Loving the Mission!

     The Mission Advancement Office was established in 2001. If you had asked me then if I thought we would be where we are today – I never in my wildest dreams would have dreamt it.
     I have seen some incredible changes at Verbum Dei in my 13 years here. Most recently we were able to complete a Capital Campaign project that included renovation of two of our classroom wings. This project was a very high priority as the 1962 vintage buildings have been minimally refurbished since 1962. And with our student population growth projections (from 330 to 400 students), we simply had to do it. Phase two of this project included the renovation of the athletic facilities. The upgrades included new flooring, doors, electrical and plumbing, lighting, monitor mounts with new monitors. The renovation is indescribable. You have to see this firsthand so come down and visit our fine campus; meet our outstanding faculty and staff; and, most importantly, talk with our eager college-bound young gentlemen. You’ll quickly remember why you volunteer, donate, and support Verbum Dei High School. And you’ll see there is no organization out there doing quite the incredible work we are doing in Watts. To schedule a visit, call me at 323-564-6651 Ext. 5110 or email me at sandrade@verbumdei.us. You’ll grow to respect our mission even more!
     There is never a dull day in our department. Our Mission Advancement Team consists of: Paul W. Hosch, Vice President of Mission Advancement, Stephanie Andrade, Advancement Associate, Michelle Cordova, Advancement Assistant, and our two remarkable student workers, Michael Pineda and Darius Bailey.
 

 

 
P.S. Don’t forget our Mardi Gras Awards Dinner and Auction on March 5, 2015 at the Biltmore Hotel beginning at 5:30PM.  Don’t miss this fun event:

http://www.verbumdei.us/supportus/mardigras.html

Grad at Grad Week

     The Verb Spirit is alive and thrives. In the midst of academic pursuits, students showcased their talent and enthusiasm during Spirit Week and Grad at Grad Week. In seamless transitions, the students and faculty went from classroom engagement to speaker events and riotous gamesmanship. Though a myriad of moments have left impression during this year, this last week resonated more than most. A tangible energy courses through the student body in the classroom and in extracurricular activities, all the more impressive considering the rigorous schedules each student undertakes. One of the most memorable moments occurred when the keynote speaker, Ernie G, from the Grad at Grad week asked the students to raise their hands if it would make their parents or guardians proud beyond measure to see them go to college and find success in and beyond the school. The hands shot up without hesitation in a beautiful understanding of the individuality and solidarity in the dreams carried by the students and their families.
     In a week during which so many members of the Verb family reached out and gave extra time and presence, it is easy to see what makes this a special community. Thanks to the leadership partaken by ASB, invested parents, faculty and staff, and especially Mr. Jovel for his dedication and organization. During the week, we had small groups meet after school and discuss and express various aspects from the Verbum Dei Grad at Grad Philosophy. Students from different years met and shared in confidence their experiences in and out of the classroom in relation to the Grad at Grad pillars. Upper classmen took a nurturing leadership role that led to candid dialogues voicing concerns and personal triumphs.
     One of the more encouraging characteristics I continue to witness in the English 4A course and Writing courses I teach is the ability for the students to see different perspectives. As writers, the ability to see the world from different views, as a witness and as someone engaged with their world, opens the mind to ideas beyond those solely from experience. These young men continue to impress with their resolve and willingness to question what the world has for them and what they have for their community.

The Beauty of Art

     This is an exciting time for the art department at “The Verb.”  This year we are blessed to have a new member in our department, Mr. Alejandro Baez S.J. Mr. Baez was given the task of leading the first ever Senior Music Appreciation class with a choral emphasis. His exuberance for the choral and pedagogical arts have led to a great choral group that, at this early juncture, has performed to the lauds of the entire school. Bravo to Mr. Baez.

     As the year slowly unfolds, I look forward to the Christmas Concert/ Art Show on December 5th which will showcase the works of our choral and our visual artists. This should be a superb event that will display the talent and hard work of our students.

     A personal highlight of the year so far took place a few weeks ago. The Verb Teacher Band gave its first official performance at this year’s Back-to-School night. The band made up of John Stradley, George and Ken Favell, Billy Traber, Max Olmedo, and yours truly, rocked out to an audience of teachers and students. Each teacher showed off their musical prowess and proclivity for rocking out!

     I am proud to be part of a school that embraces the artistic talents of all of its members from faculty/staff to its youngest freshman. My hope is that, as the year progresses, the arts will become an even more prevalent part of the culture giving way to various ways in which all members of our community can express who they are through their art.

The Physics in Sports

   If you are wondering what high school students do in a science class, here is a good example – freshmen students, under the direction of Mr. Traber, are making sense of the world around them by investigating physics phenomena in their everyday life with an emphasis on sports. Sports and Physics? Correct. In fact, physics plays a dominant role in the way athletes perform.  Here is how Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, describes football in Football Physics: The Science of the Game by Timothy Gay, “While some observers see only carnage and chaos, brilliant athletic performances and bone jarring collisions, the science-minded see the field as a working laboratory”.

   Mr. Traber’s terrific past experience as a professional baseball player allows him to engage students and relate every physics topic to sports! Real data and scenarios from track and field, baseball, basketball, soccer and many other sports are the context in which students develop skills, demonstrate their understanding of physics laws and discuss physics concepts.

   A couple of weeks ago, freshmen students played the role of a football analyst. Their job consisted of providing the team manager with a graphic display of football players’ speeds. By analyzing players’ 40 yard dash time, students were able to apply their knowledge of motion, calculate the speed of each player and represent the data on Microsoft Excel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freshmen students graph their results on football players’ speed on Microsoft Excel

Timothy, Gay. Football Physics: The Science of the Game. Emmaus: Rodale Press, Inc., 2004.

Updates from the Social Science Department

   My role at the Verb has taken on several forms: from Freshman Writing and English, to US History, to Economics and Government, Senior English, Social Science Chair and New Teacher Instructional Coach – I have truly enjoyed serving in each of these capacities.

   This year is already shaping up to be quite busy and interesting. With regard to the National Honor Society, my co-advisor, Jesse Jovel, and I, are currently vetting a new crop of members for the Verbum Dei chapter.  Once selected, these gentlemen will be inducted into the chapter with a candle lighting ceremony.

   This is my 6th year serving as coordinator of the Student Poll Worker Program. Approximately 30 Verbum Dei gentlemen have signed up to participate in the program whereby they will be working in their local election precincts as volunteers, assisting their neighbors with the voting process this November 4th. Not only is this a great way to be a “Man for Others” by giving of their time to the community, but students can also include this service on their college applications.

   I am also happy to report that four seniors, Daquan Bass, Nicholas Spates, Zachary Byrge, and Jon Parra, and I, will be attending the World Affairs Council luncheon on November 10th to hear Mr. Bill Clinton speak. The Verb students, along with other area high school students will have an opportunity to speak with Mr. Clinton in a Q&A prior to the luncheon after which he will address the entire body of guests. This is quite a unique experience for these students who will prepare their questions ahead of time in order to make the most of the opportunity.

   The Social Science Department welcomes its newest member this year; Ms. Lizette Bernal of the CWSP is teaching US History as she pursues a Master’s Degree in Education.  Our department has embraced Verb’s emphasis on literacy and is implementing strategies to develop and improve our students’ reading and writing skills.  Mr. George Favell (World History), and I attended a writing literacy workshop at our network headquarters in Chicago this summer and returned with a bounty of ideas and strategies to implement in our classrooms. And in the true “Verb” spirit, we are sharing these with other teachers in all departments.

New Beginnings

NEW BEGINNINGS –

Greetings Verbum Dei Family,

On September 18, I was given the honor and the responsibility of being inaugurated as President of Verbum Dei High School.  What follows are the thoughts that I expressed at the installation ceremony.

I have great appreciation for the community of the Verb, and I hope my words can help you understand the reason that I am committed to the success of the school.

Thank you.

    Friends, Benefactors, Corporate Partners, Students, and the most wonderful faculty and staff with whom anyone could hope to work – Thank you for coming this morning.

    I want to especially thank Mr. Rick Caruso (brilliant entrepreneur, and a focused philanthropist) and Mayor Garcetti (represented by his Chief of Staff, Ana Guerrero), who are the principal supporters of this event.  It was actually Mayor Garcetti’s idea to have some event that would focus on Verbum Dei and the wealth of untapped potential that exists is South Los Angeles. I want to thank Fr. Michael Gilson, Assistant to the Jesuit Provincial for Pre-secondary and Secondary Education for being here for this installation.

    I could not be a prouder than to be the fourth Jesuit president of this amazing high school. I would like to briefly reflect on the history of Verbum Dei High School and then offer a few comments about my vision for the future.

    1962 – The Society of the Divine Word (Societatis Verbum Dei) was given permission by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to found a high school in Watts. They did a tremendous job to educate generations of fine young men – surviving a number of challenges including the riots in both 1965 and 1992.

    Same book, different chapter.

    2000 – The Divine Word fathers and brothers had to withdraw from the school because of lack of personnel and because the financial picture had changed. That year, Cardinal Mahony offered the school to the Society of Jesus and suggested that the Jesuits explore the new Work-Study, College Prep model of Catholic School that had been founded by the Jesuits in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.

    Verbum Dei became the third school in what is today known as the Cristo Rey Network which is made up of 28 secondary schools across the country.  These schools are staffed by a variety of religious orders of men and women, and all operate on the same model of education. It took some years to implement the model completely at the Verb, but under the leadership of Fr. Bill Muller for the last six years – 100% of the graduates of Verbum Dei have had both corporate work experience and have been accepted to college.  Amazing!

    With the advent of the Jesuits, Verbum Dei continued as a school of the Archdiocese with the addition of Two Key Networks:

    First, Cristo Rey Network (28 schools growing at the rate of two a year) – It provides our model of education:

    Serving the underserved – if the student and his guardian want to be here, we will find a way to make it happen

    College Prep – academically rigorous to prepare young men for post-secondary education

    Work Study – professionally focused to prepare young men to take their place in future careers.

    Accountability – requiring all students to perform to the absolute best of their ability

Second, The Jesuit Network – an international family which has various institutions in the Los Angeles area that include:

    Loyola High School

    Loyola Marymount University

    Blessed Sacrament Parish

    Dolores Mission Parishes

    Proyecto Pastoral

    Homeboy Industries,

    The Novitiate of the Three Companions

    The Loyola Institute for Spirituality

    The Jesuit effort with its many distinct but mutually supportive ministries provides the guiding values for Verbum Dei High School

    What do we hope to accomplish?

    For the School:

    We want to be not only a safe harbor for our students, but also a good neighbor in the Watts community,

    Partnering with Urban Compass, LAPD, Operation Progress, the office of Council Member Buscaino, and with the many civic and non-profit organizations in the community – to create a better future for all our children and all our people

    In addition, we want all Los Angeles to see the Verb as the most unique and innovative secondary educational institution in Southern California.

    For the Students:

    Guided by the Jesuit vision for the Graduate at Graduation we challenge the students to be:

    Open to Growth (open and reflective to a variety of perspectives and experiences)

    Spiritual (aware of God’s unconditional love, who feels free to profess that faith in his own religious tradition)

    Intellectually motivated (a life-long learner)

    Loving (committed to being a man “with and for others”)

    Work Experienced (who has learned the value and importance of being dependable and responsible in the work place.)

    Committed to doing Justice (confident that he can make a difference in the world through his life)

    In a word – to be all that we know that he can be

    Bottom line: What is my vision for Verbum Dei and our students:

    In 10 to 12 years I want the students that are seated in the bleachers today to join with the friends, benefactors and corporate sponsors that are sitting in the chairs in this gym.

    I want them to be the civic leaders, the business people, the clergy, the teachers, the police officers, the corporate sponsors and benefactors for future generations of Verbum Dei Students.

    I want these students to join with you – our valued guests – to make a difference in this world; that is,

    People who take seriously the prophetic words of Fredrick Douglass, former slave turned orator, statesman and abolitionist, who said that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

    People who instead of complaining about the problems with the youth of today are insightful and committed to challenge and support our youth to live up to their full potential

    That is my vision for the school, for the students, and for our partnering community.

Many Blessings to the readers of these words and to all the members of the wonderful community of Verbum Dei.

Homecoming 2013: A testament of spirit and resolve

A week of school spirit and celebration of all things Verb ended Friday night at the
Verbum Dei High School home field at Southwest College, but did the spirit end then and there? I think not.

There is a new mindset evident in the varsity football squad this year. The squad’s 2-1 league record says much; however, that better than average record is only a part of the story. In years past, the varsity football teams have been prone to becoming discouraged when the tide of a game goes against them. While most teams begin their games with exuberance and zeal, those positive manifestations can and do fade rather quickly when the fates deal an unwelcomed hand. Starting well is easy, but finishing well requires commitment, resilience, and, yes, spirit.

The 2013-2014 varsity team has all of those qualities and more. Behind 21-14 at the half, Verb rallied to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. It was a narrow lead at that time, 42-40, and the clock still showed ample time for a LaSalle scoring drive. But the Verb defense did not throw in the towel, did not give up, rather it stood its ground yard by yard with determination and focus.

From my vantage point in the stands, it was inspiring to see. There is a refreshing spirit alive and well at Verbum Dei High School in the form of a tireless squad – many playing both sides of the ball – in a quarterback who would just as well be the one receiving the passes rather than the one sending them aloft, and in a team that generally refuses to give up or to let an adversary run roughshod over them.

I am not alone in recognizing this spirit, for after the squad’s narrow defeat, many of the dozens of the diehard spectators stood in solidarity with their team as the recited St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity:

“Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.”

A standing ovation accompanied the close of the prayer in recognition of the team’s valiant spirit, its never-say-die resolve, and its gritty determination in the face of adversity.

Coach Miller is to be commended for fostering a new mindset in the varsity squad. They, under his influence, see the power of teamwork and of a positive attitude. When the breaks were beating the boys, they found the resolve to continue and see the game through to the best of their ability. In doing so, they did Saint Ignatius and their school proud.

Verb celebrates Latino culture

The Verb community celebrated Latino Heritage Month from September 17th – October 12th. Students, faculty and staff came together for a time of learning, sharing and having fun.

Immigration is one of the topics that the Latino Student Union and the Latino Heritage Committee has embraced to share with students. In the classrooms, students were challenged to break down the word “undocumented” and describe the words, feelings and images that come to mind when it is said. For many, the term took on a new meaning as they now understand it. Students were open to learning more about those without legal status while being respectful of their status. While for others, a new found commitment to the undocumented was formed. Students also read about prominent leaders in Latin American culture and discovered that the accomplishments of Latinos are many.

During the month-long festivities, students were introduced to Operation Dream, an organization that collects rice, beans and canned meat to send meals to orphans in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. While as a school we fell short of our goal, we showed that our community is one that loves our neighbors and gives without expecting anything in return.

Second period classes were in competition with each other for a bag of sweets if they answered a question about Latino culture correctly. During lunch, a mechanical bull brought students together as they competed to stay on the bull the longest. After school, students enjoyed the flavors of sugar and cinnamon on churros.

We will continue celebrating Latino Heritage all year long, but we culminated the month on Friday with a mass celebrated by Fr. Ted Gabrielli from Dolores Mission. He challenged us to look beyond racial status to fully embrace our brothers and sisters. He urged us to celebrate each other and accept our differences as gifts of God.

After mass, our parents prepared a tasty meal of enchiladas, rice, beans, horchata and dessert for all to enjoy. A group Salvadorans and Dominicans performed for our students and even encouraged some brave students to dance with them.

A busy month for Verb, but full of culture!

Thoughts from the Humanities Department

A few years ago a student in his junior year remarked in US History class that he really liked history and was thinking about becoming a teacher when he graduated from college. “Wow! That is so awesome, Jesse!” I replied. The next year, the same student, now a senior, and I were having a conversation about his college plans, “I would really like to come back to Verb” he said, “and teach US history.” “So, what you’re saying is that you want my job?!?” I replied jokingly. “Oh, No! Nothing like that, Ms. McDonald” Jesse responded. Well, I am happy to share with you that Jesse Jovel was successful in his plan to return to Verbum Dei as Mr. Jovel; our new US History teacher! And, I am happy to add, that I still have a job as well.

It seems inadequate to call what I do here at “the Verb” a job. It is so much more than that; it is a passion, a mission, a source of fulfillment and joy every single day. Verbum Dei is a dynamic community where we are challenged to innovate within our sphere of influence, whether that is in our departments, classrooms or extracurricular activities. As such, I am very excited about the establishment of the new Humanities Department. We have combined the English and Social Science Departments and instituted policies designed to integrate curriculum and increase student achievement.

Tech Insight and Men for Others

Fr. Muller has often mentioned in his liturgies the idea of “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Beyond its powerful spiritual message, that framework equally resonates with me when I think of the relationship I see with our young men of Verb and technology. I’ve professed to anyone who’s asked me – with sometimes astonished looks – and believed it to be true; our students are exposed to the latest trends in technology more than we think, and have high expectations for the interaction of technology and education in the classroom.

So, recently in our new school year orientation, my assertion was to be put on public trial. Gathered in front of me was our entire student body. The purpose of our meeting was to inform them on some new policies involving tech this coming year. I also wanted to introduce to our boys our latest addition to the technological arsenal at Verbum Dei: Ipads. I knew they would be excited to hear the Ipads were ready to be used in the classroom — Their eyes certainly widened and many edged up in their seats when the word came. I felt compelled however – and completely off my script – to ask the boys: “How many of you have ever worked with and used an Ipad before?” So here was a moment of truth – would my contention hold true. How many hands were going to rise? I believed it, but will I see it? Well, there wasn’t much hesitation – and the result was clearly pronounced – as dozens and dozens of hands shot to the air. I formed a wry smile, and blurted on the microphone the first reaction in my head, “Right on!”

Later, I was meeting with a fellow staff member. She told me she appreciated me asking that question during the orientation. What she liked most about the poll – and its visceral results – was the reaction it produced with some of the faculty members present. You see, there are some teachers and staff members interacting closely with our students on a daily basis – who know much about their lives outside of academics, who may not fully realize how technologically savvy Verb students actually are. It belies what many of us may think socioeconomically – but our young men know and follow the latest tech trends and reach out to them wherever possible. My interaction with our students has proved to me that they have a thirsty desire to utilize technology and recognize how tech can be used educationally. I know this most simply by the questions they ask our IT group. I can tell they follow the newest developments in the tech world.

What we need to appreciate is that the Men of Verb have been surrounded by tech their whole lives; hence, the classroom should be no different. As IT Director, my mission must take this fact in consideration. Not only must IT provide the means for educators and students to access information and assimilate it in a timely and efficient manner, we must in parallel prepare our young men – in all aspects – to become tomorrow’s meaningful contributors to humanity. Thus, they must be exposed to and comfortable using all the tools – tech included – that in turn form Men for Others.