VDHS students to learn and to serve in the Xavier Service Plunge, December 4-6

By Alejandro Jimenez, Staff Writer

On December 4-6, 2015, VDHS’s Campus Ministry, the Xavier Prep Campus Ministry, and members of the class of 2016 will participate in the Xavier Service Plunge, an on-and-off -campus social justice awareness and service opportunity. The event offers a convenient way for students to immerse themselves in several social justice organizations to expose them to the injustices that are occurring around them from a particular community’s point and view.

 “The service plunge at Xavier introduces students to a rural community and opens their eyes to social justice issues happening outside of what they see in Los Angeles,” said Laura Wagner, a Jesuit Volunteer who works with Campus Ministry.  “It is an opportunity for students to broaden their understanding of service as well as engage and form relationships in a different community.”

 “Over the past two years these immersion weekends have helped Verbum Dei and Xavier Prep form and strengthen a unique relationship,” Wagner continued. “While the two schools are miles apart, students are able to meet like-minded people interested in building community and discussing justice issues, and continuing these relationships past the weekend and throughout the year.”

The Service Plunge trip was formed two years ago by Mr. Stockbridge, a former VDHS Christian Service Coordinator, and Ms. Wagner. In the Arrupe Summit Conference, all the Jesuit campus ministry leaders joined together to discuss their schools and possible improvements to their campus ministry programs. Mr. Stockbridge and Ms. Wagner started to chat with Xavier Prep Campus Ministry team and decided to have the students from the two high schools swap places to understand the social injustices in their respective communities and to do volunteer work.

“I think the Xavier Service Plunge is amazing because we get to have fun and do service with other students,” said senior Huber White, who plans to participate in the Xavier Service Plunge this year.

Verb STEM students represented at Herndon Science Competition at Aerospace Corporation

Verbum Dei students (from left to right)  Miguel Gil, Daniel Felix, and Kadett Jnocharles present their work to a panel of judges at the Herndon Science Competition, Thursday, May 22   Image by Suaronne Angeletti

By Suaronne Angeletti and Lorenza Della Donna, Contributing Writers

Four Verbum Dei students participated in the Herndon Science Competition sponsored by Aerospace Corporation. Students participated either by writing a scientific essay (research paper or written result of their own scientific experiment) or by presenting a project that exemplified the use of technology in the scientific field. A few select students expressed their desire to participate.

Ms. Angeletti worked with Miguel Gil, Daniel Felix, and Kadett Jnocharles, junior students from the robotics team, to research and to build a simple model aimed at explaining and demonstrating students’ understanding of the different components of Underwater Remotely Controlled Vehicles (ROVs). They presented to two groups of judging panels at the competition and successfully answered in-depth questions about their project and how it related to today’s world. The poster used to present their research will be displayed near Verb’s Multi-Purpose Room.

Sophomore Kobi Kelley, under the direction of Dr. Della Donna, participated by submitting a scientific essay entitled “Powerful Stem Cells,” which describes such cells and details their uses in the medical field. Kelley won 1st place in the high school division; the prize included a generous cash scholarship.

Ms. Angeletti and Ms. Della Donna are very proud of all the hard work these students have done and of their accomplishments.







Six Verb frosh scale 9,399′ Mt. Baden Powell

Verbum Dei High School freshmen and their intrepid leaders pose atop 9,399′ Mount Baden Powell in the Angeles National Forest near Wrightwood.  (from left to right) Victor Apolinar, Adrian Pasillas, Joshua Lozano, Kenneth Reyes, John Stradley, Ana de Castro, Anthony Aguirre, and Jose Gutierrez climbed the rugged peak Saturday, May 17.  Image by Mercedes Castro.

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

Eight freshmen students and two teachers, some of whom had never experienced a wilderness hike, scaled the heights of Mt. Baden Powell, the fourth highest peak in the San Gabriel range of the Angeles National Forest on Saturday, May 17.  The eight-mile hike traverses the northern facing slope of the rugged mountain through a series of lengthy switchbacks.  All but two students hiked to the summit; one student strained his ankle within a mile and a half of the summit while yielding the right of way to hikers going uphill.  He was aided in his descent by Alexis Maldonado, one of his classmates.

The hike rewarded the students and their leaders with inspiring views of the vast deserts to the north and northeast.  Upon reaching the exposed ridgeline, hikers were treated to a dramatic vista of wilderness: the watershed formed by Mount Baldy (Mt. San Antonio) and other high ridgelines.  Unfortunately, a haze covered much of the Los Angeles basin, so the urban sprawl and distant Catalina Island were obscured from view.

The view eastward from the exposed 9,000′ ridge of Mt. Baden Powell.  Limber pines, which are estimated to be 1,500 years old, cling to existence at this windswept location.  Students encountered a remnant of winter nearby with the discovery of a sliver of snow just off the main trail.  Image by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

Oxymoron – Schoolboy Q’s highly anticipated release: A beauty with blemishes


By Dylan Juarez, Arts and Entertainment

Schoolboy Q, a west coast rapper from South Central Los Angeles, released Oxymoron on February 25th. Schoolboy Q is signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, aka TDE. This is label of Compton-raised rapper Kendrick Lamar. Q is the loudest one of the group, and he likes to talk the most trash. Q has big shoes to fill because Kendrick Lamar’s album, “Good Kid m.A.A.d City” was a great album. Schoolboy Q has had problems with this album because of major push backs, which eventually lead for him to take a leave of absence from all social networking. Everyone was waiting for this album, and it even landed on the lists of many music magazines including The Source for the most anticipated albums of 2014.  Schoolboy Q had four singles, “Bangerz (Mosh Pit),” “Man of the Year,” Collard Greens” featuring Kendrick Lamar, and “Yay Yay.” Only two of these songs made the radio cut. One can say that Schoolboy Q is the underdog in TDE. Not many people believe he is skilled with the mic and that he is not unique. Nothing makes him stand out aside from his bucket hats, his personal fashion statement. Yet, Oxymoron has a meaning that stems from his days of selling Oxycontin®. He also says the album is named Oxymoron because it is beautifully ugly. Schoolboy Q has released an album that leaves listeners not knowing how to react, so they wait in anticipation for what the results might be.

The album starts off with Schoolboy Q’s daughter saying “Screw rap, my daddy is a gangster.” This short snippet leads into the song appropriately titled “Gangsta.” The song is great for a live performance or a crazy night with one’s friends. It just tells how most “gangstas” act or should act making statements like “A real gangsta doesn’t tattoo his tears.” The song to follow it is “Los Awesome” featuring Jay Rock, another TDE label mate. This song is upbeat and can be played at a party or driving through LA’s ghettos. The song mentions what a gang banger does and why he or she does it. The song ends in this exact opposite of what the beginning of the song. The next song was “Collard Greens” featuring Kendrick Lamar. This song is great another part song that adds to this hard hitting album. The thing that makes this track stand out is when Kendrick Lamar raps in Spanish for a few lines. Yet, this doesn’t mean that Kendrick over shadowed Q, yet what it did was help the song balance out.

The fourth song is “What They Want” featuring 2 Chainz. It is a lot different from the past three songs because the listener can tell that the music engineer for this track made the voice of both rappers much deeper than normal. This change on the voice does not bother the ear because it adds to the story being told about a drug seller. It makes the listener feel as if the drug dealer is talking directly to him or her. “Hoover Street,” the following song, continues the idea of selling drugs and starts off with a groovy type of beat that sounds like the 80s.  It changes after about a minute or so and gets much darker. This change of the beat helped the song because it could have been shippable, but the new beat makes it more enjoyable. The song also talks about how Schoolboy Q grew up in the L.A. environment and how he got into a life of gang banging.

“I’m just sitting in the studio just trying to get to you baby” is the chorus to “Studio” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid. This is the love song of the album, but it has such a gangster feel to it. It reminds me of little bit of “Ratha be ya” by Tupac, which is a love song that has a thug sound to it. The next song “Prescription/Oxymoron” starts off with a shaking of a pill bottle and something cooking. This song is dark and takes a turn into Schoolboy Q’s former addiction to prescription drugs. What will hit the heart of the listener is when his daughter starts to speak in the record asking him, “What’s wrong? Are you mad?” It ends with “Okay, I love you daddy.” “Prescription” then stops, and the second half of the song “Oxymoron” starts.  This song is about how Schoolboy Q stopped selling crack and “upgraded” to selling oxy cotton. It was not as dark as the first part of the song, but still had an important part to play in the album.

“The Purge” featuring Tyler, The Creator, and Kurupt, is a song that can be skipped. Here it seems like Q tried too hard to be gangster, and it nipped him. Tyler just did the chorus, and it was okay, but not great.  Kurupt’s verse was not amazing. The 9th song “Blind Threats” featuring Raekwon, has a smooth beat, and Schoolboy Q flows well with this beat. It seems in this song that Q is telling God that he needs his help, but if God doesn’t help, he resolves that his gangsta life will help. Raekwon has a great verse here. This song sweeps the previous song under the rug with its soulful sound. It even ends with violins playing the song out. The following song is “Hell of a Night,” a good party song. It has a scenery of friends at a club; everything is moving in slow motion and going great for them. It is a good song to drive to as well.

“Break the Bank,” is the next song that has a slow beat but Q adds that gangsta flare to it and it makes the song. The song could have gone in such a different direction, but it so perfect because it is how Q changed from selling drugs to rapping. The ironic part of this song is that he says, “Screw rap – my rhyme’s real” saying that what he raps aren’t simply raps for him but more of his personal problems coming to surface. The last song of Oxymoron is “Man of the Year.” This song is a party song that is a great end to the album. This is his celebration song, and it makes so much sense.

Oxymoron is a beauty with blemishes; it’s an album that was almost perfect. Schoolboy Q brought gangsta back into rap. Every song had a thug feel to it, but it did not take way from the album – it actually added to it. People who loved rap back in the era of N.W.A. will enjoy this album. The thing that stops this album from being a 10 are the songs that can be skipped; they take away from the album. Honestly, “The Purge” could have been issued as a bonus track. The ironic thing is that some of the bonus tracks were actually better than that song. Another weakness is that Q’s flow in some songs was not on point, and took a little bit away from those songs. However, Schoolboy Q made a great album for not just hip hop heads, but for all. This album is an 8 out of 10. It was worth the wait, and it lived up to the expectation it made for itself.  Schoolboy Q will go down as a great, new school gangsta rapper.

Verb’s Interact Club assists Rotarians with holiday celebration for LA’s marginalized

Sixteen (Rotary) Interact Club members and VDHS President Fr. Muller lived up to the Rotary Club motto of “Service Above Self” on a very chilly December 14th morning.  The group met at school between 5:30 and 6:00 A.M., filled two vans, and headed over to the annual Angel City Celebration & Giveaway hosted by Mayor Garcetti and the Rotary Club of Los Angeles.  The Saturday morning event offered  snow, a free pancake breakfast, toys for all the kids, arts and crafts, rock climbing, singing, and face painting for the youthful and adult participants.  Of course, Santa, the jolly man in the red suit, made an appearance. This celebration provided camaraderie and a little Christmas spirit for hundreds of our city’s neediest families.  Our Verb gentlemen were right there in the mix being Men For Others.  Photo by Marcel Viens, Staff Photographer

Verb gentlemen advocate in Washington, D.C.

A contingent of Verbum Dei gentlemen are in presently in Washington. D.C. for the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Ignatian Family Teach-In, a symposium that informs participants on social justice issues facing our world and provides opportunities for student-participants to advocate for the marginalized.  VDHS seniors Brandon Williams, Brian Martinez, Humanities teacher Jesse Jovel, Carlos Castro-Penate, and Nathan Mendoza (from left to right) pose before the United States Superior Court Building during a sightseeing break from the symposium.  Image by Maria McDonald, Humanities Department Chair

Annual CWSP luncheon brings students and corporate partners together in the Eagle’s Nest

California Science Center interns Jabril Frazier, Rylon Beard, and Dion Henderson (front row, left to right) join their supervisors Katharine Mendivil and Juanita Juarez (back row, left to right) for the annual Corporate Work Study Program Appreciation Luncheon, where student-workers and corporate partners enjoyed fellowship and entertainment, Thursday, November 7. Image by Marcel Viens, Staff Photographer, The Present Dei.

The celebratory luncheon, which featured a meal catered by 40 VDHS parents and volunteers, was attended by 420 students and corporate partners from their respective worksites.  Image by Marcel Viens, Staff Photographer, The Present Dei.

Eagles talon-grip playoff berth with 46-10 win over Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School

Running back Jacob LaRue benefits from a strong screen as he gains yardage during the decisive 46-10 Verbum Dei win against Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School in Montebello, Friday, October 25.  Image by Marcel Viens, Verbum Dei High School

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei 

Reversing a long history of defeat at the hands of the Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School Cardinals, the Verbum Dei Eagles varsity squad flew over their Del Rey League
opponent with a score of 46-10, Friday, October 25.  The sometimes contentious homecoming game at CSHHS was thrilling to watch, and it showcased the gritty determination and winning resolve that has become the hallmark of Verb football.

Reciting St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity, the Eagles took the field marching in ranks
from under their goalpost – territory that was to be largely untrodden by Cardinal cleats during the game.  The night’s Eagle offensive juggernaut began with Tyler Frey’s 37-yard kickoff return and continued with a series of running plays resulting in several first downs.  Jacob LaRue and Christian Pimental carried the ball down the field in lurches and sprints; Pimental, who would ultimately garner the MVP for the game, emerged from a Cardinal dogpile with a three-yard gain resulting in a critical first down. Davir Hamilton – once while carrying one half of the Cardinal squad along with him – joined LaRue in moving the ball deeper into Cantwell territory.  Ultimately, Pimental would get the honor of scoring the first touchdown of the game.  With four minutes remaining in the quarter, LaRue carried a successful conversion to bring the lights to 8-0.

David Castillo brought down his Cardinal opponent on the kick return, and a Cantwell
drive downfield was aided by a personal foul penalty against the Eagles.  Verb’s defenders took a strong stance deep in their own territory.  The defensive pressure was so great that the Cardinals threw an incomplete pass to a wide-open receiver; however, the Cantwell field position allowed a successful field goal from the Verb 13-yard line.  With little time remaining in the first quarter and the scoreboard reading 8-3, Tyler Frey sprinted 63-yards on the kick return.  A LaRue carry brought the ball to Cantwell’s 30-yard line to end the quarter.

The second quarter continued with Hamilton carries to a short run goal position, and again, Pimental was given the honor of scoring from the Cantwell two-yard line.  Hamilton’s successful conversion at the corner of the end zone brought the score to 16-3. The Cantwell kick return ended abruptly at its 26-yard line with a spectacular tackle by sophomore Omar Soto.  The Cardinals then took to the air with a series of incomplete passing plays.  A Nigel Beckles tackle helped to interrupt the Cardinal’s flight path, and the subsequent turnover on downs presented another scoring drive opportunity to the Eagles.

Hamilton carried the ball 60-yards, deep into Cantwell real estate.  Beckles ran an additional 10-yards, and LaRue carried for another Eagle touchdown. Another successful conversion by LaRue brought the score to 24-3.

Edwin Suro’s kickoff for the Eagles went deep.  The Cardinals slogged out to mid-field with a series of short gains.  A pass completion and a personal foul call against Verbum Dei moved the line of scrimmage into Eagle territory.  With five minutes remaining in the half, tackles by Jabril Frazier and Gregory Woods and a force out of bounds by Castillo held the Cardinals and slowed their advance toward the Eagle’s end zone.  An incomplete Cardinal pass and another Frazier tackle brought a fourth down.

Cantwell decided to run rather than punt, and a highly disputed force out of bounds call allowed the Cardinals a first down within scoring range.  Cantwell’s scoring drive and subsequent field goal were successful, yet the “Home – 10” digital readout on the scoreboard would be unchanging for the duration of the game.

A short 15-yard kickoff return by Frey, a series of dogged carries by Hamilton and
LaRue, and an off sides penalty necessitated an Eagle punt.  Returning to familiar mid-field territory, the Cardinals tried a series of frantic pass attempts, which ultimately led to an interception by Zachary Burge.  The final Verb possession of the half resulted in a touchdown by Hamilton and a successful conversion by LaRue.  The score at the half was 32-10.

The second half began with a litany of tackles: Pimental on the kick return at mid-field
and Beckles and Woods on running plays.  Cantwell, again roaming familiar turf, allowed a turnover on downs at the Verb 34-yard line.  The following scoring drive featured carries by LaRue and Hamilton; a Verb touchdown and follow-up conversion by LaRue brought the score to 40-10.

As Cantwell attempted to regroup, strong Eagle defensive play kept the red birds on the ground.  A Chase Moore tackle on the return, followed up by shared and individual tackles by Pimental, Burge, and Castillo kept the defense busy.  Frazier swatted down a high pass, forcing Cantwell to punt.  LaRue gained 65-yards on one carry and punched through the Cardinal offensive line to score.  A failed conversion attempt left the score at 46-10.

Again mid-field and in disarray, Cantwell struggled. Frazier and Woods had back-to-back sacks before the clock began to run for the duration.  Hamilton carries – one long, one short – eventually led to a turnover on downs.  The Cardinal possession began at mid-field, but personal foul penalties against both teams kept the action confined between the 40s.  As the clock readout diminished, Cantwell was unable to consistently complete passes and remained bogged down mid-field.  Ricardo Fragoso added his name to the game’s defensive stats with a late game sack.  A Moore interception sealed the score at 46-10 with 44-seconds on the running clock.

The decisive, vindicating win earns the Eagles a CIF Southern Section playoff spot against a favorable first round opponent. With the win, the Eagles bring their Del Rey League record to 4-1 and 6-3 on the season.  One final league game remains in the regular season. The Eagles will take on Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, Friday, November 8 at 7:00 P.M. on their home field at LA Southwest College.  Halftime festivities will recognize and honor athletes from the Class of 2014, whose exploits and spirit on the gridiron have contributed to a record season.

Upstretched arms by stripe-sporting officials were a common sight during the VDHS Eagles 46-10 season wind-down game against CSHHS in Montebello.  Image by Marcel Viens, Verbum Dei High School


VDHS varsity Eagles dehorn Vikings 48-12 in dramatic SBHS homecoming spoiler

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

Solidifying its reputation as the team that a reasonable school should not invite to its homecoming, the Verbum Dei Eagles trounced the St. Bernard Vikings, their Del Rey League rival, Friday evening.  The 48-12 victory was a dramatic reversal from the teams’ last meeting two years ago, when the Vikings tethered the Eagles 63-26.

As a full moon rose over the main school building behind the stadium, junior Tyler Frey started the game in grand fashion with a 70-yard kickoff return.  That auspicious start was tempered by a Verb fumble, which gave the Vikings possession at their own five-yard line.  Bernard pushed back with a 26-yard completion, but mirrored their opponent with a turnover fumble.  The Eagles mid-field drive began with a 30-yard run by freshman Davir Hamilton, continued with two quarterback keepers, and culminated with touchdown by Jacob LaRue, whose deft running has been impressive all season.  A razzle-dazzle play featuring a quick series of hand-offs – quarterback Evan Rambo to LaRue to Hamilton – resulted in a successful conversion to put Verb in lights on the scoreboard 8-0.

With 5:11 remaining in the quarter, the Vikings kick return brought the ball mid-field.  Jabril Frazier and Nigel Beckles created what Coach Miller deemed a “Verb sandwich” in sacking the Bernard quarterback for a 12-yard loss. After the turnover on downs, Hamilton continued to amass yardage with an impressive 83-yard touchdown run.  Another successful conversion brought the score to 16-0.

Junior Chase Moore dashed the Viking’s hopes of getting some illumination on their own scoreboard with a dramatic interception in the final moments of the first quarter, yet the Vikings had a brief reprieve with another Verb fumble.  An Eagle possession and a series of running plays by Christian Pimental, Hamilton, and Rambo ended the quarter.

On a sloppy field that seemed more a peat bog in places than a gridiron, the second quarter began decisively with a 42-yard pass from Hamilton to receiver Frey, who sprinted to the end zone.  Hamilton, the newly placed aerial component of Verb’s formerly non-existent passing game, has made his diverse skills known since his first start last week.  The successful conversion punched through by LaRue brought the score to 24-0.

After the kick return, the Vikings gored their way onto the scoreboard with a 61-yard run followed by a quarterback keeper touchdown.  An unsuccessful conversion brought the score to 24-6.  The Eagle possession that followed the kick return was marred by a holding penalty, but ended well with a 53-yard touchdown run and subsequent conversion by LaRue.  Verb shored its lead to 32-6.

In the final minutes of the half, the Eagles were both glorious and inglorious: inglorious in a face mask penalty and glorious in an impressive tackle by Zachary Burge and in a gritty defensive stand on their own 6-yard line that resulted in a Bernard turnover on downs.  A scoring drive fueled by dogged runs by LaRue and Hamilton brought the Eagles to the Vikings one-yard line.  Hamilton punched through for both a touchdown and a successful conversion, bringing the score to 40-6 as the half loomed near.  The Vikings attempted to regroup after their kick return, but tackles by Burge and Frazier brought the half to a close.

The third quarter passed with no change of the lights on the scoreboard as both teams slogged it out in the muddy mid-field.  Fine defensive play by the Verb squad kept the Vikings in check including a sack by sophomore Omar Soto for a Bernard 8-yard loss.

An Eagle possession began the final quarter.  Pimental ran for 48-yards – his longest run of the season – followed by an 8-yard carry by LaRue.  Freshman Steven Anderson had the honors of running the remaining three yards for a touchdown and successful conversion.  With jumbo jets intermittently roaring from the runway of adjacent Los Angeles International Airport, the score was 48-6.

A Kirk Smith tackle on the Viking return left the Bernard squad in familiar mid-field territory, but shortly thereafter a successful 37-yard pass completion brought the Norsemen to the Verb seven yard line with three minutes remaining on the clock.  Verb’s defensive squad put up a strong goal line stand, but the Vikings punched through for their second and final touchdown with one minute remaining.  A failed conversion attempt ended the game with the score 48-12.

With the win, the Eagles bring their Del Rey League record to 3-1 and 5-3 on the season.  The squad will face Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School, Friday, October 25 at 7:00 P.M. at C-SHHS in Montebello as the regular season draws toward its close. 

Present Dei online news source seeks student writers / photographers for 2013-2014 year

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

The Present Dei, Verbum Dei High School’s online news source, is seeking student journalists, photographers, and interested parties to join the staff of this fledgling publication. Whether one’s interest lay in athletics, politics, the arts, personalities, or graphic design in the electronic age, The Present Dei is a venue to explore electronic journalism.

Student staffers will serve as editors, staff writers, copy editors, photographers, and graphic designers. Present Dei staff attend and report upon campus and off-campus events of interest to the Verbum Dei community.

Contact Mr. John Stradley, Room 103, for more information. Look for The Present Dei table on Activities Day.