Gifts of life: Second blood drive of year slated for February 12

By Daniel Garrido, Staff Writer 

 Verbum Dei High School will hold its second blood drive of the school year in conjunction with Cedars-Sinai Blood Services on February 12, from 8:00 A.M. until 2:30 P.M in the Eagle’s Nest.  Students 16 years of age and older are encouraged to give the “gift of life.”  The now three-times-yearly drives are coordinated by Jeff Bonino-Britsch, Vice President of Operations. 

To participate in the blood drive, one must be 16 years of age or older. Sixteen-year-old student must complete a permission slip signed by parent or legal guardian to donate blood.  Donors 17 years of age are no longer required to supply a permission slip.

Potential donors must select the time/period that they prefer to donate blood in. Yes! Sadly, donors will miss a class period, so they are encouraged to select from courses in which they are in good standing.

If one is going to donate blood, the procedure of the day begins like any normal school day.  Donors are called by a student helper with the blood drive and escorted to the Eagles Nest, where the mobile donation unit sets up its operations.

Donors will sign in and receive a questionnaire about their health status, health history, and recent travel.

After the donor’s answers are reviewed, his or her vital signs will be checked and his or her blood will be tested to determine if the donor’s iron level is an acceptable range.

At this point, donors actually offer their life-saving blood in a process that takes approximately 15 minutes.

“People who have not donated blood ask if it is painful,” said longtime blood donor and blood drive booster John Stradley.  “I tell them that it feels like a light pinch on the forearm, and I might even demonstrate such a pinch on myself,” said the VDHS English teacher.

After donating blood, donors are asked to stay seated in the Eagles Nest for 15 minutes and to enjoy provided snacks and beverages. Donors then return to class with post-donation instructions.

One notable instruction for athletes and the athletically-inclined is that no strenuous activity or heavy lifting is to be done for the remainder of the day.  Athletes may return to their normal activity on the following day.

The goal for the blood drive is to motivate multiple recipients to participate in the blood drive and to see the number of student participants increase each year, said Bonino-Britsch. 

“How do we motivate people to donate blood?” asked Bonino-Britsch as he consistently tries to achieve the goals set for each blood drive. From this question he derived a number of incentives: raffle prizes awarded to the students who participated in the blood drive and free dress for participants.  Cedars-Sinai Blood Services also provides each donor with either a complementary tee shirt or a coupon for a pint of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. 

Bonino-Britsch first awarded the raffle prizes last school year and found a rapid increase of participants willing to donate blood. 

Past raffle prizes have included coupons for a pint of ice cream, Verb caps, Verb pint glasses (“for juice,” said Bonino-Britsch), as well as two $25 gift cards, which serve as the grand prize.   Drawing for the raffle prize winners is generally done during Community on a subsequent Friday morning in the Eagles Nest.

Drawing winners for the first blood drive were juniors Kameron Banner, Geovanny Martinez, Elliot Lopez, Jonathan Ayala,  Jamaine Adams, and senior Jesus Estrada.  There were six chances of winning a prize, but the ultimate prize of donating is giving the gift of life. 

“It’s for good cause,” said senior Brian Cisneros. 

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Faculty/Staff retreat set for 3/7 at LMU Jesuit Community

By Alberto Lopez, Staff Writer

On Friday March 27, the Verbum Dei High School faculty and staff will have its second retreat of the school year. This retreat will take place at the Loyola Marymount University Jesuit Community.  Planned by Federico Gianelli, SJ, Adult Faith Formation Director/Christian service and campus Ministry Assistant, the theme of this retreat is “Building a Trauma-Informed Flourishing School at Verbum Dei.”

“The beauty of these kinds of retreats is that it gives us the time to really interact with one another and to create deeper connection with each other both personally and spiritually,” said Karen Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry.

A guest presenter, Rev. Fr. Frank Buckley, SJ. will be the keynote speaker.  Buckley is a clinical psychologist.  He attended the University of San Francisco to complete his pre and post-doctoral fellowship in the counseling center.  The theme of his presentation will be flourishing on a Jesuit campus; this is a topic that Fr. Buckley is very passionate about.

The aim of such retreats is for the faculty/staff to connect with one another spiritually and personally.

“This is a time for the staff to get together and appreciate one another,”said Cristina Cuellar, VP programming, Corporate Work Study Program.  “It is also a time for us to connect with God together as colleagues and friends.”

“The biggest take away from a retreat should be the connection we make with God and one another,” said Maria McDonald.

“[It’s] time to do a spiritual retreat outside of campus,” said Gianelli.  “[The goal is] to build relationships, to increase self-awareness around well-being, to develop deep connection with our inner world, with peers and colleagues, with nature and with High Power God”.

Accordingly, there will be no school or work on Friday March 27.

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VDHS appeals to Shea Foundation for campus enhancements

By Tyon James, Staff Writer

As we usher in the new decade, Verb has many potential renovations on the horizon with hopes of entirely transforming the physical front of the school. This will take form in various ways: spanning from the adjusting of landscaping, technology, lighting, security features, fencing, paint, roofing, and windows.

“The key thing for Verb, however, is keeping the school safe, functional, and efficient,” said Jeff Bonino-Britsch, Vice President of Operations.

Accordingly, Bonino-Britsch has adapted a two-page school request detailing the modifications sought by Verbum Dei at large. These detailed requests are expected to be brought before the Shea Family Foundation within the next couple of weeks in a follow-up meeting to be attended by Bonino-Britsch, Fr. Stephen A. Privett, SJ, President, and Paul Hosch, Senior Vice President for Advancement.

“Ultimately, we will tell them [The Shea Family Foundation] what our priorities are,” said Bonino-Britsch, “but they will tell us what they would like to support.”

Beyond the scope of renovating for the simple purpose of bringing about a fresh appeal, Verb is looking to ensure that everything is up to code, functional, and safe for all members of the VDHS community. For example, the school’s HVAC units [heating ventilation and air conditioning system] are aging and leakage caused by the systems damages ceiling tiles which must be repaired or replaced.

Hosch, who leads the Mission Advancement Department, will be tasked with forming a budget for priority items that are not funded by the foundation in order to carry out the plan of renovating the campus and bringing everything up to code.

Even soon-to-be-graduating students see the value in the renovation proposals.

“I believe that these renovation efforts are imperative to maximize safety and bring a fresh appeal to the school,” said senior Justin Funez.

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Cristo Rey re-formats work-study performance evaluation

By Jose Lopez, Staff Writer 

 Verbum Dei High School has a Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) in which the students are provided work experience and great networking opportunities. The students work one day each week and alternating Fridays of each month.  Student workers undergo periodic performance evaluations, and the format of these assessments has been changed recently. The evaluation serves to document what the student has learned, applied, overcome, or encountered. 

This particular incarnation of the performance evaluation was created and managed by the Cristo Rey Network (CRN) and was given to the CWSP department to distribute to all the student’s supervisors.  In late October of 2019, the Performance Evaluation was modified by the network of work-study schools sharing the same model as VDHS.  The sudden change in format and its late delivery set back the CWSP  a month behind for its typical evaluation time frame.  

“This new performance evaluation is more realistic when grading a student,” said Cristina Cuellar,  Vice President of Programming, Corporate Work Study Program.  “It aligned with the benchmarks that were applied.”

The new performance evaluation “holds both the students and staff accountable,” said Cuellar.  The student gets a much more realistic evaluation, and the staff must adapt to grading and processing this new format to have the grades ready. 

“It’s not only Verbum Dei that gets a new performance evaluation but every school within the Cristo Rey Network,” said Gabriela Marin, Program Assistant, Corporate Work Study Program. 

Changes in any way shape or form of the performance evaluation is not authorized by CRN.  VDHS’s CWSP distributes the evaluations and sends the completed evaluations to the network, which sends back a report based on its system.  All students will be graded and evaluated within the Cristo Rey benchmarks. 

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CWSP assignment workshop to assist student preparation

By Douglas Granados, Staff Writer

In the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP), students are required to turn in a monthly assignment on the Friday they are scheduled to work, and the assignment must be submitted to Lorenz Willis, CWSP Program Manager.

To assist students in meeting deadlines and to encourage quality work, two sophomore CWSP workshops are set for February 4 and 6, and a senior workshop is slated for February 12.  While they do not have immediately pending CWSP assignments, freshmen and junior students are welcome to attend these early sessions for assistance.  Freshman workshops are set for February 19 and 20; junior workshops are set for February 26 and 27.  All workshops will be held after school from 3:30 to 4:30 P.M. in Computer Lab 2.

Unfortunately, this past semester many students either didn’t turn their assignments in on time or they just did not turn in the work at all.   Some students expected a reminder or an email with all their assignments so that they could start working on them well ahead of the due date; however, that did not happen frequently in the first semester of the school year.

CWSP has instituted a series of workshops to help struggling students because staff does not want students to fail – they want them to succeed.  Similar workshops are to be scheduled for March and April.

“We heard feedback from the students on why they weren’t turning their work in on time or not turning it in at all,” said Francis Argueta, CWSP Program Volunteer.   “We came up with the idea to make a workshop to help them out, and by giving their assignments ahead of time.”

Offered so that students would be prepared to turn their quality assignments in on time, the workshop provides structured time for the completion of assignments with assistance and supervision.  Student questions can be answered by either Willis or Argueta, who teamed to facilitate the workshop.

“I think this is a good idea that they are doing this workshop this semester,” said Brandon Campos, junior.  “I think it is good because last semester I still did my assignments and submitted them, but I was still confused when the assignments were due and assigned and this workshop is going to be able to help me.”

The workshop was also created for students to have access to more resources to be able to get work done and to be encouraged to submit high quality work so they can earn good grades on their CWSP assignments.

“The workshop is a great idea,” said senior Erik Rodriguez.  “I wish they would have done this sooner, but at least it’ll help students who are going to be here after I graduate from Verb.  Incoming freshmen, at first, are going to need some help.”

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Looming large: March 1 deadline for FAFSA submission

By Tamajai Dampeer, Staff Writer

As acceptance letters begin to fill the Class of 2020’s mailboxes, deadlines, ranging from college applications to financial aid programs such as Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), creep closer.  The deadline for the latter is March 1.

FAFSA is a federal student aid program offered by the U.S. Department of Education, which every year, administrates the awarding of more than $120 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study awards to over 12 million college students. This financial aid covers expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and other school-related costs.

Filing the FAFSA form is also necessary to take out federal student loans, which have benefits typically not associated with private loans, such as fixed interest rates or more flexible repayment plans.

VDHS College Counselors Shannon Slade and Brittany Bradley promote FAFSA as a means to give hope to students who are working within a small tuition budget and  to those who are trying to save a little extra money.

“Oftentimes, families with higher incomes think their child won’t qualify for need-based grants and decide not to bother with the form — this is a big mistake,” said Slade.

It is always best to fill out the application. After all, many states and colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for grants and merit aid awards beyond the federal level.

“I’ve seen so many students settle for schools that they themselves don’t even seem excited to go to due to expenses and it completely breaks my heart,” said Bradley. “With the help of financial aid programs like FAFSA, these students could have paid near the same price for their more ideal school.”

“I’m not sure how much I qualified for just yet, but I’m sure it’ll help my battle with sticker prices much easier,” said senior Bryce Hampton.

“Sticker prices,” which are marketed tuition prices of college institutions, often scare incoming freshman away from schools that otherwise they  would be interested in attending.

“[My dream school] UC Davis, costs about 40 grand to live on-campus like I want to,” said senior Adrian Villagomez.  Even for a resident, California universities can be extremely expensive.

When asked about the prospect of his application to University of California – Davis had FAFSA not existed, Villagomez stated, “If FAFSA had never been created, junior college would probably the route I could see myself more than likely taking; [it’s] not my first choice, but it’s not about where you get your education it’s about what you do with it.”

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Cardinal Roger Mahony to visit Verbum Dei March 19

By Kawika Smith, Staff Writer

Fr. Steven Privett, SJ, Verbum Dei High School President, crossed paths with Cardinal Roger Mahony and invited him to visit the school.  Mahony graciously accepted the offer and is scheduled to visit Verbum Dei High School on March 19.  Coincidentally on March 19,  Mahony will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of his ordination as bishop.

During his visit, he will also be joining the Verb community in liturgical celebration, and he is expected to preside over the mass. He will also meet and speak with students about their Jesuit-Catholic educational experience. He will share breakfast with a group of students from all grade levels, although the students are yet to be selected.

Mahony is no stranger to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where he served as archbishop from 1985 to 2011.  Named a cardinal in 1991, he still serves in that capacity to the Catholic Church.  Mahony, who still resides in the Los Angeles area, also has been involved in VDHS history. The Verb was struggling with financial solvency in the late 1990s, and Mahony intervened to help save the South Central institution.

According to the Verbum Dei High School website:

“In the spring of 2000, Cardinal Mahony asked the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit Order) to bring their vast educational experiences and expertise to Verbum Dei High School.”

Moreover, Mahony has a long history – more than four decades – of service to people along the margins of America. He has been a long time champion in fighting for immigrants, for farm workers and for economic justice.  In recent years, Mahony became a controversial figure in the media surrounding the abuse scandal within Catholic church.

As VDHS prepares to meet with Cardinal Mahony, students will likely be learning in their theology classes of the cardinals’ role in the Catholic church.

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ASB’s Late Night Hoops fund-raiser to return in Mid-March

By Benjamin Rivera, Staff Writer

In the spirit of March Madness, Verbum Dei High School’s Associated Student Body will be hosting its annual Late Night Hoops basketball event in the gymnasium during undetermined dates in the latter weeks of March.

“It’s a basketball-themed event, but you don’t have to be good at basketball to have a good time.” said Maribel Andrade, ASB Coordinator.  “There will be plenty of games and ways to socialize in the gym.”

“We will be having a bracket challenge, a half-court shot challenge, dunk contests, and 7up games along with a snack table,” said Andrade. “Houses can also set up their own snack tables.”

“It’s a while away, so students can expect more activities to be added,” said Andrade.

With the basketball season underway, ASB has timed the event so that excitement for the sport is at its peak.

“The annual event has seen incredible turnout in previous years,” said Andrade. “It is definitely one of our most popular events.”

“It has to do with the timing,” she added. “You know, with the basketball season starting and March Madness, it’s a great fundraiser.”

Attendees from previous years agree with Andrade.

“I had a lot of fun last year,” said Syllene Rivera, a junior at Bishop Conaty, our Lady of Loretto High School.  “It was nice seeing my friends on the basketball team.”  Rivera plays  on the Varsity team at BCLHS.

“I think late-night hoop is a fun experience that brings the hoopers of Verbum Dei together,” said senior Ty’Jon James. James has won the Dunk Contest.

“I won the dunk contest last year, probably because I was one of the few that could actually reach the rim,” said James.  “But I won regardless!”

“I’ll probably show up; it’s a cool way to stay off the streets on a Friday night,” said sophomore Julian Liston.

As the event unfolds, more challenges, food, and prizes will be announced. In the meantime, students can enjoy the other social activities planned for February including “Cupid Has Bad Aim,” the Valentine’s Day-themed dance hosted by ASB.

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High School Placement Test administration set for January 25

By Brian Diaz, Staff Writer

Verbum Dei High School will host this year’s High School Placement Test on January 25. For over fifty years, high schools nationwide have used the High School Placement Test, also known as the HSPT, to assist with admissions decisions, scholarship selection, and curriculum placement. The HSPT is a comprehensive test for eighth graders for their placement in the ninth grade.

A variety of middle schools will be represented, particularly, those located in South Central, Los Angeles.  Approximately 50 students will be testing.

“I remember taking the HSPT,” said Brighton Chipley, VDHS freshman. “My school had given us spare time to prepare in class. I remember entering the classroom and how nervous I was; nonetheless, I took a breath and blocked out all negativity and did exceptionally well to be considered for admissions to Verbum Dei.”

Many private Catholic middle schools take the HSPT into account and do their best to prepare their students.

“We recognize how important of a role the HSPT takes, so we do our best to prepare all of our 8th graders in order for them to get an understanding of how the test works,” said Brian Johnson, 8th grade teacher at St. Michael’s School. “We review practice questions in our class in order for our students to know what to expect when taking the exam and to know what strategies to use to tackle questions they are unfamiliar with.”

A second administration is scheduled for Saturday, February 1, from 8:00 to 12:00 P.M. in classrooms in the 100 Corridor of VDHS.  Approximately 50 students are expected to attend.

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Eagles varsity basketball dunks Bosco Tech 74-37 with injury

By Massai Walker, Staff Writer

The Verbum Dei High School varsity Eagles basketball team had a dominating 74-37 win in league play against Bosco Tech High School on January 15.  With the win on Wednesday night, the Eagles improved their league record to 2-1 with wins over St Monica High School and Bosco Tech High School for a 5-7 overall record.

This is the best start of the season for Verbum Dei since the 2007-2008 season, when Verb started the year 7-5 under then-Head Coach Ronald Quiette.

“We executed the game plan Coach [Donley Minor] gave us,” said Amir Sevier.  “Our goal was to set the tone first and dictate the flow of the game.”

Coach Minor’s goal for his first year leading the Eagles is to build a new culture.

“Got to find some culture,” said Minor. “Create an actual base, create an actual foundation over here, and hopefully that will lead to wins.”

Although Verb took the 37-point win, starting forward Ty’Jon James suffered a broken wrist.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the recovery time for a broken wrist is 8-10 weeks, so it is highly unlikely that James will return to play for the Eagles.

On Friday the Eagles squad will take its talents to Downey for a league game against rival St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy (PMA), 7851 Gardendale Street.

Heading into the Friday night showdown, PMA comes into the game with a 2-1 league record and a 14-5 overall record. St. Pius is coming off a 59-52 victory over Mary Star of the Sea High School. Friday’s game is a battle for the second seed as the loser will drop to 4th place in the Santa Fe League standings. A lot is on the line for this early league game showdown.

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