Xavier College Prep High School Trip

Molly Fruland, Campus Ministry/College Guidance Assistant, took 11 Verb Gentlemen to Xavier College Prep earlier this month and she wrote the following on her experience –

“The weekend of December 7th-9th I had the absolute honor to coordinate and chaperone a trip that brought 11 Verb Gentlemen to Xavier College Prep High School in Palm Desert.  During the trip students served, learned, and grew in fellowship with students from Xavier and were allowed to continue the Jesuit tradition of experiencing, questioning, and reflecting on the gritty realities of the world. This trip allowed students to gain a deeper understanding of social justice issues in the Coachella Valley, to learn about the importance of building community with new people, and explore spirituality in new ways.

When thinking about the Coachella Valley, many people immediately think of a spring break destination and the home of some of the largest music festivals in the United States. But the Coachella Valley has a rich history of migration, environmental degradation, and rich Latino culture. Four of California’s top 10 poorest cities [North Shore, Oasis, Mecca, and Thermal] are in the Coachella Valley, where the most economic, social, and ecological disparity can be found. On this specific immersion, we looked at social disparity. Due to the stark contrasts between cities of the Coachella Valley, the cities of Coachella, Mecca, and Thermal transformed into an intriguing classroom for students to begin to scratch the surface of learning about social justice issues.

Our weekend started off with a 400-year-old Mexican tradition called La Posada. This celebration honors the journey of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus and the word posada translates to the word hospitality, which there was no lacking of on this trip. Upon our arrival, we ate tamales, played games, and sang Christmas songs with members of the Xavier Prep community.

The next stop on our trip focused on agriculture in the Coachella Valley. We visited Prime Time Farms that grew bell peppers and romaine lettuce. Our students got to witness and learn about farming and the importance of agriculture to the Coachella Valley, California, and to the whole country. We also had the opportunity to visit a date farm and try date shakes, a popular frozen treat in the Coachella Valley. Our boys had mixed opinions on dates but did love learning about how dates are harvested and getting to pick dates.

We then traveled to the Salton Sea to learn about environmental degradation. Once a haven for vacationers looking to relax, The Salton Sea is now extremely polluted, as it has been used as a repository for agricultural wastewaters and is shrinking rapidly because it is being bought, filtered, and resold by large corporations. While here, students paired up and brainstormed ways to address this issue and reflect on how it has impacted the surrounding community.

Saturday evening, Xavier Prep organized a talk about immigration from a Spanish teacher at the school and a local lawyer that works in immigration. Both shared their experiences with immigration in this country and urged our students to think critically about where they get their information and the different experiences people have in this country.

This incredible weekend came to a close with a Mass on Sunday morning at a cactus farm. The priest’s homily encouraged our students to share their experiences in the Coachella Valley with one another and to be reminded that God’s gift to us is nature and that it needs to be taken care of and protected from injustice.

This weekend allowed our Verbum Dei Gentlemen to put on a growth mindset and engage with the social justice issues that are not found in Los Angeles. Through their interaction and community building with Xavier Prep students, their deep interest and curiosity about culture in the Coachella Valley, and their experience of service, they have truly molded themselves into becoming men with and for others.”


Growth Mindset: Preparing for College, College Success & Beyond!

Growth mindset is not just a new age philosophical trend, it truly is a way of life and a strategy for good mental health, and thus success! The College Access Program (CAP) curriculum/course is all about incorporating growth mindset. Students learn growth mindset throughout grades 9-11 in preparation for the CAP 12 course: protected and structured time for counselors to guide seniors through a  5 unit curriculum that is essentially the process they will follow in pursuit of college admissions- foundations, feasibility, discernment, enrollment and transition into college.

Why is it so important to pour these teachings into our students? What happened to just teaching pure undeniable hard work?  Well that’s easy, some students will say they have worked hard and still just don’t understand math for example, but then again they have never understood math so they are not surprised that regardless of their hard work, they still did not do well. How many times have you heard it? How many times have you said it yourself? This is the epitome of a fixed mindset.

Research shows that the mindset you have changes everything about how you approach challenges and opportunities—including whether you use the word “challenge” or “opportunity” for the same circumstance. And we all know that high school is full of both challenges and opportunities. We teach students that these two dynamics are actually one in the same, furthermore, that there is success and lessons learned and at the end of each opportunity.

Come senior year we hope our students would have mastered this concept, being able to open themselves to a host of different college options to find the best fit place where they will thrive and reach goals. They will also have the innate understanding that:

  • Belief in the development of whole self, including a healthy balance of mental, social/emotional and physical well-being…
  • Self-confidence in his ability to succeed…
  • Sense of belonging, especially in the school environment…
  • Understanding that postsecondary education and life-long learning are necessary for long-term career success…
  • Belief in using abilities to their fullest to achieve high-quality results and outcomes…
  • Positive attitude toward work and learning…

…is essential to reach their full potential in college and beyond!


Advent Season

As this Advent season begins, I look backward at this past year’s experiences, as well as look forward to new and exciting adventures that are waiting to be born.  I can’t help but pause at the loving influence that Fr. Mike Mandala had on my life.  December 7th would have been Fr. Mike’s 72nd birthday.  I still see his joyful face, eager for life, even as he continued to slow down due to the illness that ultimately claimed him. 

About a month after Fr. Mike’s funeral, I received his set of keys to Verbum Dei and was asked to close down his Verbum Dei cell phone account.  But before I did, I thought I should call whomever might have his phone to warn them that phone service was about to end.  When I called Fr. Mike’s cell phone, I was immediately greeted by the jovial and welcoming voice of Fr. Mike’s message, still alive with his enthusiastic and uplifting manner.  I was compelled to call multiple times because I needed to hear his voice and didn’t want to be the one to finally silence my friend.  When I struggle with the loss of a loved one, I often want to hang on to those things that remind me of their goodness and inspire me to be a better man.  Fr. Mike was that kind of person.  May this Advent season connect you to your faith, your friends and your family the way that Fr. Mike did for so many of us.