OPINION: Are there too many honor rolls? / Are the sheer number of recipients decreasing awards’ value and prestige?

Honor roll, almost every school has one, and the students who earn the distinction are considered to be the cream of the crop. According to Merriam-Webster, an honor roll is “a list of students achieving academic distinction.”

Verbum Dei High School conducted its most recent honor roll award assembly on January 31. In order to determine the students qualified for the honor roll, Verbum Dei uses the scale of 3.0 to 3.39 for Dean’s List, 3.4 to 3.69 for Principal’s List, 3.7 to 3.99 for President’s List, and a 4.0 for the Scholar’s Circle. In the most recent honor roll, there were 74 students on the Dean’s List, 27 on the Principal’s List, 14 on the President’s List, and 4 in the Scholar’s Circle. In total, there were a total of 119 students in the various honor roll lists.  Considering that the VDHS enrollment is around 300 students, the number of students in the combined honor roll lists is enormous.  Thus, the influx of students on the honor roll raises a question: should the requirements to earn honor roll be raised?

The argument could be made that a large number of students earning honor roll through the Dean’s List, the lowest tier, lowers the value of the awards. Verbum Dei honors itself for holding “high expectations for students” which includes the “mastery of fundamental academic skills and discipline necessary for advanced education” as its website states. However, the students on the Dean’s List, at the minimum, must average a B grade in order to qualify. With so many students “achieving academic distinction” while turning in average work, are these the “high expectations” Verbum Dei holds? and Have these students really shown “mastery”?

“What they’re failing to see is that by rewarding everyone, the trophy is devalued,” states Karin Fuller in her 2011 Family Circle essay “All Is Not Fair.” “Or the certificate becomes nothing but a piece of nice paper with a pretty font.”

When students receive these “look, you’re doing what’s required awards” and earn honor roll distinction, there is an inflation of the grades, which lowers the value of the grades themselves. This is similar to inflation in economics in which the purchasing value of currency decreases while prices increase.

On the other hand, the argument could be made that the Dean’s List is actually beneficial to the student body. After conducting interviews with the majority of teachers on the campus, the consensus revolves around the idea that the Dean’s List serves as a platform to encourage students, to acknowledge, and to promote students’ academic rigor.  This, some argue, is effective because the honor roll is divided into successively more impressive tiers.  Thus, the raison d’etre for the Dean’s List.

Here is what several of the teachers had to say in regard to the Dean’s List:

Karen Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry:

“I think as long as those are authentic grades then that’s amazing that we have that many students on the honor roll. Obviously, on the flip side, the fear would be that perhaps there’s some grade inflation somewhere, but I don’t know what’s going on in their classrooms.  I can’t speak to if it is….I don’t think it’s, ‘If you have this grade, you’re doing good.’ I think we should celebrate anybody who is working hard and getting good grades, and I think over a 3.0 shows some handwork and effort….We should also celebrate [those] who do better than that, and that’s why we have the different levels.”

EJ Vieyra, Theology Department:

“I think we should be a school where everyone could at least be in the honor roll because we’re a college prep school, and I think that is the expectation. I think, personally, if we’re not getting to the point where the majority of the kids are inching closer or at the honor roll, then there’s always room for improvement on the pedagogical end and also on the students’ end.  If the average is excellence, then I don’t see a problem with that. If the kids get used to the fact that this is what they’re expected to do, that’s a good habit to have especially going into college.”

Jovanni Gonzalez, Foreign Language Department:

“I do not believe that there are too many people. Rather, I’m kind of glad there’s a lot of people within that list. The boys should be recognized for their achievements whether it’s small or big. Now that we’re talking about academic excellence and academic achievement: the more we have of that the better it is for the student body and the better it is for us as a school.  It just says we’re doing something good.  I think there’s always room for improvement. If a B+ – B- range isn’t where we should be or isn’t the expectation, we’ll definitely move that up, but it’s definitely a nice starting point.”

Ken Favell, English Department Chair:

“I think that’s why we have the different levels of the honor roll, so obviously there’s the Dean’s List, Principal’s List, President’s List, and then the Scholar’s Circle. It’s kind of like you have bronze, silver, and gold. It’s easier overall to win a bronze medal, though it’s still difficult.  Obviously, it’s very very very difficult to earn a gold medal – you have to be the best. And I think we do a decent job in differentiating.  Achieving a B, for some students that’s gonna take a lot of effort and a lot of studying and a lot of hard work in order to maintain. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that per se of honoring that, as long as that 3.0 was come by honestly.”

Dr. Brandi Odom Lucas, Chief Academic Officer:

“When I saw the list, I wasn’t concerned because I have a fundamental belief that all my students can achieve. I think that if we are concerned that maybe the rigor is too low, then that’s something the teachers need to talk about when they look at their curriculum, but my assumption is that my teachers are teaching the curriculum that they’ve been taught to teach and that curriculum is at that grade level.”

Kirsten Hochman, Social Sciences Department:

“One of the issues that I run into time and time again with many of my students is there’s always that small percentage of kids who are at skill level if not above skill level, which is amazing, but I also have a large population of kids who are not at skill level. Kids can tell if other kids are better at things than they are.  Adults – we know the same thing – we have a feeling in the situation when someone is better at something than we are, but as adults, we’re used to that. Kids have a harder time with that, and kids who tend to be skill deficient or behind in some skill walk into a learning situation with lower confidence and a feeling of inadequacy.  Many have quoted themselves as saying, ‘Oh I’m stupid, I can’t do this,” and so what I appreciate of the way that the honor roll is run, I don’t look at it as a participation award, but kids are looking at the honor roll as perhaps they have a shot at that, and so it’s easier to appeal to a student to get him to work at little harder, to do the work, in order to build the skill level to improve.”

Sam McGrath, Theology Department:

“The main thing is not the amount of kids, but if the rigor is still there to get a 3.0.  My thoughts would be if you have a lot of kids on the Dean’s List, you need to analyze the rigor, the standards, but maybe you stop honoring it at the assembly. It’s a tough spot though, you’d like it to be a motivation for kids, so instead of honoring the top two or three students as good and great;  that would be a little demoralizing if you were in the 2.7, 2.9 range.  The flip side is if everyone is awarded, what’s the point?  If half the school is getting Dean’s List, and the standards aren’t even that good. What’s more important? Is it more important to form the individual, challenge the person, or is the most important thing to get on the Dean’s List?”

Maria McDonald, Dean:

“The whole objective here is academic scholarship, and if you’re achieving a 3.0, you should be honored and acknowledged for your efforts.  The objective for the student is – even if he is on the Dean’s List – don’t just sit there in the comfort of 3.0 or 3.39, but try to work your way up [to the other tiers].”

Overall, there are three solutions that can be formulated from this dilemma:

In the easiest case, the Dean’s List is kept, which continues the encouragement and platform on which to acknowledge students that teachers find beneficial.

Another potential solution, more on the other side of the argument, to this situation is completely eliminating the Dean’s List. By completely getting rid of the Dean’s List, the value of the other awards are raised as the overall amount of students receiving them has decreased. Also, the rigor and standards in order to qualify for the honor roll increase.

However, a solution that satisfies both sides is possible. The Dean’s List could be kept, but the minimum GPA should be raised to 3.2. In the taking the third option, the benefits of a platform to encourage and acknowledge remain, but the expectations for the honor roll are raised.

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Verb students visit the J. Paul Getty Museum, January 26

By Nathaniel Zelada, Photo Editor

Led by Fine Arts Director Allison Kennedy and other teacher chaperones, Verb students went on a field trip to the  J. Paul Getty Museum, located at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, on Saturday, January 26.   Departing campus at 9:00 A.M., the trip took the better part of the day; the students returned to campus at 1:00 P.M.

“It was a fun trip and I enjoyed it more than expected. I would like to attend more now,” said senior Omar Garcia.  “The trip has opened my eyes to new enjoyments such as art.”

“It was great,” said Kennedy. “We had a total of five students and four chaperones go. Overall everyone enjoyed the trip and the art there, and I’m looking forward to doing more trips [to the Getty] and other art museums,” said Kennedy.

“The museum trip was awesome, and the J. Paul Getty Museum is one of my personal favorites,” said chaperone Sam McGrath, 9th and 10th grade theology teacher.  “It just has an abundance of different paintings to admire such as renaissance paintings, classical paintings, baroque paintings, and it was especially nice to go with students and teachers here too.”

Unfortunately, attendance was hampered by the last-minute distribution of required permission slips, as the trip was advertised only during end-of-day announcements on the Friday afternoon prior to the trip.

It was the first time Verbum Dei High School has done anything like this, and it does not appear that this will be a one-time event.

The trip was a overall success, said Kennedy, and students who were unable to attend this trip will have the opportunity to experience art in the future.  Similar field trips to various art museums across the Los Angeles County will be organized by Kennedy in the coming months.

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Goalkeeper Jose Gutierrez injured in critical game, January 16

By Rafael Villalobos, Staff Writer

Verbum Dei varsity soccer goalkeeper Jose Gutierrez was terribly injured during Pius X Matthias rival game on Wednesday, January 16.

The fateful game was played away on a cold rainy night – one that would decide the Santa Fe League championship.  Verbum Dei and St. Pius X Matthias battled on the soggy artificial turf for eighty minutes. Ultimately, Verb lost 4-1, and Gutierrez left the field seriously injured.

Gutierrez underwent a three-hour surgery on January 30, at Children’s Hospital. Surgeons installed a plate in his ankle, nine bolts, and a rubber band to help heal and restore his ligament.

The injury and treatment have forced Gutierrez to miss school for an estimated three weeks, but has kept up with most of his classes.  Junior Christian Perez volunteered to be the courier to keep Gutierrez as current with his schoolwork as possible.

Gutierrez, at age 3, was diagnosed with hemophilia, an inherited medical condition. The disorder affects the ability of blood to clot, a mechanism which stems the flow of blood from internal and external trauma.   Hemophiliacs can bleed severely when injured.

The start of the game began competitively with Verbum Dei and St. Matthias battling heavily. Early in the match, Pius Matthias scored a goal causing Gutierrez to challenge the play. This valiant defensive effort resulted in a fracture of his left fibula.

The 2018-2019 season was the beginning of Gutierrez’s goalkeeping career. In the previous season, the varsity squad lost both of its goalkeepers. Thus, at the start of the season, varsity did not have any goalkeepers, so Gutierrez took the initiative and stepped up to the plate which helped the varsity team prosper.

“I would say, having to recover from this event is not hard or easy, but it is a test of how much faith and strength one may have,” said Gutierrez.  “Luckily, I was able to receive the best treatment possible, which makes my recovery process a bit easier. The unfortunate event made realize how blessed I am to have been able to walk before the accident and eventually to walk again after my recovery.”

“It is now difficult to do things that I was able to do on a daily basis,” said Gutierrez.  “I was able to do hard things like chores and simple ones like walking my dog or playing with my niece, but other than that, I am very blessed to still be here today and to enjoy another day of life.”

“I wouldn’t say we lost Jose because he is still part of our team; however, not having him present at our games is unfortunate,” said assistant coach Edwin Suro. “Jose is a big team motivator and always pushes the boys to do better.”

“This tragic event has made other players step up like Jonathan Ayala and Chapo,” said Suro, assistant soccer coach.  “I truly believe that they know what it means to play in Jose’s spot, and they have not failed to represent Jose’s attitude and enthusiasm for the game.”

Coach Rosa experienced a similar injury in high school, said Suro, and it truly hurts him to see one of his players go down in such a way that he can relate.

“As coaches, we have been missing Jose, but we know we need to do our best to motivate the team and to keep them going because the game of soccer at Verb is more than just a game,” said Suro.

Gutierrez offered some sage advice to his VDHS brothers and comrades.

“For my [fellow] Verbum Dei students and teammates,” said Guiterrez. “Don’t let an accident or an obstacle stop your process or what you want to achieve because it’s simply something to be overcome.”

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Navajo (Dine) Immersion Trip fundraisers planned

By Nicolas Cortez, Staff Writer

The Navajo (Dine) Immersion Trip is an annual spring break service trip that would not be possible without the participating students raising their collective $500 contribution.  Participants also individually contribute a $50 fee. The balance of the trip’s expense is underwritten through grants provided by the Bebout Family Foundation.

“We are very grateful for [the Bebout Family Foundation] because the reality is, without them, we would not be able to do the trip,” said Karen Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry.

Between $150 and $200 dollars is raised from a faculty and staff silent auction. The remainder of the collective student contribution is raised through food sales.

“It’s nice to know that the pizza, soda, candy, and other food I buy after school helps [raise funds for] things like the Navajo Immersion Trip,” said senior Jaime Flores.

The students who have attended the Navajo Immersion Trip are thankful to those who help fund the trip. They also hope that the trip keeps getting funded so that others can learn and benefit from future Navajo Immersion Trips.

“The Navajo trip is an eye-opening experience I never thought I would have experienced in high school,” said senior Armando Zurita, who attended the trip last school year.

“I highly recommend [that] students take advantage of this trip instead of just doing nothing during spring break,” said senior Jamie Partida.

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OPINION: An “extra layer” of protection for student email?

Verbum Dei High School students recently received an email from an unknown user on Microsoft Outlook. The email claimed to have compromising information on students’ private activities and demanded payment. This email hack is not the first of this year.  Fearing that their confidential information might be jeopardized, students have been asking for more internet security recently.

Earlier this year, student emails were hacked.  Hackers sent out emails that looked legitimate, but the messages contained links to download malware. Students were opening these emails without knowing that the emails were not actually sent by an actual student.

Students that were hacked didn’t even know they were hacked.

“I didn’t know I got hacked,” said senior Shawn Lorera.  “I tried to get in, but it wouldn’t let me.”

“I was so confused,” said senor Joshua Aguilar, another victim.  “I tried to get into my email, but it said that my password was wrong.  I knew that I couldn’t forget my password.”

It’s freighting that one’s system can be so easily infected with malware, and the user wouldn’t even know that his or her system was infected.

Students are frequently using their school email  – whether it may be communicating with teachers or getting updates from colleges and universities. Thus, it is essential to have the best filtering security for the students’ school email accounts.

“I feel that having more protection from cyber attacks is important because everyone on campus utilizes their email,” said Aguilar.

Although attacks are not becoming more aggressive, they have, however, “gotten more clever over time,” said John Galloway, IT Services Director. Faculty and staff have an extra layer of filtration, and they are not as susceptible to spam email that may include malware.

Recent email threats and attacks begs the question: Why do teacher and staff accounts have an additional layer of protective filtration while the student accounts do not?

The answer is … cost.

“I haven’t received a precise quote yet, but I estimate it to be around $45 monthly for a second domain,” stated Galloway.

It may or may not be expensive, but it sure is important that the extra security is there for the students. It is a necessary expense because it is better to be prepared than to wait until a big attack occurs, and then, reactively, add the extra security.

While student accounts may well get that extra security, students should not be solely reliant upon that security.

“They won’t capture everything, nor should users expect that level of success,” added Galloway.

Technology can always be manipulated, and technology does make errors. If students rely on that as protection, then they are bound to be disappointed.

Student users should be responsible and they should approach all emails with caution – both legitimate email and fake email. Keeping different passwords for email accounts and websites is an additional way of adding protection to one’s own internet use as well.

Internet security comes in many forms other than filtration of content on an email cloud, but adding another layer of protection is always important and critical in our technological age.

As the saying goes, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.

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“Present Dei Puzzler” returns with two to confound

February’s Present Dei Puzzlers:

Problem 1:








Problem 2:

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.

Legal details:  Participation is open to all students, faculty, and staff.  First winning answer for each question wins $5.  You only need to answer one problem to win. The first student to submit the correct answer(s) to either John Stradley, moderator of The Present Dei Online News Source, or to Dan or Sue White, Math Department, on or before February 7, 2019, will win $5.  Email submissions are acceptable, and hand-delivered submissions will be time-stamped.  In the event that no student submits the correct answer, the prize will be awarded to the first faculty or staff member who submitted the correct answer.  If no correct answer is submitted by the closing date, the cash prize is forfeit.  The Present Dei staff members are eligible to participate, as the monthly answer is not provided to the staff until the correct answer has been submitted.  Collaboration is acceptable; however, multiple prizes will not be awarded.  Winner will be announced and cash prize will be awarded upon the posting of the next Present Dei Puzzler.

The Present Dei Online News Source extends its congratulations to junior Abraham Garcia, sophomore Yahir Garcia, and theology teacher Sam McGrath who won the January Present Dei Puzzler.

The Present Dei Online News Source moderator, editors, and staff offer their appreciation to Dan and Sue White, Present Dei Puzzlemasters and longtime supporters of the publication.

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Seniors to learn formal dining etiquette prior to Spring Gala

By Joshua Papaqui, Staff Writer

The Verbum Dei senior class will be attending the Spring Gala, VDHS’s most significant fundraising event, on March 7, at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown, Los Angeles. In preparation for the evening, seniors are obligated to take an etiquette class scheduled for Friday, February 22.   Beginning at the start of lunch through the co-curricular period, only one class will be offered.

“We have this class because when we go to the Spring Gala, it’s a formal dining setting, and there’s four forks and three spoons,” said Stephanie Andrade, Mission Advancement Assistant. “When a woman comes to the table, you have to stand up and not reach over for food at the table – stuff like that.”

Some topics, said Andrade, should be avoided in dinner-table conversation in social settings including talk of money, politics, and religion.

Students will also have the ability to learn the importance of networking with professionals and of getting their names out to the sponsors of Verbum Dei. Other opportunities include meeting alumni who have graduated from college or who are currently attending colleges that current Verb seniors may want to attend.

The class is effective because many of the donors who have attended have commented that “they are impressed with the way our students behave and how respectful they are,” said Andrade.

One donor said “he was embarrassed because when a woman came to sit at his table, the Verb students stood up, and he didn’t,” said Andrade.

Andrade said students need to be aware that some of the food may be cooked differently than students are accustomed.  A steak may be different degree of “doneness,” but students are encouraged to try it, rather than just to throw it away.

Many students have found this experience helpful, and they will better know what to do in a formal dinner setting.

“I’m glad we take this class,” said senior Jamie Partida.  “Many of my classmates that I see eating at lunch clearly don’t know how to eat, and it would be embarrassing to see them eat like that at our dinner.  That’s why it’s important that they teach us how to eat.”

“I think I know how to eat,” said senior Ivan Avila, “But it’s good to know that we are going to have a good refresher course just in case.”

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Science Center workers to visit Cabrillo Tide Pools, 2/18-21

By Gerardo Leon, Staff Writer

The student workers at the California Science Center are now preparing to go on their annual field trips.  This year, they will be going to the Cabrillo Tide Pools during the week of February 18-21.

This is quite a different trip in comparison with the field trips the veteran senior students have taken for the past four years. The seniors went bird watching their freshman year, to the Griffith Observatory their sophomore year, and hiking in their junior year. There is no cost for the students to attend these field trips.

During these field days, the students will be accompanied by their supervisors of the day.  The purpose of these field trips is for the students to learn more about the rocky shores of the California coast. Such a field trip can provide student workers with more knowledge about the coast that they can use at the Rocky Shores exhibit and the popular Touch Tank at the Science Center.

“I am a little disappointed that I won’t be able to experience this trip with my Verbum Dei brothers,” said former VDHS senior DeAngelo Williams, “especially since I went to the past three.”

This is the first field trip that the freshmen workers get to experience while working for the Science Center.

“I am a little nervous about going to the trip, but I am also excited that I get to experience this during a work day” said freshman Jamie Lopez.

The students will leave the Science Center at around 1:30 P.M. on their workdays; there will be four field trips corresponding with the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior workdays.  Following the field trip, student workers will be transported directly by Science Center personnel to Verbum Dei around 5:00 P.M.

“Since I have never been to the Cabrillo Tide Pools, I am excited that I will get to experience this with friends and supervisors, who can make the experience fun,” said freshman Dillen Render.

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Verb baseball to face Centennial in double-header, February 16

By Khalid Nelms, Staff Writer

The Verbum Dei baseball team will play Centennial High School in a double-header on Saturday, February 16, at 10:00 A.M. at Centennial High School, 2606 North Central Avenue, Compton.

The two games are scheduled hours apart with the second game set for 1:00 P.M.   This match-up has been in the works for both the Verb players and coaches.

The baseball team at Verbum Dei returned to existence in the 2017-2018 school year, and the team has been a rebuilding project since then. Last year, they squad won two games and lost eight games, but players and coaches are hoping to do better this year.

As the baseball team is progressing through practices in preparation for the season, many of the players are anticipating the match up against Centennial. Last season, Verb’s baseball team did not get a chance to  play against Centennial, so the upcoming doubleheader making the schedule makes the team all the more exuberant.

“The reason for a double-header is because we are a second year program and we are playing varsity,” said Athletic Director Kenneth Stevenson.  “We have a few players with no baseball experience, so this way they get games and reps under their belts. When conference comes around, they will have established some confidence.”

“Centennial has confirmed the games,” said Stevenson.  “All the credit goes to the coaching staff for deciding on the double-header; they understand the purpose of getting some games in before conference starts.”

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A moment captured in time: The retired lockers of VDHS


A quiet memorial – Two plaques and two perpetually-locked lockers serve to remind Verb of its fallen.  Image by Hector Arriata



By Hector Arriata, Editor in Chief

Disclaimer to the reader: this article touches upon sensitive  matters of Verb’s history. If readers wish to discuss the named students with a teacher or staff member, please do so in a respectful manner.

Lockers. Almost every school has them, and they are a staple of the high school experience.  Verbum Dei High School is no exception. Verbum Dei houses royal blue lockers, and the clanging of their metal doors can be heard all throughout passing periods. However, Verbum Dei also houses two lockers whose significance goes beyond all lockers.

While these two blue lockers may blend into the sea of lockers down the 100 corridor, there is a chance that at some point a student has laid eyes on small gold plaques on two of the lockers.

The gold plaques read the names of students: Nathaniel Mota (Class of 2014) and Eduardo Ceron (Class of 2007). Along with the name, the plaques also read, “Nathaniel, forever a Verbum Dei brother” and “You live on in our hearts, Eddie.”  These lockers are the retired lockers of students who passed away during their tenure at Verbum Dei; the school placed the plaques and permanently locked them.

“As I recall, it was for students that passed away while they were going through school here,” said Vice President of Operation Jeff Bonino-Britsch. “It was such a kind of shock that someone so young had passed. We wanted to acknowledge them, especially as they’re going towards graduation…We want that familiarity with all the guys that their classmate goes all the way through graduation with them.”

While the school has not experienced the loss of another active student since Mota, last year, Verbum Dei High School received the tragic news of the deaths of recent alumni: Chris (Class of 2010) and Jonathan Baxter (Class of 2012), also known as the “Baxter Boys,” and Anthony Thompson (Class of 2011).

Thus, this raises the question of whether or not these alumni, who graduated from recent classes, will have their lockers retired.

“They graduated; they made it all the way through, so it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do that, but I don’t think so,” said Bonino-Britsch. “If you keep doing that, sooner or later you’re gonna run out of lockers: Class of ’66 passed. Who knows what their lockers were, right. But [students who died during the school year], because it’s somebody right at this time, you know exactly where their locker is, and it becomes sort of a temple – kind of a reminder that he is a part of us all the way.”

While all deceased alumni will not have their lockers retired, Verbum Dei will continue to honor the current two retired lockers.

“The tradition has been, and continues in perpetuity,” said Bonino-Britsch. “But at some point, we’ll probably have to replace lockers and, at that point, that may change.”

In any case, the retired lockers of Verbum Dei are something that must be respected on campus as they represent a moments in history frozen in time.

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