On most days, my hourly hallway walk-throughs consist of finding unattended books, a forgotten Gatorade bottle, a black tie and the occasional student rushing to avoid being late to class. On this particular day, however, I was reminded of one of the many foundational elements that keep Verbum Dei’s ground sacred; I was reminded that we belong to one another. As I walked through the brisk morning breeze from the parking lot to the main office, I came across one of our students walking slowly towards the Multi-Purpose Room to check in before going to his CWSP internship. His gentle steps and observant glances to his surroundings communicated a peace that is not often found in the middle of midterm week. More importantly, amidst his methodical pace the student’s eyes met two slowly moving snails who were on a mission to cross the sidewalk. In a predictable fashion, the student skipped over the snails but suddenly his steps came to a halt. The Verb freshmen turned around and proceeded to picking up each snail and placing it on a long leaf next to the sidewalk. My jaw dropped.
Perhaps what I witnessed was an isolated act of kindness, or an effort to impress the adult who was watching. However, given that his warm Verb hoodie blocked his periphery, I choose to believe that what I witnessed was a Verb gentleman acknowledging that all life is sacred. The hustle and bustle of reaching our destination is often all we need to forget the pivotal role we play in each other’s lives. Meeting a deadline, running late, or feeling discomfort are all things that can very easily gear us away from being a loving and helpful presence along the path of someone else’s journey.
I continue to be humbled by the hearts that walk our halls. While the gesture of picking up a snail and placing it on a safer path may not make our website’s front page, it does speak to the ethos that permeates Verbum Dei. If this act is any indication of the type of college students and professionals our young men will be, then I say we should look at the future with optimism. I am an educator, but on this day, I was taught the lesson.
The message I want to share today is one of steadfastness. As a school administrator and Director of Technology, I have been challenged recently to formulate strategic Technology needs of the school for the upcoming budget season. The Tech budget is different from other areas other school in that there is a long list of items that are perfunctory – things that are simply necessary and non-negotiable. Then, I am asked to include those larger-ticket items that are more strategic in nature. These items often represent the dreams of the school; things that not only can affect student performance in the classroom, but can lift Verbum Dei’s competitive image and marketability as a first-rate learning institution. I am always eager to fill this section full of “tech dreams.” That is, until I total up the numbers and quickly see that many of these dreams are not happening – at least not in this iteration of the budget.
The last few years – when line items in my budget are trimmed – I feel I’m at a crossroads. I ask myself, “where is this all going?” Can I ever put in place the plans that I believe will make a difference in the classroom and the lives of these young men? While pondering this, two items recently came across my desk that reminded me why I stay steadfast to the task. An article on the struggles of Locke High School in Watts explained in detail the complexities of preparing the youth of Watts for college and beyond. Although Verbum Dei is never mentioned in the article, the schools have much in common and face many of the same challenges. There was also a Netflix documentary – A Week in Watts – that was recently released. A Week in Watts focused on Operation Progress and the success they have had – in collaboration with the LAPD – in identifying and placing vulnerable youths in a program that sees them through high school and beyond. Verbum Dei is featured prominently in the documentary, and several of our students are highlighted.
These two items in the media – for me – serve as a bell-toll for why I remain steadfast to the challenge Verbum Dei faces. They show us that Watts – not unlike many areas of our country – have had the establishment turn their backs on them for decades. The assistance these communities need really starts at a ground level. It starts with individuals who care enough to want to make a difference. Here at Verbum Dei, it starts with our faculty and staff, and relies heavily on the love and good graces of our benefactors – who equally understand the need, urgency and importance of our mission. I first came to this school eight years ago. It has had a profound effect on my life and understanding of the world around me. I want to make a difference here, and play a role in a meaningful success story. That is why – in next year’s budget – I will again enter my “tech dreams.” We will stay at this, and get it done.