I hope you won’t mind, because I feel so strongly about my son’s alma mater that if I don’t post about it today, I would sometime in the near future. However, I think now is a perfect time because Loyola High School is celebrating its 150th anniversary here in Los Angeles, making it the oldest continuously run educational institution in Southern California.
My son had a phenomenal education here, was taught by some outstanding teachers who were fabulous role models, met lifelong friends, and left the school as “a man for and with others”, as does each and every Loyola graduate.
Without getting into a lot of facts and figures, I’d like to tell you what I’ve learned about Loyola High School, and why I’m compelled to tell you about it in the first place.
When my son Steven was in middle school, our dentist would practically harass me each time we’d go in for an appointment, trying desperately to convince me to have Steven apply to a high school named Loyola near downtown Los Angeles. I had no idea where it was, or anything about it, except that our dentist was obsessed with it. He couldn’t stop telling me how fabulous Loyola was, and how much his sons loved it. I remember him recounting that his daughter had wanted to dress up like a boy so she, too, could attend (it’s an all-male Jesuit high school). I remember thinking he was nuts.
After checking out possibilities for my son during middle school, visiting Loyola High School during their open house, and meeting students and staff, I began to see an inkling of what the crazy dentist saw in LHS. Once we made the difficult decision of turning down a scholarship from another high school in order for Steven to attend Loyola, the mystery began to dissipate and the dentist didn’t seem quite so mental anymore. In hindsight, we had gone with our gut, and the decision to turn down that scholarship was one of the best we had ever made. Each one of the friends that Steven made at Loyola was more charming and impressive than the next; they were, and still are, truly outstanding young gentlemen.
Currently under the leadership of President Fr. Greg Goethals, Loyola isn’t just focused on education, although the academics here are top-notch: 99% of graduates go directly to higher education (96% of them to 4-year colleges) and has many notable alumni. On this campus, there is an atmosphere that I cannot describe: it combines friendship, loyalty, acceptance, compassion, and so many other characteristics that seem to exude from somewhere, and permeate the students, faculty, staff and even those who visit. (I’m sounding like that nutty dentist now, aren’t I?)
“The Grad at Grad” embodies six characteristics which each student should possess at graduation. There is a brotherhood which forms between the students, but it goes much further, and doesn’t stop with the boys–it reaches into their families and friends–it spills over into the schools, shelters and throughout the community where the boys volunteer. And they really volunteer. Take a look at this short clip on NBC Nightly News which will give you a glimpse into a part of their volunteer program.
Students aren’t the only ones who offer their services to and for others. The Loyola Mother’s Guild holds a luncheon/fundraiser each year, which is honestly, almost indescribable. I enjoyed participating in the Speech and Debate “table-decorating” for the luncheon each year, and as you can see from the photos below (which is the best way to showcase this event), there’s quite a bit more to it than decorating the tables. As well as providing for a cause, the mothers really enjoy preparing for the event, and making new friends. All the participants dress according to the table theme, and sometimes the decorating requires carpenters, electricians and plumbers to help put the tables together!
One of the most elaborate table decorating with which I was involved, was when the Speech and Debate mothers turned the Loyola stage into “Ye Olde Cub Pub”, complete with a realistic fireplace, stone and timber walls, and a suit of armor! The entire luncheon is always very impressive and raises money which helps to keep tuition low.
Since 2014 is Loyola’s 150th anniversary, April 11th has been designated “150th Day of Service” where students, parents (including me), alumni, staff and friends will spread throughout Los Angeles to offer their services on 100 projects, at places such as Homeboy Industries (founder Fr. Greg Boyle is a Loyola alumnus). It is truly difficult to imagine the number of lives that are touched by the ripple effect from Loyola High School, from the students and their four-year experience to everyone who benefits from the many service hours provided.
Loyola High School manages to accomplish so much more than so many other high schools, and as a parent, we learn over the years not to be surprised anymore. For example, the letter in the following photo is a copy of one which was sent from Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, congratulating Loyola on 150 years. When my friend Marie (another Loyola mother) and I heard this, we were amazed that he didn’t come to share his well wishes in person!
It has often been said that Loyola is “the best damn high school in Southern California” (by a reputable source, who shall remain unnamed, wink-wink, to those who know). However, I disagree: I think Loyola High School is world class. I am proud to have my very own Cub, and feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Loyola High School community.
The moral of the story is that if you have a seemingly nutty, overzealous dentist who recommends something to you, he may just know what he’s talking about! If you are in the LA area and have a son who will be going to high school in the future, don’t miss one of the best opportunities you may ever be able to give him. For more information on Loyola High School in Los Angeles, go to their website~
We will return to our regularly scheduled programming with my next post, and thank you for allowing me to go off topic. Coincidentally, St. Ignatius of Loyola was a Basque priest who began the Jesuit order, and a very typical Basque food happens to be salt cod. Yep, you guessed it, my next recipe will be for Insalata di Baccala, an Italian Salt Cod Salad, and I didn’t even plan that!
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