By Eduardo Landa and Kawika Smith, Staff Writers
Without a doubt, the class of 2020 will go down in Verbum Dei High School history as one of the most resilient classes to ever sit foot on campus. This year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors were given the opportunity to demonstrate their growth over the course of their four years through the senior Capstone Project.
The project consisted of four main reflective writing categories: Learning, Identity, Vocation, and Education (L.I.V.E) These reflection elements were used in order to construct a website to showcase each senior’s growth over his four years.
“Students reflected deeply on the entire breadth of their experience at Verbum Dei,” said Eddie Vieyra, theology teacher/Campus Ministry Assistant and Musical Director. “The level of reflection I had hoped for, they delivered across the board. This Capstone project was a success as evidenced by the superb quality of the presentations.”
Each senior presented his Capstone Project to a panel of two evaluators. Prior to presenting, the seniors were assigned mentors who helped guide them in the development of their stories and their experiences. Due to the Corona virus, the project’s timeline was modified, which resulted in one less mentor meeting than had been originally scheduled.
“It was our first time [introducing] this project, which is to say I knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but the quarantine added another layer of difficulty,” said Vieyra. “I would say that keeping the students on track to be ready for their presentations was the primary challenge.”
“I was nervous that our four meetings with our mentors were cut down to three meetings because it meant that we had less time to prepare, but we still overcame that obstacle,” said senior Drake Pearson.
Mentorship was an integral part of the project. Mentors served to guide and redirect, making sure all of the information was thorough and structured in an effective way. Mentors were chosen through a selection process in which seniors ranked teachers and staff with whom they had a strong rapport.
“I really enjoyed speaking to my mentor, Dr. Odom; she pushed me to dig deep into my time at Verb,” said senior Amir Sevier. “She wasn’t easy, but she got me to write more.”
The response to the mentors’ effectiveness was overwhelmingly positive.
“I found mentoring Sal, Christopher, Rodolfo, and Jacob, to be an edifying experience,” said John Stradley, English teacher. “I learned to appreciate these young gentlemen as individuals with unique gifts, personalities, and attitudes.”
“The mentoring conversations and the final presentations were both great,” said Karen Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry. “In both realms, seniors [showed] some level of trust and vulnerability. I [was] to be a small part of the process as [they] synthesized [their] growth over the last few years, which is a pretty big deal.”
“I was really proud of the guys,” said Dr. Brandi Odom-Lucas, Chief Academic Officer of Verbum Dei. “[Capstone] showed me things as a school that we need to work on [such as] balancing student workload. Students miss the variety offered at bigger schools, [therefore;] we need to think creatively about how to fix that.”
During their final presentations, students were able to showcase their work and to engage in dialogue with the panelists about their experience and thoughts.
“It was challenging to adjust during quarantine, but overall, I enjoyed doing this project because it taught me about certain aspects about myself that I never challenged myself to understand,” said senior John Madrigal.
“Typically, I am not vulnerable, but I was able to open up a little bit through my writings,” said senior Osvaldo Paniagua. “[My evaluators] themselves were surprised when I presented; I learned that I am a pretty good storyteller after hours of practicing my presentation and then acing it after all.”
“This project allowed me to reminisce over my four years at Verb,” said senior Jesus Estrada. “[The Capstone Project was not only a] great end to my high school career but a new beginning as I enter adulthood.”