Engineering Club members explore careers and gauge interest

By Joshua Papaqui, Staff Writer

The Verbum Dei Engineering Club was founded originally by Carolyn Westdal, Science Department Chair, and Dr. Shanika Bullins, former chemistry teacher and department chair. When the school instituted the Friday Schedule with its co-curricular period, it provided scheduled time for students to be active with clubs.

Westdal thought it was a good idea to start an Engineering Club so that student who were interested in the field of engineering would have an opportunity to explore careers within that field.

The current student leadership of the club is President George Rosales, senior, and Vice President, Joshua Papaqui, senior. These students are in charge of planning activities and projects for the club to work on during the club meeting on Saturday.

“I really enjoy this club; it’s a great club to be a part of and a lot of fun,” said Rosales.

Past activities have included the construction of bridges with Popsicle sticks and research into for specific careers in engineering, the average salaries for these workers, and the degrees and certifications required.

“I love this club because I was able to learn about careers that I was interested in and learn what I didn’t want to pursue,” said senior Jose Fraire.

Posted in Features | Leave a comment

Mission Advancement’s “Adopt-a-Student” fosters support

By Nicolas Cortez and Gerardo Leon, Staff Writers

The “Adopt a Student Program” began in 2012 with a couple called simply “the honorees.” These honorees just wanted a way to donate to a Verbum Dei student and to connect with him. They donated on behalf of a student, and at the student’s graduation, the benefactors revealed that they had been financially supporting the student for the past four years.

When the program first began, benefactors were chosen at random, and some donors were confused about the letters they were receiving from students.  Some were not paying the minimum amount of support.  Now, the Adopt a Student program informs all donors of the program details, and benefactors are matched with incoming freshmen.  The benefactors select to give $5,000 to $10,000 on behalf of a VDHS student.

“The hope is that students stay with the same donor all four years, so the donor can see that student’s growth,” said Michelle Cordova, Mission Advancement Assistant.

The donors receive three assignments annually from the student they sponsor: a personal letter (an English assignment), a Corporate Work Study Program assignment, and a theology assignment. Additionally, there is a meet-and-greet event at the beginning of the year that provides an occasion for students to meet with their benefactors for an hour after school.

“Mission Advancement approached me years ago about the Adopt a Student Program,” said John Stradley, English teacher.  “They wanted each student to produce a handwritten personal correspondence that would serve to introduce the student to a benefactor.”

The letter format for freshmen was devised to offer benefactors some insight into the students’ families, their educational experiences, their hobbies and extra-curricular activities, and their goals, said Stradley.  The letters of the upperclassmen were designed to provide an update on the students’ progress and their aspirations for college.

“The students see the benefactors as important, so they tend to invest themselves in these writings more than they might in other assignments,” said Stradley.

“What donors love is that they can definitely see the students growth from 9th graders to 12th graders,” said Cordova.

Donors often reciprocate and send letters to the students they sponsor; they might recognize a student’s birthday, send a Christmas greeting, and/or wish students good luck on their final examinations.

“One of the things students like about the program is that they are not obligated to support them like their parents, but they do so anyway,” said Cordova.

“The goal is that when students graduate, they understand the importance of the program,” said Cordova.  “[Ideally, our alumni will] adopt students of their own when they become successful.”

Currently the Adopt a Student program has three alumni who are now giving back to Verbum Dei by sponsoring current Verb gentlemen.

The buy-in for prospective sponsors is $10,000, but if a donor is not able to sponsor at that amount but really wants to be a benefactor, a $5,000 buy-in is acceptable.  The education-related expense for each Verb student is estimated to be $18,000.

Posted in Features | Leave a comment

Student Resource Center offers tutoring, writing aids, and more

By Randdy De Paz, Staff Writer

Students are seen inside of the Verbum Dei High School bungalow studying and preparing for tests as a group. The tranquil, quiet, and calm learning environment lets the students focus on their preparation for a test that is soon to come.

The Student Resource Center (SRC)is a on-campus facility that assists students of all grade levels who needs tutoring, and it also provides a quiet environment for study. This area on the campus is accessible to everyone during and after school. The Student Resource Center is located in the bungalow between the 200 Corridor and the school parking lot. The SRC is furnished with many tables and a couple of computers, so students can work on homework or study for upcoming tests.

“I have been inside of the Student Resource Center, and it has a great learning atmosphere,” says sophomore Luis De Paz.  The Student Resource Center has received additional compliments from the students who get the help they need.

Despite this praise, there are still students who have not utilized the services of the Student Resource Center. “I don’t frequently go inside of the Student Resource Center, but I would like to get into the habit of studying there,” said senior Anthony Valentin.

In its first year of operation, the Student Resource Center has not been fully utilized by the student body; however, word is spreading, teachers are requiring select students to frequent the center, and incentives for attendance are being offered.

Posted in Features | Leave a comment

Never-say-die varsity round ball inspires and excites Verb fans

According to Ken Stevenson, Athletic Director, the best basketball game in a long time at Verbum Dei took place December 5, 2018.  Down 15 points at halftime, the varsity Eagles came out of their locker room focused and energized. Sophomore Taeo Thomas’ clutch layup sent the game into overtime. In overtime Culver City had forged ahead by three, but sophomore Bobby Willis hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to go into double overtime. The Eagles missed four key free throws in double overtime which sealed the victory for Culver City, 74-70.

“There was a buzz and excitement in our gym that has been missing for awhile,” wrote Stevenson in a post-game email.  “Our students, staff and parents made some noise tonight. We might have lost the game, but I loved what I saw in the gym tonight.”  Verb’s JV team lost 49-57 in an exciting game.

“It was rainy and cold by LA standards,” wrote Stevenson, “but you couldn’t tell tonight.” (Image by Emma Stradley)

Posted in Athletics | Leave a comment

Under Armour: Status quo despite unfulfilled agreement

By Rafael Villalobos, Staff Writer

David Banuelos, Verbum Dei Athletic Director in 2016, entered into an agreement with Under Armour, which allowed Verbum Dei athletics to purchase sports apparel such as uniforms and equipment.

“Under Armour was going to give to us about 10% back of every Under Armour dollar spent, but it never happened,” said Oscar Rosa, Head Soccer Coach.  “They were supposed to get us a mural and other stuff, but that never happened.”

Despite the complications and false expectations of a great deal, the soccer team and the football team have continued to buy apparel provided by Under Armor because of the beneficial savings.

“Soccer gets a significant discount when we buy in bulk for teams,” said Rosa.  “These discounts are not just for Under Armour but also for Nike and many other brands distributed by BSN sports. At this point, we have been purchasing Under Armour for three years now, so we decided to keep the same brand. If Adidas, had better deals, we would go with them,” said Rosa.

Posted in Athletics | Leave a comment

Dine (Navajo) Immersion Trip: Natural wonders and service

By Hector Arrieta, Editor in Chief, and Nathaniel Zavala, Photo Editor

An awe-inspiring view of the Grand Canyon, the scenery of the open road surrounded by vast deserts and blue skies, the interaction with both members of an indigenous culture and adults with special needs: these are just three of the experiences that students will have during Campus Ministry’s annual Navajo Immersion Trip. Over 30 students have applied for the trip, but only 18 spots are available.

The eighth trip of its kind is scheduled for April 12-19, 2019.  This year’s installment of the trip has reached a long way from its introduction in 2012. The Navajo Immersion Trip was formulated as the replacement for a discontinued service trip in Tijuana, where students built houses and experienced the Mexican culture.

“We found that it was mainly students who felt like that was their culture wanted to go on that trip, and students who felt like that wasn’t their culture didn’t feel like the trip was for them,” said Ms. Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry. “We wanted to try and find a culture that would be new for all students.”

After discovering a spring break trip that University of Southern California students take to Navajo Nation, Ms. Chambers was able to secure contact information for two members of the Navajo Nation. From there, Ms. Chambers set up a trip with the two men.

“It seemed really sketchy that first year because there were really no set plans,” commented Ms. Chambers on the first Navajo Trip. “One of the guys, Nelson, on the phone all he says is ‘yup,’ so trying to plan this trip with a person who I don’t know, and his answer to every question is ‘yup,’ and doesn’t really give any other info is a little concerning considering we’re taking 12 students out there.”

However, as the Navajo Immersion Trip continued and kept evolving, the logistical issues from the first outing were finely tuned, and this has become one of Chambers’ favorite Campus Ministry activities.

“It’s an absolutely amazing experience that I look forward to every year,” said Chambers.

In addition, new members of the Campus Ministry team have expressed their expectations
and excitement for the trip.

“It is my first time working with a Native American population, and I’m pretty excited about it,” said Molly Fruland, Christian Service Assistant. “I’m just expecting the kids to have a good time. I’m expecting it to be an enriching experience, I mean not only for the students, but for the staff as well. I hope I grow and see new things, and try to enlarge my world a little bit too.”

Students and faculty members who attended the previous year’s Navajo Trip had memorable and impactful experiences.

“What I really remember is that I feel really proud of all the students who went with us,” recounted Eduardo Magaña, Spanish Department Chair. “The fact that they were very helpful and very friendly with the people they met over there.  And they were asking questions; they were interested to learn about the Navajo culture and traditions.  That was very important because they showed respect for another culture and were open to help other people.”

“The most memorable thing from the trip was going inside the sweat lodge,” recounted
senior Ricardo Guevara. “It just felt relaxing, and hearing Nelson talk about his culture in there, and about his life in general was just beautiful.”  Originally from tribes of the Great Plains, a sweat lodge, or “Sweat,” is a pan-Indian purification ceremony that is offered for prayer and healing.

Students who have applied to the trip also shared their excitement about the idea of
learning about a new culture and of helping the communities in questions on their applications.  Selection of the 18 participants will take place before the return to school in January, and those selected to participate will be notified upon the return to school.

“I expect to see the different cultures and how the people live,” said junior Jonathan Ayala.

However, before the students can embark on the trip, they will need funds in order to
purchase food, gas, and to pay for motels. The trip will be funded through ongoing fundraising efforts that will be determined and announced in the months leading up to the trip.

Posted in Campus Ministry, News | Leave a comment

Senior Square: A fading tradition from Verb’s past?

By Christopher Poz, Profiles and Features Editor

Senior Square at the heart of Verbum Dei has had that designation for about 18 years, but the senior reign over the square seems to be fading away.  Within the past few years or so, the dominion of the seniors over “the Square” has begun to be forgotten, and underclassmen are seen on and about the formerly privileged patch of sod now more than ever.

Many years ago, the seniors took great care of the Square and they took pride in it being only for seniors.

“Seniors claimed it, and it became a tradition of ‘No one but seniors get this spot,’ ” said Jeff Bonino-Britsch, Vice President of Operations.

According to Bonino-Britsch, the Square would get violent sometimes as seniors exerted their dominance over the square.

“People got thrown out of there,” said Bonino-Britsch, “backpacks were thrown in to see if [underclassmen would] go get them.”

“The slogan for Verbum Dei used to be ‘Only the strongest shall survive,’ ” said Bonino-Britsch.  However, Bonino-Britsch likes the idea of the square becoming more available to lower classmen as well.

“Now I think it’s a brotherhood,” said Bonino-Britsch.

In more recent years, the tradition of the Senior Square has been taken less seriously, and it does not appear to be in full swing anymore.

“I feel like the Senior Square wasn’t taken as seriously, or it didn’t have the respect that they told us it had,” said Angel Soto, Verbum Dei alumnus.  “It became a thing where anyone was really allowed to be on the Square.”

To this day, the seniors are not as pleased with the Square as they thought they would have been.  However, this may be at the fault of the senior class.  Few seniors enforce the tradition, so not much is done to lower classmen who walk on the Square.

“Back in the day, [freshmen] used to physically get removed by the seniors, and we had to stop them because there were a lot of people who ended up getting hurt,” said Christopher Clarkston, who served as Campus Security prior to VDHS contracting with a security firm.

Now, it’s kind of hard to give a JUG to underclassmen for being on the Square when [the seniors] allow it.  [Seniors] invite underclassmen, so we don’t know who can, and who can’t, so it’s hard to enforce it, said Clarkston.

The Senior Square is a tradition that seems to be fading away, but it may be the senior class who lets this happen.

Posted in Features | Leave a comment

Broken windows bring end to games of catch in Senior Square

By Oscar Herrera, Columns/Opinion Editor

Verbum Dei High School experienced its second broken window of the 2018-2019 school year in recent weeks.  Both windows were broken at the west entrance to the Eagle’s Nest: the first broken window was a smaller pane to the lower left of the door; the second was the right door pane.  The damage was significant and easily noticeable, yet the windows were intact.  The two  window panes have been replaced, but at a substantial cost: $250 for the first pane and $465 for the second.

The recent damaged windows have been attributed to the activity of students playing catch in Senior Square. The entrance to the gym is centered at the east end of Senior Square. With the increasing frequency of unsupervised catch-playing, it was only a matter of time before a stray ball hit the glass at the gym entrance. Oddly enough, it was not long after the first pane was broken that the door pane was broken.

The students involved in the first incident reported the broken window immediately; however, those responsible for breaking the more significant door pane have not come forward.  The culpable parties were not billed for the damage to the smaller window.

“Guys have been playing [catch] out there since forever before something happened,” said Jeff Bonino-Britsch, Vice President of Operations.

“I get lost in the activity although it’s fairly simple,” said senior Armando Zurita. “It takes away the stress that I may have from all the homework assignments.”

Students have often played catch on Senior Square during lunch to not only to pass the time, but to create a sense of community.  To some, playing catch is an enjoyable thing to do, and sometimes teachers join in on the fun.

“Catch playing was noted at our fall Faculty/Staff Retreat as an example of Verb’s community building activities,” said John Stradley, English teacher and catch enthusiast. “I have played catch at lunch with the students for years; under my ‘supervision’ nothing has ever been broken and no one has been hit with a thrown ball.  Unfortunately, both broken windows occurred at times when students were unsupervised.”

Bonino-Britsch feels that [until something happens] students have the privilege to play catch. Unfortunately, that privilege is going to be taken away.

Playing catch is something that is enjoyable and one of the few privileges that Verb has to offer, say some students. Among those who enjoy throwing and catching a baseball, there is a hope that there will be a solution to this issue.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

BSU continues to promote culture, college, and community

By Khalid Nelms, Staff Writer

The Black Student Union, one of many clubs at the Verb, is , which is composed of students from all grade levels. The Black Student Union (BSU) promotes activities of interest for the student body and is also a cultural benefit, as well as educational benefit, for every student.

The BSU strives to unite and to educate students about their African American heritage, but it also hosts dances, promotes educational events like the Black College Expo, and invites students to go on college trips. The moderators for the Black Student Union are Paul Hosch, Antoinette Bowie and Jensen Fluellen. These professionals strive to expose Verb gentlemen to the college life and how to live life as young black men in America.

The Black Student Union has been a part of Verb’s clubs for decades.

“To my knowledge the Black Student Union was established prior to my return to Verbum Dei,” said Fluellen.  “I am unaware of its exact establishment. I will venture to say that BSU started as an opportunity for those interested in learning more about their culture or a different perspective.”

As an Alum of Verbum Dei, Fluellen is motivated to be a better role model for the young men who need a sort of big brother and to those who want to learn about their culture.

“After the departure of a colleague I was assisting, I felt it was important to the existence of the club to step up and moderate the club,” said Fluellen.  “I feel there is value in having cultural clubs on campus.”

For example, said Fluellen, a high school’s BSU is an opportunity to expose students to a college-like student life. If a Verb student chooses to go to a large university (that is not an Historically Black College or University), the hope is to minimize some anxiety that might be felt.  The student is aware of a resource to seek out to make the campus smaller, to make friends faster, to get involved on campus, to enrich other students’ experience, or to be a guide to other students who share same cultural interests, says Fluellen.

Of course, Verb students have to choose a club, and it is important for them to realize how to learn about how the world sees them, said Fluellen, but BSU has continually gained followers throughout the years.

“The importance of BSU is to provide a space to address some of the cultural challenges: misappropriation in society of African American/Black culture and social  problems [and to recognize] high points, reflect on history and provide adaptive insight for others. In addition, [BSU] provides resources to guide students to and through college,”said Fluellen.

The Associated Student Body usually promotes all club events or events that students request for Verb, but BSU promotes its own  events as well, such as the popular “Jersey’s and Js Dance” last year.

“Open honesty,” said Fluellen.  “I think is important. I asked students to come to meetings; they did, and most never left.”

“BSU provides opportunities for outings such as the San Diego State College Conference that members attended,” said Fluellen.

The meetings can be impactful at times, especially when addressing things that happen to young black men of our age, said Fluellen.

“I speak with the executive board about items they want to address and collectively [we]rank importance. We encourage the members to think critically when making a decision on an event and to have a sound ‘why?’ said Fluellen.  ” ‘What is the goal?’ and ‘How does it align with a topic, concern, or situation?’ ”  Events are member-planned and executed, thoughts from the moderators are given, but we oversee; we try to allow the leaders that have taken the reins to lead,” says Fluellen.

Posted in Features | Leave a comment

Senior Kaleb Dean offers urban art banner to MPR collection

By Brian Hernandez, Staff Writer

The class murals at Verbum Dei have been an optional tradition for senior classes throughout the years at Verb.  The class of 2019 has a mural of its own thanks to senior Kaleb Dean.

“When looking at all of the art murals in the MPR [Multipurpose Room], I came to the idea of doing a mural for the Class of 2019,” said Dean.  “I decided to ask Jeff [Bonino-Britsch], who is one of the Social Justice leaders if I could do a mural for the school, and he agreed. After confirming this with Dr. Odom, Allison Kennedy, art teacher, was able to get me the tools I needed to do the school mural.”

It took Dean some time to complete the mural for the Class of 2019.  There were problems encountered during the process.

“I encountered some problems such as one of my markers being stolen and the mural being defaced,” said Dean.  Another problem encountered was that “the senior class didn’t want to sign it,” said Dean; however, he remains optimistic.

“It took a few weeks to finish the mural,” said Dean.  “I spent most of my free time working on this mural, and I was proud of my work. I’ve been doing art for a very long time and was excited to be doing the mural for the Class of 2019.”

“I understood that it was something that I wanted to do for myself,” said Dean.  “I love art, and I wanted to leave my mark at Verb.  At the end of the day, the mural came out fine and my friends supported me throughout this journey.  We were able to add the Class of 2019 mural to the history of Verbum Dei High School.”

“Once I was done, I looked back at it and smiled knowing that all my efforts were shown at the end,” said Dean.  “When doing this mural, I had my friends Brian [Hernandez] and Khalid [Nelms] help me out, so that I felt like it was a senior effort.”

“I probably will inspire the next artist who wants to leave his mark at Verb,” said Dean.

Posted in Arts and Entertainment, Features | Leave a comment