One of the reasons I love working at Verb is that we feel like a family here. That doesn’t just happen by accident, however. It’s part of our teaching philosophy to educate and meet the needs of the whole person. In Jesuit circles we call this cura personalis. Our students are so much more than bodies in seats waiting to soak up information on the Industrial Revolution or waiting to figure out how to solve the next math problem. Similarly, our faculty and staff are not just drones who stand in front of a classroom to bestow knowledge or sit behind a desk to shuffle paperwork. We recognize that each person on our campus is unique and complex, and has needs and desires beyond the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, we have some pretty amazing teachers whose classrooms are wonderful places to be – I’m sometimes jealous of the students who get to take their classes! However, part of what makes us great is all that happens OUTSIDE the classroom.
Over spring break, four of our faculty/staff took eleven students on a week-long service immersion trip to Navajo Nation in southeast Utah. They spent time learning about Navajo culture where they slept in a hogan (a tradition Navajo home) and experienced a sweat lodge under the guidance of Nelson, a wise and caring Navajo elder. They also performed service by helping clean up a Navajo community that has often been used as a dump site, as well as singing and playing games at a local center for adults with special needs. Additionally, the students were able to see the Grand Canyon on the drive out, they took a nine-mile hike through Natural Bridges National Monument, and they camped for a night on the way home at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, where they had fun sliding down the sand dunes. Although I did not get to go on the trip this year, I have been in the past and I have seen lots of pictures from this year. Seeing the eyes of wonder on our students throughout the trip is definitely the best part each year. They come home with so many stories and so many lessons learned. It is an invaluable experience.
In addition to larger experiences like the trip described above, we also have lots of smaller ones. Last weekend, we had a hike in Will Rogers State Park, where students were able to get into nature a bit. On Monday, some students took a tour of USC. This Wednesday, the entire school is getting on buses to go to St. Mary’s Academy, our sister school, to celebrate liturgy with them and have some time to socialize. This Friday, we have the Sophomore Retreat. The entire sophomore class, along with ten junior and senior student leaders and twelve faculty/staff, will spend the day at the park playing games, praying, and sharing personal stories. In addition, there is a Freshman/Sophomore game night and social this Friday evening with St. Mary’s. This weekend, Xavier Prep (the Jesuit school in Palm Desert) will be on our campus for a couple days. They will do service in the area and have a “social justice summit” with some of our Verb students. It’s a time for students from different schools (one urban and one rural) to share in their knowledge and passion for justice. Sounds like a lot, and that’s just this week! I’d also be willing to bet there is even more going on that I just don’t know about yet!
As mentioned earlier, our students, faculty, and staff are more than just workers. We are whole people. Verb recognizes that and we try to offer as much as possible to help us all grow not just in academics, but in spirituality and personal growth as well. These moments outside the classroom are often the best moments with our students. It’s when we get to see sides of them that we don’t see in the classroom – we get to see their passion and wonder and love of life.