It’s that time of year again! Seniors are both excited and nervous as they wrap up their four years at the Verb and start making preparations for where they’ll be off to next. Juniors can’t believe they’re really on the verge of being seniors. Sophomores are finally going to be upperclassmen, but they know that it brings with it great responsibility, as SATs near and their grades are that much more important for college applications. And the time has almost arrived for freshmen when they will no longer be the “new” or youngest students on campus. However, standing between now and all those “almosts” are final exams. When the temptation is strong to simply look ahead, students need to be focused on the present and making sure they prepare well for finals so that they can finish the year strong.

This tension between the present and the future, however, is not limited to students. Faculty and staff feel this as well. I, too, feel the tension between ending this year strong with my current students and looking forward to next year. In fact, we are currently in the midst of interviewing students for next year’s JEDIS.

JEDIS stands for Jesuit Educated Disciples In Service and they are our student campus ministry team. They help plan and lead retreats, liturgies, schoolwide prayer, and pretty much everything faith-based on campus. Each May we go through the application process to select our JEDIS for the following year. This year, we received about double the number of applicants than we can actually take, meaning about 10% of Verb students applied for JEDIS. This is doubly impressive since applications are only available to two grade levels. Due to the maturity and mentoring skills needed to be in JEDIS, it is a leadership opportunity reserved for juniors and seniors, which means only current sophomores and juniors can apply. Though it is always difficult to tell good students whose hearts are in the right place that they didn’t make into JEDIS, we are proud that so many of our young men find so much meaning in both their faith and their responsibility to their Verb brothers.

As evidenced by the large pool of applicants, JEDIS has grown into a respected leadership group since it was founded nine years ago. Eduardo Landa, class of 2020 and one of our current JEDIS who is re-applying for next year, says that “JEDIS has been a great opportunity for me to grow as a leader and to help my Verb brothers grow as a community.” What makes JEDIS work is not only the brotherhood amongst the JEDIS themselves, but their desire to bring that brotherhood to all on campus. Eduardo added that JEDIS, “helped me to understand that my overall purpose here on earth is not just to learn about God, but also to act on my faith.” I am proud of how the JEDIS put their faith into action as they lead their Verb brothers in both faith sharing and fun activities. They remain positive examples on our campus of “men with and for others” who put their faith into action. It is both a sad and proud moment to have to say goodbye to our graduating JEDIS, but I also look forward to the energy and spirit of our new team for next year.

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Giving a voice to students is important to all of us at Verbum Dei.  Our young men need chances and encouragement– as all people do – the express ideas and interests they feel are important to them.  Verbum Dei is no different from other schools; we historically have done a magnificent job offering a traditional variety of clubs, sports and service interactions that allow our boys to show off their talents.  These opportunities are extremely important to their growth.

We recently analyzed feedback however that showed a sub-set of our students is not involved in extra-curricular activities.  Sports may not be their thing, and clubs may not interest all.  I feel however, some of those students still want chances to shine at things that interest them.   We have to continue to look for ways to be inclusive with our students, and I recently found evidence of a team activity trending in high schools that may have a chance to take root.

Next fall, technology is looking to take the lead in forming an ESports club.  What is ESports?  Esports is a growing force in the entertaining and video gaming community where teams compete against one another playing sanctioned video games.  The games require teams of players to compete together in competitions that require rich layers of planning, strategy, communication, delegation, and instruction.  Players need to coordinate actions together – much like other team sports – in order to succeed.  These – I believe – are transferrable life skills applicable to many careers and opportunities in real life.

We recently sent out a survey to our students seeking levels of interest and experience in video gaming.  It comes as no surprise to any of us that our boys are quite enthusiastic about it.  Many report having great interest in – and knowledge of – the specific games played in official competitions.  I believe Esports can provide a way for these students who normally are not involved in club or sports to give them a chance to fit in, and succeed when utilizing skills they are good at.

If the club is approved next year to compete against other high schools in official competitions, we will look to fund raise for computing equipment and entrance fees.  Keep your fingers crossed.