Happy Fall to all of our Verbum Dei family. This school year has already been filled with much excitement with the addition of brand new theology department faculty. Carlos Rodriguez, Karen Luna, Martin Ngo S.J., and Sam McGrath have joined our small, but mighty, Theology family. Each comes to us having focused in theological studies at their respective universities, each bringing their zeal, love of God, and pedagogical skills to the Verbum Dei campus.
As a Theology department, we’ve begun to team with the Sciences to help students understand the connections between faith and reason. Our job, as we see it, is to help form mindful, faithful, and intelligent young men who are aware of how faith speaks to the issues impacting the lives of people today. Some issues that Pope Francis has brought to the fore, that we’ve begun to explore are: the real concerns of global warming, the sanctity of all life both human and non-human(ecological concerns), and human trafficking. Moreover, since we are aware of the context in which we are situated, we also engage in questions regarding social and economic disparities found in limited income communities and how Jesus places himself alongside those who are outcasts in our society.
Our hope is to help create young men who stand alongside those who our society oppresses and rejects. Our mission is to show our faith by living out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, the Christ.
The parents of current Verbum Dei students are encouraged to attend parent meetings held monthly on campus. In addition to earning service hours for their attendance, the parents benefit from increasing their knowledge ability on a wide range of topics focused on their son’s learning experience at Verbum Dei. In October, the Technology Department was asked to host the meeting, the topic being “Life of a Teenage Boy in the Age of Technology.”
The topic was rather open-ended, but I wanted the meeting to be more informational than philosophical, so I narrowed my discussion to focus on student online activity and the ramifications of questionable online behavior. Primarily, I wanted the parents to know about everyone’s “Digital Footprint” and what that entails. I wanted them to know that – in reality – their boys probably don’t understand that everything they do online is essentially permanent and forever. They may think the activities they do online are private, but they’re not. Everything they do online is tracked, saved and retrievable. Also, I wanted them to know that even colleges – when reviewing applications– often investigates applicant’s online usage to get a gauge for that students personality and behavior. It was my impression that some the parents in attendance were not fully aware of these practices. Even though these were alarming facts, I felt alerting them to these actions was hugely beneficial. I then went on to talk about cellular phone usage and the countless apps today’s teens are using with regularity. I provided general information in a handout that detailed some of the more nefarious apps many teens use with regularity. As an example, I used the popular Snapchat app to bring to light the idea – and dangers – of our Digital Footprint. Teens may think their photos and videos in Snapchat delete when intended (and they do). But what they don’t know is that the Meta Data (vital information about the posting) is saved. There were several shocked faces in the room when I informed them of this, but – again – I felt the information held value.
It was gratifying to have several parents in attendance who spoke to their own teen’s online activity and what they do to protect their kids. The end of my discussion focused on beneficial apps for parents, and several parents mentioned they used those apps to protect and monitor their kids’ online activity. Afterwards, when the meeting was over, a group of attendees came up to me and expressed thanks for informing them about the dangers – and benefits of online activity. Even though the news was not always good, it’s always best to be informed.
This summer, eight Verbum Dei scholars packed their bags and used their vacation to experience a glimpse of college at Loyola Marymount University. Juniors Michael Pineda, Jose Flores, Brian Flores, Daniel Herrera, Kevin Vega, Alejandro Rodriguez, Andy Marquez, and Luis Amezcua were accepted into LMU’s Pre- College Summer Program! Our gentlemen were able to dive into the world of urban ecology as they examined the interactions between natural and social systems and learned how they could create positive change around environment challenges. They also took a course in Campaigns and Elections in the 21st Century, where they immersed themselves in the modern world of campaign elections, which included lectures, small group work, guest speakers, and dynamic field trips! They also were able to meet local elected officials, hear from campaign consultants, and received hands on experience with data, analytical software, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help understand modern campaigns.
The summer was filled with experiences of a lifetime. Junior, Andy Marquez even won a program-wide competition to see who would be the best campaign manager! Needless to say this experience was a game changer for our boys and their futures. From learning to live with a roommate to strengthening resumes or college applications, our student’s walked away from a summer on the bluff feeling better prepared to enter the 4-year university environment. The partnership and Jesuit connection we share with LMU is one that has strengthened the educational experience at Verbum Dei. We are incredibly proud and impressed by our boys and are excited to see more of our students get a head start on the college experience.