation

Verbum Dei students (from left to right)  Miguel Gil, Daniel Felix, and Kadett Jnocharles present their work to a panel of judges at the Herndon Science Competition, Thursday, May 22   Image by Suaronne Angeletti

By Suaronne Angeletti and Lorenza Della Donna, Contributing Writers

Four Verbum Dei students participated in the Herndon Science Competition sponsored by Aerospace Corporation. Students participated either by writing a scientific essay (research paper or written result of their own scientific experiment) or by presenting a project that exemplified the use of technology in the scientific field. A few select students expressed their desire to participate.

Ms. Angeletti worked with Miguel Gil, Daniel Felix, and Kadett Jnocharles, junior students from the robotics team, to research and to build a simple model aimed at explaining and demonstrating students’ understanding of the different components of Underwater Remotely Controlled Vehicles (ROVs). They presented to two groups of judging panels at the competition and successfully answered in-depth questions about their project and how it related to today’s world. The poster used to present their research will be displayed near Verb’s Multi-Purpose Room.

Sophomore Kobi Kelley, under the direction of Dr. Della Donna, participated by submitting a scientific essay entitled “Powerful Stem Cells,” which describes such cells and details their uses in the medical field. Kelley won 1st place in the high school division; the prize included a generous cash scholarship.

Ms. Angeletti and Ms. Della Donna are very proud of all the hard work these students have done and of their accomplishments.







Six Verb frosh scale 9,399′ Mt. Baden Powell

Verbum Dei High School freshmen and their intrepid leaders pose atop 9,399′ Mount Baden Powell in the Angeles National Forest near Wrightwood.  (from left to right) Victor Apolinar, Adrian Pasillas, Joshua Lozano, Kenneth Reyes, John Stradley, Ana de Castro, Anthony Aguirre, and Jose Gutierrez climbed the rugged peak Saturday, May 17.  Image by Mercedes Castro.

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

Eight freshmen students and two teachers, some of whom had never experienced a wilderness hike, scaled the heights of Mt. Baden Powell, the fourth highest peak in the San Gabriel range of the Angeles National Forest on Saturday, May 17.  The eight-mile hike traverses the northern facing slope of the rugged mountain through a series of lengthy switchbacks.  All but two students hiked to the summit; one student strained his ankle within a mile and a half of the summit while yielding the right of way to hikers going uphill.  He was aided in his descent by Alexis Maldonado, one of his classmates.

The hike rewarded the students and their leaders with inspiring views of the vast deserts to the north and northeast.  Upon reaching the exposed ridgeline, hikers were treated to a dramatic vista of wilderness: the watershed formed by Mount Baldy (Mt. San Antonio) and other high ridgelines.  Unfortunately, a haze covered much of the Los Angeles basin, so the urban sprawl and distant Catalina Island were obscured from view.

The view eastward from the exposed 9,000′ ridge of Mt. Baden Powell.  Limber pines, which are estimated to be 1,500 years old, cling to existence at this windswept location.  Students encountered a remnant of winter nearby with the discovery of a sliver of snow just off the main trail.  Image by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

Leave me alone: Why a loner is no one to fear


by John Peeples, Guest Columnist

You all know that kid who seems a little off: that guy that sits alone in his own corner of the cafeteria, that girl who seems not to have any friends, or that co-worker who resists most attempts to socialize or bond or do any of the things normal people do. They’re freaks and losers, of course. What sort of moron doesn’t have friends? You’ve also heard about the serial killer, the mass murderer, the cold sociopath who wants nothing more than to kill people for seemingly no reason. Weren’t many of them loners too? Jared Loughner is an example of a withdrawn man who went on a shooting spree a few years ago. Even his last name looks like “Loner,” a clear expression of guilt on the part of the introverted. This trend only continues with James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold, and Eric Harris. What we need is to do is to reach out to these people and get them some friends, and, maybe, this will prevent such tragedies.

This sort of stereotyping and pandering is not true in any circumstance. There isn’t a “lonely and deadly” person. There is no romanticism in going solo or being alone. There isn’t anything special to being introverted or even alone. Being a loner is a lifestyle, a personal philosophy which only about 25% of the world holds common. It isn’t something that signals mental illness or future murderous intent. Being introverted isn’t a signal to “break someone out of his or her shell”. Despite his overall sociopathic nature, Eric Harris was considered rather charismatic and friendly. It also doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with being a loner.

The last point is present in a lot of stories meant for children and adults alike. Children’s stories e.g. Harry Potter generally show the hero as some sort of outgoing, friendly person (who may have come out of an introverted lifestyle or have been extroverted from birth) fights against the evil, condescending (loner) villain. The antihero can also be this sort of loner type, but then the antihero gets some friends and beats the (loner) bad guy. Congratulations, having friends makes you a force for good, and not having them means you’re doomed to fail miserably. This sort of generalized and farcical nonsense can be found in many different works of art, from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s storied Crime and Punishment and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to the less-storied works of Final Fantasy, Avatar, The Last Airbender, and the Harry Potter series.

What needs to be understood is how the introverted/loner mind works. Introverts and loners in general aren’t there because they think they’re better than you or because they’re stupid, smart, shy, or mentally ill. Some loners are bullied, and they want to create a smaller target for bullies. Some are not very outgoing in general and prefer pursuing other interests that don’t necessarily involve other people. This doesn’t mean that they are intentionally avoiding you. They may have their own friends, but they may crave alone time and do better alone.

I’m an introvert, and I have been for many years. Only recently have I exited my “loner” phase, but I still may prefer being alone. When I ask someone how they’re doing or what they’re doing, it’s sometimes to keep up the illusion that I am outgoing; other times, it’s to see how a person is actually doing. I sit near people to satisfy the extroverted side of me and to pretend that I am “normal.”  I’m not the type of person to go to huge parties to be around lots of people. Even going to Homecoming was a stretch for me, and I definitely couldn’t build the energy to go to the dance the next day. I don’t need to hold or to attend social events to feel accomplished. I am fine sitting at home working on my constructed language or playing with my dog Charlotte. That is what I did for several years, especially due to a crippling shyness (whether this is from the Asperger’s or my introverted nature I shall never know). I’ll admit, I do get lonely at times, but I have an extroverted side as well. It’s difficult to balance my need for social interaction and my need to get away from people, but I manage it.  I have survived several years while maintaining only one friendship per school year.

Something I’ve had to learn is that loners aren’t necessarily freaks of nature or super-intelligent trend-buckers. Introverts and their companions the loners have their own cycles and differences, and not all Introverts are created alike. We the Introverts are not to be feared or hated, but we simply want to be left alone, understood, and loved as God’s children. And to those of you who love being alone, but are too afraid to understand why, I understand your need. Don’t be afraid to express your desire to be alone, and don’t be afraid to be alone.

I don’t believe that things will get better for the loners overnight or even in the next hundred years. We all need to work together to stop this unspoken discrimination. However, if anything, there doesn’t need to be an aggressive effort to break Introverts “out of their shells before they go insane”, but instead to push for better mental health services and better identification of mental illnesses. We need to understand what makes each other tick and not let possible problems go unnoticed before it’s too late.


Present Dei Puzzler offers a Lenten challenge

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 the end of the school day, April 11, 2014.

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:  What number am I?

What is the smallest whole number that:

when divided by 2, leaves a remainder of 1;

when divided by 3, leaves a remainder of 2;

when divided by 4, leaves a remainder of 3;

when divided by 5, leaves a remainder of 4;

when divided by 6, leaves a remainder of 5;

when divided by 7, leaves a remainder of 6;

when divided by 8, leaves a remainder of 7;

when divided by 9, leaves a remainder of 8;

and when divided by 10, leaves a remainder of 9.

Problem 2:  In honor of Lent

Each one-word answer to the eight clues listed ends in “lent.”  Each of the answer words begins with a different letter of the alphabet.

1.  Natural ability

2.  Kindly and charitable

3.  Excessively fat

4.  Cactus, for one

5.  Audaciously rude

6.  Lavish

7.  Highly infectious

8.  Well done!

Problem 3:  Magic Square

In this magic square, every row, every column, and both main diagonals add up to the same value, which you must determine.  There is only one way to complete the square.

December Winners

Student winners:

Brandon Williams/Nathan Mendoza (team):  split $5 for problem 1 and $1 for problem 2

Jon Parra:  $1 for problem 1

Faculty/staff winners:

Dr. O’Connell: problems 1 and 2

Fr. Michael Mandela: problems 1 and 2

Mr. Galloway: problems 1, 2 and 3

Ms. Cuellar-Villanueva: problems 1 and 2

Mr. Viens: problems 1, 2 and 3

Ms. Jimenez:  problem 1




Oxymoron – Schoolboy Q’s highly anticipated release: A beauty with blemishes


By Dylan Juarez, Arts and Entertainment

Schoolboy Q, a west coast rapper from South Central Los Angeles, released Oxymoron on February 25th. Schoolboy Q is signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, aka TDE. This is label of Compton-raised rapper Kendrick Lamar. Q is the loudest one of the group, and he likes to talk the most trash. Q has big shoes to fill because Kendrick Lamar’s album, “Good Kid m.A.A.d City” was a great album. Schoolboy Q has had problems with this album because of major push backs, which eventually lead for him to take a leave of absence from all social networking. Everyone was waiting for this album, and it even landed on the lists of many music magazines including The Source for the most anticipated albums of 2014.  Schoolboy Q had four singles, “Bangerz (Mosh Pit),” “Man of the Year,” Collard Greens” featuring Kendrick Lamar, and “Yay Yay.” Only two of these songs made the radio cut. One can say that Schoolboy Q is the underdog in TDE. Not many people believe he is skilled with the mic and that he is not unique. Nothing makes him stand out aside from his bucket hats, his personal fashion statement. Yet, Oxymoron has a meaning that stems from his days of selling Oxycontin®. He also says the album is named Oxymoron because it is beautifully ugly. Schoolboy Q has released an album that leaves listeners not knowing how to react, so they wait in anticipation for what the results might be.

The album starts off with Schoolboy Q’s daughter saying “Screw rap, my daddy is a gangster.” This short snippet leads into the song appropriately titled “Gangsta.” The song is great for a live performance or a crazy night with one’s friends. It just tells how most “gangstas” act or should act making statements like “A real gangsta doesn’t tattoo his tears.” The song to follow it is “Los Awesome” featuring Jay Rock, another TDE label mate. This song is upbeat and can be played at a party or driving through LA’s ghettos. The song mentions what a gang banger does and why he or she does it. The song ends in this exact opposite of what the beginning of the song. The next song was “Collard Greens” featuring Kendrick Lamar. This song is great another part song that adds to this hard hitting album. The thing that makes this track stand out is when Kendrick Lamar raps in Spanish for a few lines. Yet, this doesn’t mean that Kendrick over shadowed Q, yet what it did was help the song balance out.

The fourth song is “What They Want” featuring 2 Chainz. It is a lot different from the past three songs because the listener can tell that the music engineer for this track made the voice of both rappers much deeper than normal. This change on the voice does not bother the ear because it adds to the story being told about a drug seller. It makes the listener feel as if the drug dealer is talking directly to him or her. “Hoover Street,” the following song, continues the idea of selling drugs and starts off with a groovy type of beat that sounds like the 80s.  It changes after about a minute or so and gets much darker. This change of the beat helped the song because it could have been shippable, but the new beat makes it more enjoyable. The song also talks about how Schoolboy Q grew up in the L.A. environment and how he got into a life of gang banging.

“I’m just sitting in the studio just trying to get to you baby” is the chorus to “Studio” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid. This is the love song of the album, but it has such a gangster feel to it. It reminds me of little bit of “Ratha be ya” by Tupac, which is a love song that has a thug sound to it. The next song “Prescription/Oxymoron” starts off with a shaking of a pill bottle and something cooking. This song is dark and takes a turn into Schoolboy Q’s former addiction to prescription drugs. What will hit the heart of the listener is when his daughter starts to speak in the record asking him, “What’s wrong? Are you mad?” It ends with “Okay, I love you daddy.” “Prescription” then stops, and the second half of the song “Oxymoron” starts.  This song is about how Schoolboy Q stopped selling crack and “upgraded” to selling oxy cotton. It was not as dark as the first part of the song, but still had an important part to play in the album.

“The Purge” featuring Tyler, The Creator, and Kurupt, is a song that can be skipped. Here it seems like Q tried too hard to be gangster, and it nipped him. Tyler just did the chorus, and it was okay, but not great.  Kurupt’s verse was not amazing. The 9th song “Blind Threats” featuring Raekwon, has a smooth beat, and Schoolboy Q flows well with this beat. It seems in this song that Q is telling God that he needs his help, but if God doesn’t help, he resolves that his gangsta life will help. Raekwon has a great verse here. This song sweeps the previous song under the rug with its soulful sound. It even ends with violins playing the song out. The following song is “Hell of a Night,” a good party song. It has a scenery of friends at a club; everything is moving in slow motion and going great for them. It is a good song to drive to as well.

“Break the Bank,” is the next song that has a slow beat but Q adds that gangsta flare to it and it makes the song. The song could have gone in such a different direction, but it so perfect because it is how Q changed from selling drugs to rapping. The ironic part of this song is that he says, “Screw rap – my rhyme’s real” saying that what he raps aren’t simply raps for him but more of his personal problems coming to surface. The last song of Oxymoron is “Man of the Year.” This song is a party song that is a great end to the album. This is his celebration song, and it makes so much sense.

Oxymoron is a beauty with blemishes; it’s an album that was almost perfect. Schoolboy Q brought gangsta back into rap. Every song had a thug feel to it, but it did not take way from the album – it actually added to it. People who loved rap back in the era of N.W.A. will enjoy this album. The thing that stops this album from being a 10 are the songs that can be skipped; they take away from the album. Honestly, “The Purge” could have been issued as a bonus track. The ironic thing is that some of the bonus tracks were actually better than that song. Another weakness is that Q’s flow in some songs was not on point, and took a little bit away from those songs. However, Schoolboy Q made a great album for not just hip hop heads, but for all. This album is an 8 out of 10. It was worth the wait, and it lived up to the expectation it made for itself.  Schoolboy Q will go down as a great, new school gangsta rapper.

Verb’s Interact Club assists Rotarians with holiday celebration for LA’s marginalized

Sixteen (Rotary) Interact Club members and VDHS President Fr. Muller lived up to the Rotary Club motto of “Service Above Self” on a very chilly December 14th morning.  The group met at school between 5:30 and 6:00 A.M., filled two vans, and headed over to the annual Angel City Celebration & Giveaway hosted by Mayor Garcetti and the Rotary Club of Los Angeles.  The Saturday morning event offered  snow, a free pancake breakfast, toys for all the kids, arts and crafts, rock climbing, singing, and face painting for the youthful and adult participants.  Of course, Santa, the jolly man in the red suit, made an appearance. This celebration provided camaraderie and a little Christmas spirit for hundreds of our city’s neediest families.  Our Verb gentlemen were right there in the mix being Men For Others.  Photo by Marcel Viens, Staff Photographer

Present Dei Puzzler warms minds in chilly air

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, December 19.

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:

The digits 1, 2, 3, and 4 can be arranged to form
many different four-digit numbers.  If these numbers are listed from least
to greatest, in what position is 3214?  (Note:  the least value is in
the first position; the next least is in the second position, etc.)

Problem 2:

Dr. O’Connell rolls a pair of dice and remembers the number. Then he
performs the following sequence of operations on that number, in this order:

Add 3.

Square the result.

Subtract 12.

Divide by 4.

Add 4.

Dr. O’Connell ends up with the number 50. What number did he roll on the dice?

Problem 3:


Fill in the blank in each row with a word to form a common
phrase, name, or compound word with the word preceding and following it. For
example, given DANCE _____ WAX, the missing word is FLOOR, forming DANCE FLOOR
and FLOOR WAX. Moreover, the five missing words when considered together lead
to something famous. What are the words and what do they clue?

1. FIRE __________ WRESTLE

2. TRIPLE __________ PRINCE

3. BLOW __________ SONG

4. CLEANING __________ GAGA

5. PEARL __________ MASTER

November winners:

Congratulations students!  Student entries won all of the available money leaving the faculty and staff with only bragging rights.  “Keep up the good work!” say contest sponsors Mr. and Mrs. White.

Brian Martinez:  $5
each for problems 1 and 2

Brandon Williams/Nathan Mendoza (team), who split $5 for problem 3 and $1 for
problem 1

Miguel Gil:  $1 for
problem 1

Angel Mendoza:  $1
each for problems 1 and 2

Kevin Metelus:  $1
form problem 1

Christopher Clarkston:
$1 each for problems 1 and 2

Faculty/staff winners:

Dr. O’Connell: problems 1, 2 and 3

Fr. Michael Mandela: problem 1

Mr. Galloway: problems 1, 2 and 3

Verb gentlemen advocate in Washington, D.C.

A contingent of Verbum Dei gentlemen are in presently in Washington. D.C. for the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Ignatian Family Teach-In, a symposium that informs participants on social justice issues facing our world and provides opportunities for student-participants to advocate for the marginalized.  VDHS seniors Brandon Williams, Brian Martinez, Humanities teacher Jesse Jovel, Carlos Castro-Penate, and Nathan Mendoza (from left to right) pose before the United States Superior Court Building during a sightseeing break from the symposium.  Image by Maria McDonald, Humanities Department Chair