Among the numerous professions, I have chosen to be an educator. The most amazing aspect of being an educator is not only what I teach but, most importantly, whom I teach.  God has placed me here at Verbum Dei High School to serve the underserved and to equip them to go and pursue a higher education so that they can have equal opportunities in corporate America. I strongly believe that I can make a difference in the lives of every student that goes through my class.  I know first hand that education is one thing that can change the course of an individual’s life.

Education is essential in our society.  That is why these young men must be encouraged to continue to pursue their dreams through education. Our future society needs trained professionals in order for it to continue to run.  I pray that one day Verb graduates look back, remembering where they came from, having become educated and pro-active men who want to make a positive difference in their communities, society, and the world.

Art Department Update

Happy Winter,

As we enter our last semester of the year and the last semester for our seniors, I am reminded of how art functions as a way of breaking boundaries. Over the course of the last semester, my students have learned how to analyze and ultimately appreciate several genre’s of music, most of which they had never heard prior.  They now use language like “timbre” and “texture” in their descriptions of music. It is impressive to hear musical vocabulary of such a high caliber at the high school level.  I’ve played some of their favorites by artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole and have asked them to make connections between the instrumental accompaniment, rhythm, and lyrics in order to come to a deeper understanding of the message the artists’ are conveying.

This semester we are delving into the different periods of music history in order to come to a better understanding of how the Western world hears music. It’s wonderful to see our students come to love works of composers like Desprez, Mozart, Haydn, and become avid listeners of Puccini and Debussy. Through our art classes at “The Verb,” our students learn to be well rounded by combining their love of contemporary music with their appreciation for standard repertoire. Art provides them the intellectual tools needed to engage a world unlike their own by bridging that cultural divide that often is created between the world associated with Classical music and “Pop” music.  By doing this, the students realize the validity of their experience and feel confident in knowing that they belong everywhere whether it is  Puccini at the Ahmanson,  Stravinsky at the Disney Concert Hall,  a Sinatra celebration  at “The Bowl”, or a rock concert at Staples. They are secure in eating at a 5 star restaurant in Beverly Hills or getting a burger at Hawkins down the street from “The Verb.” Being exposed to art gives them the confidence to know that they belong everywhere because they are men with and for others.




Corporate Work Study New Year Update

The New Year begins an important time within the Verbum Dei Corporate Work Study Department.

It is the time of year where we begin the process of ensuring that every Verb student is partnered with a corporation for the 2016 – 2017 school year. Internally, we call this ‘full employment’.

The importance of ‘full employment’ is two-fold. 1) It ‘affords’ every student the opportunity to pursue a Verbum Dei education – that wants one 2) It allows students to fulfill their mandatory Cristo Rey network work-study curricular requirement.

As such, I will soon be reaching out to all of our current corporate partners to gauge your interest in continuing to support the Verbum Dei Work Study Program for the 2016 -2017 school year.

As well, I would like to thank all of you for your many forms of continued support for Verbum Dei High School, and underscore the truly transformative effect that all of our current corporate partners have on the young men of Watts.    


The Story of the Magi

As we enter 2016, and we reflect upon our past and plan for the future, I decided to share my homily with you from Epiphany Sunday which fell on January 3. The story of the Magi (Wise Men) is our story at Verbum Dei as we try to follow the light in the midst of so much darkness in the world today. We follow the light because we are a people of faith – a hopeful people. Happy New Year.

We have done a good job of making the Magi story suitable for Greeting Cards, yet the real story is much more personal. It is a story of our lives. Is there any doubt that we, like the magi, are on a journey?

The Gospel of Jesus always challenges us to expand our horizons:

Last Sunday, at the Feast of the Holy Family, we were challenged to broaden our understanding of “family” to include the wide variety of loving and committed relationships that exist in our society today. Today, Epiphany Sunday, the Magi challenge us to broaden our understanding of the definition of “God’s people”. With whom do we travel on our life’s journey? Where is God leading us as individuals and as a people?

Along with the Journey motif, Light and Darkness are themes that appear often in the Scripture: In today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (60:1-6): “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.”

“See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines.” In the Gospel from Matthew (2:1-12) – The Magi follow the light of a star that stopped over the place where the child of light lay. The Magi did not go back to Herod but took another way home because Herod represented the darkness that would try to snuff out the light. The interplay of themes of light and darkness is continuous in the words of Scripture, and in our life’s journey. Often we experience moments of light that tell of God’s guiding presence. Just as often, we experience moments of darkness that try to snuff out a personal God from our lives.

The message of the Magi takes on new meaning for us in the context of world events:

Matthew makes it clear that the Messiah has not been born solely for the sake of the Chosen People. The Gentiles – the Pagans – were seen as part of God’s People as well.

Paul states it well in the Letter to the Ephesians (3:2-6), “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body”

What Paul describes theologically, Matthew tells in story form: The first people who come to recognize and worship Jesus are not his own people—not the Jewish King, Herod; not the learned chief priests and scribes who can accurately quote the Scriptures and have all the requisite knowledge but none of the necessary faith.

God sent the Wise Men a message that caused them to ride camels half way across the known world. These foreigners, these outsiders, followed God’s light through the darkness to arrive at Salvation.

In the midst of the darkness that can obscure our world, we have come to see that God’s light can shine through all our fellow travelers, whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims (Sunni or Shiite), or Undocumented Workers – they are our brothers and sisters.

In our journey through life, God’s light shines through the darkness to show us a new way of seeing the human community: Can we respond as the Magi did to this new light and see Jesus in the face of the innocent child and the helpless travelers? Can we see the light in the faces of all of God’s people here in South Los Angeles, in the United States and around the world?

Let us open our hearts to see God’s light shine through the darkness that we ourselves often create in this world.

Let us follow the light!