Let’s Blur the Line!

In 2015, I conducted a study about obstacles men of color face in pursuing a college degree. I found that college persistence is a complex issue and there is no one way to solve the national problem surrounding low graduation rates.   We should also take a hard look at how persistence is defined, but I digress.

There were some consistent themes in the narratives of the young men who served as participants of my study. These include preparedness, or lack thereof; institutional shortcomings; family, and the perception that the student’s presence was needed at home; and money, and all that comes along with limited resources.

Some of my recommendations were as follows:

  • The secondary school should work to ensure that students are prepared to handle college-level coursework, in an effort to avoid remedial classes. This entails both a rigorous and supportive curriculum that creates the space for students to develop their voices and participation in the process of their own learning.
  • Postsecondary institutions should have resources in place to support bicultural students at every level, but especially male students of color who have some of the highest college attrition rates. These resources should be promoted across the campus constantly and focused efforts should be made to attract students to these resources throughout the academic year.
  • Secondary counselors should ensure that parents are fully comfortable with financial obligations to the postsecondary institution their student chooses to attend.
  • It is important for secondary and postsecondary institutions to realize that there is a severe need for transition programming for male students of color who exit high school and enter college, especially first generation students. This programming should focus on the various needs of students as they engage this process, specifically locating academic resources, finding success at living away from home, becoming involved in activities, and making friends. It is imperative that bicultural students are also exposed to culturally relevant programming to help them transition to the new environment.

The last of these recommendations is critical. It is speaks to this intentional change that occurs, signifying child to adulthood, boy to manhood, high school to college. Lately, I have thought a great deal about transition and how to be effective in assisting students as they, excuse the cliché, leave the nest. But as I think more about it, the best way to transition a student is not to transition him at all. Instead, the goal should be to create an eight year educational program where the college experience is introduced to students as early as ninth grade. There are schools that do this well. For example, high schools that mandate that students take community college courses as a part of their graduation requirement accomplish several goals.   First, the schools are ensuring that students are comfortable taking college level courses. Next, high schools are allowing students to start working on credits for their degree early resulting in less financial debt later on. Finally, students are learning how to navigate a college campus, learning where the resources, thus becoming more likely to seek help once fully enrolled in college.

My team is currently working with postsecondary institutions to brainstorm ways of integrating the college experience into the high school curriculum. We are eager to expose our students to the possibilities of reimagining education by blurring the line that occurs at the midpoint between high school and college.

Happy Halloween from…The Verb, no Trick, all Treat!

There is no trick to identifying prospective students that are Verbum Dei eligible and Verbum Dei equipped! The treat is in our discovery when we find the students and their families that are willing to commit one hundred percent of their effort to the transition and transformation that takes place as our students become Verbum Dei Gentlemen. During this journey into the Harvest Season Verbum Dei High School has certainly planted the seed to reap the harvest. The Admissions Department is currently involved in the most important period of the year, the months October/November mark the time to identify prospective students. We call this, our priority round and this year we have identified an additional partner for the arduous task of recruiting the best candidates and their families.

Eliselda Gonzalez serves the Verbum Dei Community as our newly appointed Admissions Associate joining Admissions Coordinator, Monica Gonzales (no relation) in the remodeled Admissions Suite located in the administrative corridor, room 405. Ms. Ely is a welcome addition, particularly during this time as it is also the most hectic period of the school year for our department. This year, however we have prepared strategically detailed plans, divided our target communities and made a few more power moves to expand our coverage areas. We have included the additional eastern communities Downey and South Gate. We also have included the southern communities Rancho Dominguez and Paramount as part of our recruitment territory. With these strategies in place our expectation is for Verb’s enrollment to continue to increase as it has every year for the past six years. Within this growth of our territory our goals do not change we will continue to prepare our students to step into their college bound destiny identifying themselves as achievers.


Verb Goes to Washington D.C.

Each year in November, a few students and their chaperones head east to Washington, D.C. to participate in the annual Ignatian Family-Teach In. This year’s theme is “Mercy in Action” in keeping with Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy.

This gathering gives our students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of particular social justice issues. This year’s advocacy priorities are criminal- justice and immigration reform. Our students, along with students from other Jesuit high schools and universities from across the country, Mexico, El Salvador, and Canada, will gather to learn about the issues in greater detail, and advocate in meetings with members of Congress. We are currently scheduled to meet with Senator Diane Feinstein’s, and Representative Mimi Walters’ offices on Capitol Hill, and our students are busy conducting their research and practice sessions in preparation for these meetings.

It has become a tradition during this trip to fit visits to Verbum Dei alumni who are attending area universities into our schedule. We will be visiting, and taking campus tours, with class of 2015 alum, Nicholas Spates, and class of 2013, Michael Martin, who currently attend Georgetown University, and class of 2015 alum, Clifford Peeples, who is attending Howard University.

Often times, these trips come with a lot of “firsts” for our students; first time in Washington DC, first time speaking with congressional representatives and/or their aides, and even first time on an airplane. It is an amazing opportunity to experience the political process in the role of advocate, in the keeping with our mission of developing men for and with others.