Open House

Yesterday, on a windy Sunday afternoon Verbum Dei opened its doors for Open House. Prospective families were invited to get to know the campus, walk the halls, and visit the classrooms to learn about the unique experience Verbum Dei has to offer. Over 100 families came to share their afternoon with us.

Looking back, I remember bright faces of the prospective students I met. Some eager, some nervous, some curious and inquisitive. I wonder if they are aware of the legacy Verbum Dei fosters – a legacy of greatness that these students may one day be a part of. Somehow these incoming freshmen, with the the guidance of the teachers, faculty and staff, may transform into a Verbum Dei graduate at graduation. I look forward to helping these students along their process.

Pride

Just the other day I received an email from new alumnus, Chase Moore, articulating his successes and challenges during his first year of college.  And, before him, I received another email from a recent alumnus, Ciff Peeples.  While reading these, it dawned on me: These boys have become men–They are taking care of themselves, paying their bills, attending classes, meeting with faculty and staff, stressing over outcomes, and, succeeding at life.  And, even though all of this is new territory for them both, they are finding the time to keep their biggest fans in the loop of the goings on in their world. Here’s a little sample from Chase:

I’ve been functioning on more faith that usual this month. I guess it is safe to say that when you are far away from family that can physically help, even more inner strength than usual is required. In addition to inner strength, I need to contact my family more. This has been the most character building month of my collegiate experience because I contacted my family the least. I look forward to this new month that has just begun. I plan to man up and stop complaining because there’s only one day to get it done, and that is to get it done.

Here’s a sample from Cliff:

I have joined the National Society of Black Engineers as a Freshman Liaison, so I’m the bridge between the freshman and upperclassmen. I also earned a paid internship with Boeing this summer to with Boeing this summer at any of their US offices, and from November 5-8 they are flying me out to Seattle so I can meet executives and managers and pick what kind of internship I want and where I want to work. In addition to this, I have been considering joining the Track and Field team.

I couldn’t be more proud of our recent alumni and our current students.  There is no doubt in my mind the Verb Men will change the world.  And, for that fact, we should all feel some pride—volunteers, board members, donors, corporate partners, foundations, parents, and the community at large—that our attention has played some part in the positive outcomes these young men will make on the world. So, I humbly thank you for your support of our students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chase Moore ‘15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clifford Peeples ‘15

The Fight for Educational Excellence

Yesterday, I attended the White House Summit on Educational Excellence for African Americans at Loyola Marymount University.  It was a very fruitful conversation with amazing presentations and panel discussions.  Ethan Smith, Verbum Dei class of 2007, was one of the panelists.

At the end of the summit, David Johns, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, challenged the group to answer the following questions:  what did I learn, what will I share, and what will I do as a result of being present at the summit?

As I thought about these questions, I reflected upon the dissertation I completed at the end of my doctoral studies at LMU titled Dreams Deferred: A Critical Narrative Analysis of

African American Males In Pursuit of Higher Education.  I think that it is important to note that when I was working on my paper, my participants consisted of a relatively small group of students, so I knew that I would not be able to generalize my findings.  I felt reassured at the Summit when I heard how the panelists’ description of their experiences in college mirrored those of my study participants.  So when David Johns asked what I learned, I was pleased to know that my work was not in vain.  Many of these students have common experiences and that need to be shared, which was the second part of his question.  When asked what I will do as a result, it was confirmed for me that I needed to continue to dedicate my time to fighting for equity, access, and continued support for these students.

The following passage is an excerpt from epilogue to my dissertation.  It is my hope that I can continue this work to affect change.

            Conducting this study has afforded me the opportunity to put a voice to the college dropout numbers that land on my desk.  Through these powerful narratives, I am able to now better understand the hardships that working class African American male students encounter in their efforts to remain on the college campus. In turn, their stories allow me to better prepare the students with whom I currently work, who soon are approaching that next step—transition to college.  I designed and implemented our first transition workshop – a day long workshop where senior students were exposed to a variety of topics that would ensure a successful freshman year, including identifying and locating academic resources, involvement, networking, and money management, as well as social topics like drugs and alcohol, consent, and living away from home.  Additionally, I have made it a part of my job to regularly reach out to alumni in order to remind them that we are still with them; that we are cheering for them; that we are here for them, even after they have graduated.  When they leave the campus, they have not left our hearts.  Moreover, I want them to remember that they still carry the values of St. Peter Claver and that we continue to expect them to be true to their own greatness, just as if they were still ours.  Because, in fact, they are.    

Verbum Dei Goes to Washington

At Verbum Dei, we are proud to offer our students a wide array of opportunities to explore and understand their impact on the greater society, whether it be in the local community or on a broader scale. My co-Dean, Mr. Jesse Jovel, and I are preparing to embark on such an opportunity with four students next week as we will be journeying to Washington D.C. to attend the Ignatian Solidarity Network Family Teach-In. This conference brings students from Jesuit high schools and universities from across the nation together to discuss social justice issues. The last day of the conference is “Advocacy Day” wherein we will meet with congressional representatives to dialogue with them about these issues of concern, and what we would like our policy-makers to consider when deliberating legislation.

Verbum Dei students come away from this experience with a sense of empowerment; not only that they have a voice, but that their voice can be heard, and can affect change.  They also come away with a sense of unity and solidarity with the Ignatian family. They see that they are part of a larger community, and gain an appreciation for all the advantages that the Jesuit community can provide. Lastly, the students come away with a strengthened dedication to living their lives as Ignatius teaches us – Being men for others.