First school wide examen of school year set for January 16

By Tyon James, Staff Writer

On January 16, 2020, Verbum Dei High School students, faculty, and staff will be participating in a school wide examen. This first examen of the 2019-2020 school year is orchestrated by the entire Campus Ministry team.

The team is composed of Director of Campus Ministry, Karen Chambers, Campus Ministry Assistants, Sam McGrath, Molly Fruland, and Karen Luna, Adult Faith Formation Director and Campus Ministry Assistant, Frederico Gianelli, Adult Faith Formation, George Teodoro, SJ, and Musical Director and Campus Ministry Assistant, E.J. Vieyra.

Indirectly, the Campus Ministry team leads the examen through all their preparation and leg work; however, the JEDIS (Jesuit Educated Disciples in Service) actually facilitate the event.

Typically, the event is held in the MPR for the majority of students and within some classrooms for the remaining students.  JEDIS will spend their time going to each of their assigned rooms and leading the examen for students. This particular examen, however, is expected to last approximately half an hour and will be an experience which is described as being very “Ignatian-like.”

“It gives, students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to reflect on God’s presence in their lives,” said Chambers, “and how they can move forward to be whom God wants us to be.”

The examen experience allows students to discern what is transpiring within their lives and where God is seen within those experiences. As VDHS is a Jesuit high school, Verb’s examen affords members of the community the opportunity and time to take a look at where God is within their lives as well as the good that they bring forth into the lives of others.

“This is a formative experience,” says senior Drake Pearson. “If it does nothing else, it certainly leaves us with newfound insight as well as calls us to view life through a different lens.”

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Alpha Junior Gents offers mentoring and career information

By Massai Walker, Staff Writer

Project Alpha of L.A., Inc., a nonprofit organization operated by the Mu Sigma Lambda Alumni Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., has brought a  male youth mentoring program, the Alpha Junior Gents to the Verbum Dei High School campus

The Alpha Junior Gents is a group mentoring program for under-served young males from grades five through 12. The mission of the Alpha Junior Gents program is to build character and confidence among our future leaders and professionals.

“It’s a great opportunity for you guys to see men in different occupations,” said Ken Stevenson, Dean of Men and the program coordinator.

Some of the mentors in the program have experience in many fields such as practicing attorneys, successful businessmen, educators, artists, producers, engineers, and physicians.

“This program shows that the men in our community aren’t just selling dope on the corner or [only] trying to become a rapper or an athlete,” said Stevenson.

Alpha Junior Gents sessions are held every two weeks November through April, on Saturday from 12:30 – 2:30 P.M.   All sessions are held on the Verbum Dei campus.

During the sessions, the mentors will touch upon a wide variety of subject matter, including college preparation, STEM careers, civic action, community service, health and wellness, and career planning.

“One thing we’re doing this year is assigning one mentor to each student,” said Stevenson. “The mentor will call once or twice a week for a checkup to see how the students are doing academically and emotionally.”

The Alpha Junior Gents provides students a great opportunity to learn about different occupations and careers. This is particularly important as Verbum Dei students are thinking about their next phase of life as college and adulthood looms closer.

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“Advice to My High School Self” fosters curiosity and laughs

By Tamajai Dampeer, Staff Writer

On October 7, 2019, members of Verbum Dei High School’s senior class surrounded a bulletin board on the wall of the MPR hallway before entering the vast room to await their departures to work. All who surrounded this wall were either laughing in extreme amusement or quietly re-evaluating themselves and reconciling their long-term high school goals. Others, who would otherwise fight against this mighty current, stopped even for a second to capture quick glance at the bulletin board that was the source of much commotion: a wall featuring the heading “Advice to my High School Self,” filled with quotes accompanied by throwback pictures of staff and faculty.

“Oh man, I thought to myself, ‘I sure do hope that [Cristina] Cuellar stops them from taking pictures,” said Shannon Slade, college counselor, jokingly after being asked about his initial thoughts on being featured on the wall. “[As previously mentioned in a past story] sometimes you have to embarrass yourself to gain familiarity and respect with high school students. After the bulletin board was revealed, students that I don’t usually interact with on a daily basis approached me about my picture. It made it easier to start a conversation with them about something as sensitive as college.”

Many, if not the majority, of the students who encountered the wall saw it as a way to decompress with laughter and get an easy crack on one of their favorite teachers.

“I’m fine with it, as long as my young handsome face doesn’t end up in one of you guys’ social media accounts,” said Slade.

“It’s a small world,” said Brandi Odom Lucas, Chief Academic Officer, “and an even smaller school.” Verbum Dei is the home to 312 students with a student to teacher ratio of 12 to 1; meaning that a faculty or staff member has a very large chance of their information being accessed by a curious mind within the school.

“You guys are going to find [old pictures and information] any way, all you have to do is spell the name right,” said Odom.  “The internet has made it so that at the click of a button you can access a person’s entire life.”

Odom wanted to emphasize that the aim of the wall was not to make it easier for students to access and possibly exploit these pictures, but it was to convey advice to students who may feel at times that the teaching staff is “out to get them.”

Due to the strict grading system and intense curriculum, students may often resort to blaming a teacher’s personal preference for their poor grades rather than their subpar effort. Although this may be the case in certain situations, it is seldom the reality at Verbum Dei.

“We were high school students too, and we made the same exact mistakes some of you have and will,” said Odom.  “Some of those names on the wall have literally been in the same classrooms you go to everyday when they came to Verb.”

When asked if she thought posting rather sensitive photos for young and mischievous high school students to see would backfire, Odom quipped, “I know my boys, but I also know where their freshman year school ID pictures are.”

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November 16 Open House event offers a Verb welcome

By Brian Diaz, Staff Writer

Verbum Dei High School’s Open House took place on November 16, allowing prospective students and families the opportunity to see what Verbum Dei has to offer. All of the faculty and staff, student ambassadors, as well as, student representatives from active clubs on campus were present.

“It was a success; many families showed up,” said Pablo Zapotecas, Admissions Officer. “Prospective students and families had the opportunity to interact with teachers, coaches, and students.”

“Families were given the opportunity to begin their applications,” said Zapotecas. “We hope that many families take Verbum Dei into consideration. About 100 families RSVP’d, and about 60 families actually showed up.”

The College Guidance Department was perhaps one of the most important since the college acceptance rate it is the heart of the school’s reputation; Verbum Dei’s 100% college acceptance rate is a factor that attracts prospective students and their families. Mayra Rodriguez, personal counselor, and Brittany Bradley, College Guidance counselor, represented College Guidance.

“I was in the Center along with Mrs. Bradley,” said Rodriguez. “We had a few parents and students walk in. Our responsibility was to talk to parents and students about the counseling resources available to them.”

“Both Mrs. Bradley and I handed out flyers with information regarding our departments: college counseling and personal and academic counseling,” said Rodriguez. “Open House was a success because we had prospective families come in to tour the campus and to ask questions regarding classes and clubs available.”

“It gave the prospective students an opportunity to learn about student life at Verb,” said Rodriguez.  “Hopefully, the event will help to determine whether Verb is a good fit for them.”

Several clubs were also present for the Open House. One of the prominent clubs present were the Jesuit Educated Disciples in Service (JEDIS). JEDIS manned a table outside the Campus Ministry office, greeted all prospective students and their parents, and informed them what Campus Ministry offers and how it supports students in their personal and spiritual growth during their time at Verb.

“While at the Open House, JEDIS discussed retreats, service trips, and what they do as JEDIS,” said Karen Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry. “I heard one mom ask the JEDIS, ‘So what do you get out of all these trips [referencing the service weekends with Xavier Prep and Cathedral Catholic, and the Navajo (Dine) Immersion Trip]?’”

”The JEDIS offered a great response, telling her how their eyes were opened to more of what goes on in our world, how they built brotherhood with one another, how they met new people, how they were introduced to new cultures, and how they came away with a stronger desire to keep serving others,” said Chambers.

Senior Ambassadors Justin Funez and Adrian Ramirez were present at the Open House. As senior ambassadors, they were responsible for greeting prospective students and families as well as helping them to begin their applications.

“The Open House went great!” said Funez. “We were able to register over 15 applications. Also, the fact that many students and teachers were there, and many clubs had their own stations made the day really fun.”

“During Open House, I had the responsibility of speaking in front of parents about my experiences at Verb and about my [Corporate Work Study Program] experience,” said Ramirez. “I also led a prayer in the gym written by Father Privett.” The two sessions shared a common welcome assembly, where several items were raffled off to those in attendance.

“While helping that Saturday, I was able to appreciate my four years at Verb,” said Ramirez. “I got to think back to when I was in 8th grade worrying about where I would go to high school. I am glad that my classmates and I were able to ease the parents and students through that big high school transition.”

“Overall it was a great success,” said William Liu, Dean of Enrollment Management.  “I was very impressed and pleased with our Student Ambassadors. At the end of the day, our people and community are what attracts new prospective students and their families. With anything new there is always room for growth. I am excited to see how can improve future Open Houses. I would like to provide a theme for the Open House next year to promote it. Perhaps get more alumni involved and make it shorter. It was a team effort and I wholeheartedly believe it was very successful.”

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VDHS soccer play and befriend “Nick’s Kids” in preseason

By Robert Turner, Staff Writer

“Can we play here so the kids can have a safe place to play?” asked Officer Salgado of the Los Angeles Police Department’s 108th  Street station.  Salgado was addressing Verbum Dei High School Head Soccer Coach Oscar Rosa.

The LAPD operates a program for neighboring Nickerson Garden residents that includes  sports, tutoring , mentoring, and other activities to ensure the safety and well-being of the young people.  Approximately 30-40 youth in the 8th grade and older participate in the program.

The participants’ grades are checked daily, they have practice everyday, and regularly talk with their mentors.  To develop leadership and self-awareness, the officers appoint the captains of the program to take initiative to make sure they teammates maintain above- average grades and have someone with whom they can confide their problems.

Some of the Verbum Dei Eagles sports teams were interested in playing the kids from the neighborhood and getting to know them better. Some of the kids face difficult challenges, so the VDHS soccer team wanted to get close with the kids from Nickerson Garden to help them through their challenging experiences..

The Verbum Dei soccer team and “Nick’s Kids” play a preseason scrimmage to help them get comfortable with each other. Since the Nicks Kids don’t have many players on their team, Rosa said, “We play 9 vs. 9 against the Nicks Kids to make sure they have a fair advantage to display their best ability.”

“The game is not about winning but about learning what we need to fix,” said Rosa.

The Nickerson Garden kids are very honored to be able to compete against the very talented Verbum Dei Eagles.

“Their team is good,” said senior Kevin Parada, who has been playing against [Nick’s Kids] since they first started three years ago.  “They have a purpose for what they do and that motivated me to go harder”

The Nicks Kids are faced with adversity, have every day struggles as athletes and students that make them feel like they are not good enough, but they continue to persevere.

“I don’t love my brother and sisters on the team because I have to,” said Francisco Hernandez, a captain of Nick’s Kids and a senior at Jordan High School.  “I do it because I truly do; many of us have the same problems, and I help other get past them.”

The game is not just a game, it’s a symbol of the Eagles’ appreciation and recognition of the hard work of the Nick’s Kids.

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JV soccer to face AGBU Vatch in preseason make-up game

By Kevin Parada, Staff Writer

Verbum Dei High School’s junior varsity soccer will be facing AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian High School on November 22, at 2495 East Mountain Street, Pasadena, CA, at 3:30 P.M.

“Both teams needed preseason games, and we fit perfect,” said Head Coach Oscar Rosa.

AGBU and Verb’s soccer team planned a game last year, but it was canceled due to the heavy rain that day making it dangerous for the athletes to play under the circumstances. That game was never rescheduled.

“He [the opposing team’s coach] wanted to make up for the lost time and wanted to play two JV games as well as two varsity games’ said Rosa.  “The altitude can help us later in the season as we will be traveling if we make it to CIF, and the different climates can affect our player.”

“We have had a rough start this preseason,” said sophomore Danniel Rivera De Mata.  “We have built upon our negatives and have improved in the minimal practices we have had, and we shall improve and try what we do in practice against AGBU.”

“This is a great preparation for the Mary Star game as every game gets very physical and a lot of trash talk is said,” said Jovanni Gonzalez, Varsity Coach and freshman Spanish teacher.  “We shall play this game as if we were playing against Mary Star – to start picking up the intensity.”

As the captain of the varsity soccer team, senior Kevin Parada looks forward to being on the bus for a while before the game, seeing the scenery, and playing at a higher altitude with potentially drastic weather.

“This will make us stronger,” said Parada.  “When we play Pius X Mathias, it rains [nearly] every time we meet.”

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Renovation proposal begins with survey of improvements

By Tyon James, Staff Writer

Verbum Dei High School is attempting to keep things fresh and innovative by embarking on a renovation plan. As of Monday, November 18, Paul Hosch, Senior Vice President of Mission Advancement, Jeff Bonino-Britsch, Vice President of Operations, and Fr. Stephen A. Privett, SJ, VDHS President, will be meeting with the Shea Family Charity to discuss future renovations.

The Shea Family Charity has played a vital aspect in significant renovations throughout Verb in prior years. For instance, the charity has helped in renovating each of the corridors with the exception of the 400 Corridor in terms of the installation of air conditioning. Additionally, the charity has helped tremendously within the renovation of the athletic area.  The charity is highly reputable and helps several schools within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“They help in two ways,” said Bonino-Britsch. “[They help] by giving money, and hiring construction engineering companies to carry out their vision.”

In preparation for this to-be-scheduled meeting, Bonino-Britsch, Hosch, and Privett, are formulating a list of improvements that they would like to see in the near future for the VDHS campus.  Additionally, a survey was sent out to faculty and staff to determine what improvements employees would like to see for the school. In the future, this team hopes to survey students, and they too will be able to add input on what would benefit their experience at Verb.

“If I were asked, I would say the school needs more space and new things to bring about a fresh appeal,” said senior Amir Sevier.”

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Beyond “Admissions” – faculty, staff, and students represent Verbum Dei both on campus and in lives beyond school

By Brian Diaz, Staff Writer

When people think of Verbum Dei High School’s Admission Department, they often just think about William Liu, Dean of Enrollment Management, and Pablo Zapotecas, Director of Admissions. However, many times, people do not realize that Verb’s Office of Enrollment Management involves many more people than the few who work in that department. It takes a community effort in order to maintain and to promote Verbum Dei’s well-respected reputation. The way students and teachers carry themselves on and off the campus is a contribution to the success of the work of admissions.

“The students and faculty also take part in representing the school,” said Liu.  “The teachers’ job description is to not only speak well about Verb on campus but wherever they are. When they are off campus, and someone asks about Verb they are expected to speak about the school in a positive manner. We hope that the teachers love the school enough to speak about it in a well manner to even their loved ones.”

Students also take part in representing Verbum Dei High School. Students are what people first focus upon when considering Verbum Dei High School as an option for their sons. Therefore, it is important for students to stay well-groomed and well-behaved during school hours. However, students are not only responsible for how they carry themselves on campus but how they act off campus. Whether students realize it or not, they represent the Verb wherever they go.

High achieving students also help demonstrate the school’s rigorous college prep curriculum. For example, student ambassador, Justin Funez understands the crucial role he plays in representing Verbum Dei in a well-respected manner.

“I’m involved in VDHS soccer, JEDIS, Student Ambassadors, Kairos Retreat leadership, and the Students Demand Action group. Besides that, I’m part of College Match and do service hours whenever I can at Missionaries of Charity,” said Funez. “As a student ambassador, I often engage with prospective Verb students – whether it is at an Open House, Eagle for a Day, or a shadow day. I know many kids are afraid when they think about coming to high school, so I try to show them my experience at Verb.

“Instead of trying to brainwash them to convince them that Verb is the best school,” said Funez.  “I’m just honest with them.”

“I talk to them from my heart in order for them to understand Verb’s brotherhood, which is what makes our school a second home,” said Funez.  “I’m not sure if the 8th graders see me as a role model (or if I even consider myself one); however, I think my story can help them to see themselves four to five years from now.”

“Furthermore, I know at times the school search process may be tedious, so I try to make sure that students feel welcome because that’s how other students and staff made me feel when I came to Verb,” said Funez.

“As an ambassador, I’m just happy I can simultaneously show how proud I am about my school, help other students in their high school search, and further demonstrate Verb’s brotherhood as a vital part on campus,” said Funez.

It is important that faculty, staff, and students understand the pivotal role they play in admissions. Although they are not frequently reminded of this, they are the school’s reputation – without them Verbum Dei would not be held in such high regard.

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Class of 2020 to return to Camp Pondo for its final retreat

By Eduardo Landa, Staff Writer

As the Class of 2020 embarks on the last lap of its high school race, seniors will be having their final retreat from Monday January 6 through Wednesday, January 8, at Camp Pondo, 31324 Green Valley Lake Rd, Running Springs, CA.  This location is very significant because it was the same location where these students experienced KAIROS, the impactful junior retreat.

“I believe that since the retreat will be in the same place as KAIROS, it is a way to finish what we started last year,” said senior Jayden Brownlee.

“Realizing that the retreat will be in the same place as KAIROS makes me look forward to it because I have frequent flashbacks of all the snow,” said senior Brian Gomez.

The Verb Eagles will be taught about faith after high school. There will be an emphasis on community and the importance of brotherhood. Retreats are a major part of Ignatian teachings, but such spiritual experiences are common in Jesuit high schools.

“This retreat will help seniors learn the importance of honoring relationships, to transition from high school to college, and to gain spiritual tools,” said Karen Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry.

“The [seniors] will develop an understanding of how to increase their faith after high school,” said Molly Fruland, Campus Ministry/ College Guidance Assistant.  “They will be able to see their faith through a spiritual lens and strengthen brotherhood in the senior class.”

Verbum Dei High School values retreats because they creates lasting memories.  The away-from-the-hustle-and-bustle-of-everyday-routines aspect of a retreat provides a sacred space for introspection and vulnerability.

“The senior retreat will be an experience for me because it will be the last time, I will be with my friends all together,” said senior John Madrigal.

“I think we should take advantage of the fact that we will be able to hang out with each other one last time,” said senior Brian Cisneros.

“I think this will be a great opportunity to take a break from school and just be with my Verb brothers and create new memories,” said senior Osvaldo Paniagua.

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Eagles soccer to vie against Maya Angelou for first time 11/20

By Eric Ramirez, Staff Writer

Verbum Dei High School soccer will play its second season game versus Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School on Wednesday, November 20, at 300 East 53rd Street, Los Angeles, CA.  Both varsity and JV will play; JV starts at 3:00 P.M. and varsity kicks off at 4:30 P.M.

“JV will play 35 minutes each half, and varsity will play 40 minutes halves,” senior Adrian Ramirez said. “We should play our best even though this is our first time playing them; we should all play our best and win the season.”

A Division 1 soccer team, Maya’s record last year was 12-2-2.

“I do not know what we are doing playing versus a Division 1 soccer team when we are a Division 6 team,” junior Jonathan Soto, a JV player, said.  “We should be playing teams that are in our division not higher than ours.”

“This is going to be our first-time playing Maya,” Oscar Rosa, Head Coach of the soccer team said.  “But this is not the first time we played on their field,” said Rosa.  “The team should be able to play well due to the past games we had at Maya.”

“People are nervous to play Maya Angelou due to their being a Division 1 team,” said Rosa.  “I don’t care if we win or lose; all I want from the players is that they try their best and have fun on the field.”

“If we play like we did versus Saint Paul,” Rosa added.  “We should be able to win the game.”

“The stats do not matter; this is a new year,” said Varsity Coach Jovanni Gonzalez said.  “They might not have those good players, and, even if they do, we should not be scared over stats cause stats is just some number and if we give it all we can win this game.”

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