Verbum Dei High School

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Verbum Dei High School
11100 South Central Avenue
Watts, Los Angeles, California
United States
Coordinates 33°56′5″N 118°15′12″W / 33.93472°N 118.25333°W / 33.93472; -118.25333Coordinates: 33°56′5″N 118°15′12″W / 33.93472°N 118.25333°W / 33.93472; -118.25333
Type Private, all-male
Motto Working in the Jesuit Tradition;
Ad majorem Dei gloriam
(For the greater glory of God.)
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic;
Society of Jesus
Established 1962; 55 years ago (1962)
President Rev. Michael Mandala, S.J.
Principal Brandi Odom Lucas, Ed.D.
Faculty 51
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 325
Average class size 17.8
Student to teacher ratio 12:1
Color(s) Blue and gold         
Slogan The School That Works for the 21st Century!
Nickname Verb
Team name Eagles
Accreditation Western Association of Schools and Colleges[1]
Newspaper Present Dei
Tuition $2,700
Affiliation Cristo Rey Network
Dean of Counseling & Student Affairs Martinique Starnes
Dean of Admissions Lorenz Willis
Athletic Director David Banuelos
Corp Work Study Program Director Cristina Cuellar Villanueva
Football Coach David Banuelos

Verbum Dei High School, "the Verb”, is an all-male Catholic, Jesuit, college and career preparatory school that includes a corporate internship program, serving young men of Watts and the surrounding communities who are economically and academically under-served. It is operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles with the sponsorship of the California Province of the Society of Jesus.[2]

Verbum Dei is known for sending its graduates to some of the more selective colleges in the United States and has held a 100% success rate for sending graduating seniors to college.[3] Its alumni have gone on to schools such as Stanford, Georgetown, Yale, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and USC. The school is located in the Watts residential district of Los Angeles, California, a few blocks north of Interstate 105 (I-105) and a few miles east of Interstate 110 (I-110).


Verbum Dei was founded in 1962 by the Society of the Divine Word with the permission and recommendation of Cardinal James McIntyre to serve the educational needs of the black community of South Los Angeles. The school was named after one of Jesus' epithets, Verbum Dei ("the Word of God"). Bishop Joseph Francis, S.V.D., led the founding team and was the school's first principal. The Society maintained a presence at the school until December 2006, when the long-time Verbum Dei faculty/staff member Br. Richard "Rich" Morrill, S.V.D.,[4] left because of terminal illness. It remains to be seen if the Society will provide another of its members to Verbum Dei.

At some point, the school expanded its mission in order to also serve the educational needs of the Latino community of South Los Angeles.

Verbum Dei's performance began to decline in the 1980s — probably due to the urban decay of South Los Angeles that began in the 1970s — and suffered further during the neighborhood gang wars of the 1990s; it experienced declining enrollment and instability within the administration. However, it received significant financial help in the mid-1990s and improvements were made in various buildings on campus even as new buildings were added.

In 2000, Cardinal Roger Mahony asked the California Province of the Society of Jesus to assist in the administration of the school, asserting that the school had to improve significantly by 2006 to avoid permanent shutdown. Verbum Dei became recognized as a Jesuit school at that point.[5] Leading the Jesuit team was Rev. Bill Wood, S.J. The school became a member of the Cristo Rey Network and adopted its current scholastic model (see Corporate Work Study Program below) in 2002. The school has joint accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Western Catholic Education Association (WCEA). Verbum Dei also has accreditation by the California Province of the Society of Jesus.[2]

The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary have been providing a sister to the Verbum Dei staff for several years.

Corporate Work Study Program[edit]

Like other members of the Cristo Rey Network, Verbum Dei assigns students to jobs that are "donated" by local white-collar companies and non-profit entities in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This experience is intended to acclimate students to corporate culture, build their character and provide a motive for seeking higher education and productive careers.

The money earned by the students defrays the cost of the students' education. Participating organizations give one “full-time equivalent” student internship for a fee of $28,000. The position is filled by carefully selected young men from low-income families with an average work attendance of 99 percent. Each student works five full days a month on a rotational basis, and they attend classes and participate in extracurricular activities the remaining days. Ninety-seven percent of the student interns receive a performance evaluation of good or excellent. While almost all students benefit from various internship experiences, 37 percent of seniors have remained at the company they were placed with in their freshman year.[6]

Verbum Dei takes care of thel transportation, insurance, workers' compensation, and work permits associated with the student interns. The CWSP staff is assigned to an account as a program coordinator to co-manage the students. This program also offers corporate partners the social and strategic benefit of enabling them to make a tangible difference in the lives of young men seeking a better future through quality education and work experience in a corporate environment.[7]


Verbum Dei High School has a rich history of athletics success, including national championships in basketball.[8]

  • Basketball: CIF champions – 1969 through 1974, 1979, 1994-1995, 1998-1999, 2002-2003; runners-up – 1978, 1990, 1993, 1996, 2004
  • American football: CIF champions – 1981, 1982, 2006
  • Track & field: CIF champions – 1993, 1997, 1998; runners-up – 1979, 1983

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ WASC-ACS. "WASC-Accrediting Commission for Schools". Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b California Province
  3. ^ "Verbum Dei Celebrates National Commitment Day", Los Angeles Sentinel, May 27, 2011
  4. ^ Morrill
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times, 2 August 2013.
  6. ^ CWSP success. Accessed 8 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Quick Facts about the Corporate Work Study Program" Archived February 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., Verbum Dei website
  8. ^ "Verbum Dei CIF Championships" Archived July 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine., Verbum Dei website
  9. ^ "L.A. Basketball Legend: Raymond Lewis" at Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  10. ^ Player biography, UCL Bruins website. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  11. ^ a b Sean Waters, "State Crown Signals Verbum Dei's Return to Glory : In the 1970s, the Eagles Soared With Some of the Greatest Squads Ever to Compete in the Southern Section", Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1995. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  12. ^ Kenny Fields at Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  13. ^ Kenneth Miller, "Hardy Nickerson: Former Steeler living the hearty life after football", Los Angeles Sentinel, January 29, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  14. ^ Diane Haithman, "Watts' Pop stars", Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  15. ^ Profile at
    "Against All Odds, Miller Marked for Success" Continuum, Vol. 9 No. 1 Summer 1999, University of Utah. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  16. ^ Profile at Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  17. ^ Profile at Retrieved October 22, 2013.
    Profile at Hawks pages. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  18. ^ Profile at Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  19. ^ Huskers