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The latest news from Bishop O'Connell High School

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  • 02/03/17--12:37: Young Team, Lots of Promise

    Some of the more popular blogs through the years have been Q&A sit-downs with our coaches. That noted, this week's The Week That Was continues that tradition with an interview with swimming head coach Joe Smolinske.

    THE WEEK THAT WAS: You are a first-year head coach on the scholastic level here at O'Connell. Give us – the readers and myself – a little background on yourself.

    COACH JOE SMOLINSKE: I began swimming at age five and continued through high school and into college at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. After graduating, I studied Sport Administration at Xavier University, where I earned a Master of Education, while also serving as a graduate assistant coach for the men's and women's swimming teams.

    TWTW: And how did it go? Are you pleased with the season so far? What have you learned about yourself and your team over the last couple months?

    COACH SMOLINSKE: I'm very pleased with the direction of the team. We have over 65 student/athletes, and each of them brings a unique set of talents to the program. The team is very young, and our freshman and sophomore classes will need to step up these last few weeks and especially next season.

    TWTW: Swimming has been unique through the years in that it has been a non-cut sport, one of the few at the school. It is my understanding that you have instilled some new guidelines/requirements for participation. Would you mind sharing those with us?

    COACH SMOLINSKE: We are a non-cut sport, but we do require all of our members to attend every meet, unless they had a prior academic or family engagement.

    TWTW: Talk to me a little bit about the team itself, really summing up how the season went and what the future holds for both programs – the boys and the girls, both in swimming and diving. Share with us any highlights on the season to date.

    COACH SMOLINSKE: The team has had a LOT of fun this season! We return most of the team next season, but will have to replace some of our top performers in swimming and in diving. The highlight for both teams was defeating Bishop Ireton before the holidays.

    TWTW: Who are our top swimmers, and why are they so? Be specific, discussing each's event (or events) and what makes 'em special? Why are these swimmers who they are? Include both individuals and relay teams if it pertains. Same for the diving team, who are our top divers and why?

    COACH SMOLINSKE: Our top swimmer is Maddie Donohoe. She's incredibly gifted. Maddie was asked to participate in the Olympic Trials this past summer. Maddie works continuously to perfect her craft. She's competitive, relentless, determined and will likely break several school records before graduating. Our top diver is Danny Metzmaier. Danny has been diving for several years, but has taken his talent to a new level this season, adding two new dives to his repertoire. He should perform well at the State Championship.

    TWTW: Looking at the season in its entirety, are you pleased with how the 2016-17 campaign has transpired? Any surprises or major disappointments?

    COACH SMOLINSKE: We lost/tied a few very close meets, but overall I'm pleased with how the teams have performed. We have to continue to work hard in the water, but also need to perform better out of the pool – eating better, monitoring our sleep habits more regularly, and adding some weight lifting to our overall training program.

    TWTW: What are your goals for the program, both the immediate future and long range?

    COACH SMOLINSKE: We don't try to look too far ahead. For now, we're focused on qualifying as many individuals as possible for the State Championship and hope to finish in the Top 8 as a team.

    This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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    Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017
    9 a.m. to Noon
    at Bishop O'Connell High School

    Join us for this important information event for our community--parents, teachers, coaches and students--hosted by the Bishop O'Connell counseling office. Come hear from experts in the field about why Mental Health Matters.

    Middle and high school students are invited, but they must be accompanied by an adult.

    This event is FREE, but please let us know you are coming. Email for questions and to register.

    Schedule at a Glance

    8:00 - 8:30 a.m.
    Optional Mass in the school chapel

    8:30 - 9:00 a.m.

    9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
    General Session in the Auditorium

    The general session includes a brief welcome from the counseling staff at Bishop O'Connell and an overview of the morning's events. In addition, attendees will hear from two young speakers on their journeys from mental illness to wellness.

    10-10 - 11 a.m.
    Breakout Sessions - First Block
    Some of these sessions are repeated in the second block.

    Catholicism and Mental Health
    Presenter: Ania M. Zganiacz, Doctoral Psychology Resident at Catholic Charitie

    Suicide: Being on the Other End
    Presenter: Alyssa Niemiec, National Association of Broadcasters Finance Director, Suicide prevention advocate.

    Being the Mother of a Child With Mental Illness
    Presenter: Mrs. Linda O'Donovan, Bishop O'Connell Parent

    Ending the Silence
    Presenter: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Northern VA
    Audience: Particularly good for students. This is a mental health educational presentation for middle and high school students.

    Why Do They Do That? The Teen Brain (Part 1)
    Presenter: Kate McCauley, MEd, LCSW, teaches Adolescent Growth and Development at Marymount University and teaches Relationship Health at George Mason University and has been a teacher, youth minister, therapist, family coach, and alcohol and drug educator.

    Tools to Make the Point: Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix
    Presenter: Helen Gaynor, Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility

    Managing Good and Bad Stress in Everyday Life
    Presenter: Andrew Raab, School Counselor, Catholic Diocese of Arlington

    Substance Abuse Prevention & Mental Health Promotion Services in Arlington: What it's all about & how to get involved
    Presenter: Christian D. Haase, Behavioral Health Wellness Specialist, Arlington Department of Human Services

    11:10 a.m. - Noon
    Breakout Sessions - Second Block

    Presenter: Anna M. Zganiac, doctoral psychology resident at Catholic Charities
    Audience: Adults only please

    Suicide: Being on the Other End
    Presenter: Alyssa Niemiec, National Association of Broadcasters, PAC manager/Finance Director, Suicide prevention advocate.

    Being the Mother of a Child With Mental Illness
    Presenter: Mrs. Linda O'Donovan, Bishop O'Connell Parent

    Youth Stress and Anxiety
    Presenter: Christine Minutolo, Mental Health Therapist, LCSW, Child and Family, Arlington County

    Tools to Make the Point: Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix
    Presenter: Helen Gaynor, Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility

    In Our Own Voice
    Presenter: Two presenters from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Northern Virginia

    Why Do They Do That? TeenSpeak and Positive Communications at Home (Part 2)
    Presenter: Kate McCauley, MEd, LCSW, teaches Adolescent Growth and Development at Marymount University and teaches Relationship Health at George Mason University and has been a teacher, youth minister, therapist, family coach, and alcohol and drug educator. PLEASE NOTE: This presentation comes in two parts. You are not required to attend session 1 in order to gain from this session.

    Substance Abuse Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Services in Arlington: What it's all about and how to get involved
    Presenter: Christian D Haase, Behavioral Health Wellness Specialist, Arlington Department of Human Services

    How does your parenting style impact your child's mental health? Does it increase your child's anxiety level or promote resiliency skills?
    Presenter: Eve Montavon, M.Ed., M.T.S., School Counselor, St. Bernadette School, Diocese of Arlington, Adjunct Faculty at GMU, certified Strengthening Family's facilitator
    Audience: Parents, Teachers, Counselors

    CLICK HERE to read full session descriptions.

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    National School Counseling Week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), focuses public attention on the unique contribution of professional school counselors within U.S. school systems and how students benefit from a comprehensive school counseling program. National School Counseling Week highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and post-secondary plans.

    The special week honoring school counselors provides recognition for school counselors who "implement comprehensive school counseling programs, a vital part of the educational process for all students as they meet the challenges of the 21st century," according to Erin O'Malley, Dean of Student Services and Director of Counseling.

    This week we celebrated our counselors for being actively engaged in helping students examine their abilities, strengths, interests and talents; for working in a partnership with parents as they encounter the challenges of raising children in today's world; for focusing on positive ways to enhance students' social/personal, educational and college/career development; and for working with teachers and other educators to provide a system where students can realize their potential and set healthy, realistic and optimistic aspirations for themselves. All of our school counselors are certified, experienced educators with a master's degree in guidance and counseling. The combination of their training and experience makes them an integral part of the total educational program.

    "School counselors work with all students to remove barriers to learning by addressing students' academic concerns, awareness in post-secondary options and personal/social skills," said Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., ASCA executive director. "Comprehensive school counseling programs help to increase student achievement and provide a much-needed resource for students, parents, teachers and administrators. School counselors are integral to student success."

    More than 100,000 school counselors nationwide will be participating in the week's festivities. Many school counselors will be hosting special events and activities to call attention to the myriad benefits of a comprehensive school counseling program.

    As part of its celebration for National School Counseling Week, Bishop O'Connell celebrated counselors with decorations, announcements, and lunch. We also celebrated our comprehensive program by highlighting events within our 3 areas of our program focus: Academic Counseling by hosting an Electives Fair for our students; College/Career counseling by holding our Junior College Planning Night, and Social/Emotional counseling by ending our week with our Free Mental Health Symposium for our school community on Saturday, Feb. 11.

    Find out more about the Mental Health Symposium...

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    Zimmerman Students

    Students from Ms. Zimmerman's AP Psychology classes participated in a "reverse advent calendar" effort during the month of December. Instead of looking for a gift every day of the month, they collected non-perishable items to donate to a local food bank.

    "We had just learned about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in class, so it was great to be able to help others with the basic human need for food," said junior Alex Boras. "It was fun to help out the community in such a positive way."

    Together, the 47 students from her two classes donated 344 lbs. of food to help serve the needs of our local community.

    "The two classes were competing to see who could bring in more," added junior Hannah Pin. " The challenge helped motivate us to not only beat the other class, but to see how much we would collect in total for the community."

    On Feb. 7, the food was delivered to Food for Others in Fairfax.

    Jordan Harris summed it up this way: "Giving in itself is a gift."

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    Even as we maintain at our school a strong sense of our traditions -- how we were founded, by whom, and how the charism of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary influences our approach to our mission -- we are also very proud of how dynamic our learning community is and how positively blessed we are by the rich diversity we enjoy. Moments like yesterday's assembly to celebrate African-American history and culture are reminders of those blessings.

    Under the direction of Mr. Trent Jones with assistance from Mr. Drew Edmondson and Mrs. Monica Stabile, and driven by the student leadership of Jayla Muse, Bobi Mobutu and Frankie Love, at least 100 students contributed to a wonderful presentation of African-American art, dance, music, culture and spirituality. The talent that resides in our student population is truly amazing and this assembly was a great showcase for it.

    View a short video clip from the concert choir's rendering of "Every Time I Feel the Spirit" arranged by William Levi Dawson below or at THIS LINK:

    In preparing my brief remarks at the outset of the assembly, I wanted to place the celebration in the context of what we are called to as Catholics and Christians and I brought the students' attention to an excerpt from Pope Benedict's Apostolic Exhortation entitled Verbum Domini and published in September 2010 after the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. Specifically, I referenced the section entitled "God's Word Transcends Cultural Limits" which says, in part:

    We escape the limitations of our experience and we enter into the reality that is truly universal. Entering into communion with the word of God, we enter into the communion of the Church which lives the word of God. ... It means going beyond the limits of the individual cultures into the universality that connects all, unites all, makes us all brothers and sisters. The proclamation of God's work thus always demands, of us in the first place, a new exodus, as we leave behind our own limited standards and imaginations in order to make room for the presence of Christ.

    Yesterday's assembly provided that same invitation for us to grow in our capacity to be aware of the presence of Christ in others around us. It was a special and memorable opportunity indeed.

    View more photos from the assembly below or at THIS LINK:

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  • 01/19/17--19:00: The Enthusiasm is Contagious
  • Thoughts from our Head of School, Joseph Vorbach:

    Today a fellow alum and good friend was in the building and I had the opportunity to talk with him about some new initiatives we have in the school. We were just outside the cafeteria when two students came down the stairs, one of whom is the son of another alum from "back in our day" and I was able to introduce him and another student to my friend. The students shared with this alum their experiences in our expanded services program and a few minutes later I was able to show him on my phone a video of the pre-game activities of our basketball club before the Saint John's game on Tuesday. (View a WUSA9 story from the event HERE.)

    As we went up the stairs, we ran into another student who is a peer mentor for expanded services and she told him a little more about her personal experiences being involved. Her confidence and enthusiasm were impressive. A few minutes later, we were visiting with Ms. Desmarais and Ms. Esposito in their classroom and my friend got a full sense of the collaborative learning taking place. After tonight's boys basketball game vs. Paul VI--an event made even more special than usual by the presence of Bishop Burbidge--I had a short email exchange with my friend and he wrote: "It's amazing to see the tremendous things going on at DJO. The enthusiasm is contagious." I couldn't agree more!

    This happy encounter with my friend was book-ended earlier in the week by our faculty retreat on Tuesday. A wonderful talk presented by Monsignor Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC got us in the right frame of mind before we had opportunities to pray, go to confession, and engage in thoughtfully structured and executed group discussions that focused ultimately on how we can provide even better service to our students. During these sessions, the full commitment of our faculty to serving our students and helping them fulfill their potential was on display in abundance and it was inspiring to listen to the exchanges taking place. Had my friend been part of this retreat, I think he would have sent me the same sentence: "It's amazing to see the tremendous things going on at DJO. The enthusiasm is contagious." I couldn't agree more!

    Mindful of our mission and our charge to pursue it diligently and with humility, we press on here at the school as the second semester begins.

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    Congratulations to O'Connell junior Vasili "William" Varfis who was recently selected as a member of the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) All-Virginia Chorus.

    William was one of nine Bishop O'Connell choral students participating in the early February District XII choral festival. They were part of a group of 235 students from Fairfax and Arlington public and private high schools who were accepted into the district chorus through an audition process which took place last November. At the festival, all junior and senior participants also had the opportunity to audition for the All-Virginia choir, where only two students from each voice part was selected.

    This April, William will travel to the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to represent District XII in the Bass 1 section of the VMEA All-State Chorus.

    William isn't new to the choral performances. In addition to his role in the O'Connell men's choir, he has been a member of the Children's Choir of Washington for several years, even performing at the White House.

    "Acceptance into the All -Virginia Chorus is a great accomplishment for William and much deserved given his talent and dedication to the choral program at Bishop O'Connell," said Peter Kadeli, O'Connell's vocal music director.

    Closer to home, you can enjoy William and the rest of the O'Connell vocalists at one of their upcoming performances. The Feb. 18 Broadway Desserts is already sold out, but there is a free spring concert May 18 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. William will also be performing in the O'Connell Players spring musical, "Into the Woods." Tickets are already on sale for the Apr. 7-9 performances.

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    Joe Wootten

    With last Friday's signature win over DeMatha before an enthusiastic home following and the playoffs all but upon us, this week's edition of The Week That Was continues its series of one-on-one sit-downs with our coaches – enjoying an interview with head boys basketball coach Joe Wootten.

    THE WEEK THAT WAS: Throughout the season, you have questioned your team's toughness and grit. What do you mean toughness in basketball, as it pertains to your team?

    COACH WOOTTEN: I think that in order for a team to be successful they have to be able to get a defensive stop, get a key rebound on either end, execute on offense to get the shot you want against a great defensive team. We talked a lot to our team about having the mental toughness, the grit, to do it. You cannot always draw up how to get a rebound, but the teams that are successful simply go get the ball. They dictate the shots the other teams get, and they dictate the shots that they get. It is getting the team to understand it is not the big-shot mentality. We have to have the grit to get the best shot for the team each time down.

    For example, we have probably one of the best shooting teams in my 18 years across the board, but can you get open shots for your teammates? Against the best defense, it is not easy, but ball movement, reaction to drives, using screens and making the extra pass are key to success. Are we mentally tough enough to do it? Or do we force bad ones?

    Can you guard a dip-your-head driver late in the game? Good teams get stops!

    The best teams compete to win on every possession. They impose their will upon the game. Are we tough enough to do that? Early in the year, we were not. But, I have seen growth. I have seen us getting better, and we are peaking at the right time. We can win this whole thing, but it is going to come down to toughness.

    Matt Lewis photoTWTW: Talk to us about both your team's strengths and weaknesses. What do you see as the staples of your program, and how have they changed through the years... or, have they?

    COACH WOOTTEN: I think we have found balance on the team in terms of scoring. We are now clicking on all cylinders and the players know each other's strengths and how to get shots for one another. And we are scoring in a variety of ways (inside, outside, drives to the basket, in transition).

    We have really been working on defense. We are best when we are attacking teams on defense and making them react to us. I am not sure if it is a strength, but it is a potential strength. A potential that must become a reality if we want to succeed in the tournaments we will play in the next two weeks.

    TWTW: Coming off some tough losses where we just came up short in the end (both Paul VI games, earlier DeMatha game, Gonzaga twice)--yet, in doing so, we were playing some awfully good basketball--talk to us both about "finishing" while, at the same time, playing good basketball. How so in both areas?

    COACH WOOTTEN: I think it comes down to toughness, which we have talked about, but it also comes down to controlling the controllables. Dominant areas that are under your control: defense, getting the right shots, rebounding at both ends. Be relentless in doing so. If you say you're going to guard a ball screen a certain way, do it right every time. In those tough losses, we did not get the stops, rebounds or the shots we wanted at the end.

    Xavier Johnson photo

    TWTW: Talk to us about your personnel, what makes 'em the players that they are? Most especially the first five and any key players off the bench, in particular Matt Lewis (#1), Xavier Johnson (#2) and Nate Watson (#0) – three of your big-time talents.

    COACH WOOTTEN: Matt Lewis, Matt Becht, Quentin Millora-Brown and Xavier have really trusted the process and grown throughout their time at DJO. I think sometimes people lose sight that there is a process in everything you do in life and that success is not instant.

    Matt Lewis has gone from a potential sophomore to a confident senior, and Xavier went from a sophomore that did not play to starting. Matt Becht and Q have shown the work ethic to develop into very reliable players. The toughness they showed to keep working is the same toughness that will help us win!

    As is always the case, each has had to develop this year for us to get better. Matt Lewis has been a great defender and shooter for us for the last three years, but this year he had to learn to score out of the offense. He has done that. He has also matured as a player – leading by raising his level of play when needed and playing in the moment and not worrying about a missed shot or mistake. When he is our top rebounder on both ends, we are tough to beat. Xavier is a competitor and has great speed. He had to learn to take care of the ball. He has done that. His shooting has really improved (and you can see why when you read more about the "breakfast club" below).

    Matt Becht can flat out shoot the ball, but does other things. He has a great feel for the game. This feel allows us to go small as he can run sets from anywhere, and he always seems to make the right decisions. This is his first year on varsity, but he trusted the process and has been a starter for a majority of the year. Quentin is very good at guarding a guard when teams go small and is a good rebounder who has the potential to be a dominant rebounder. If he dominates the boards, it will be a key to our success.

    Nate Watson. Nate has a soft touch and is really good around the rim. When he is motivated, he is the best big man in the area. He has to get better at going to get the ball on rebounds and defending. Nate has the ability to be dominant, and he has shown that as of late. If he imposes his will on the game, he is awfully good and so are we.

    Jay Heath and D'Marco Baucum have been really good off the bench. Jay is a dominant defender most of the time. When he is defending at a high level, we are very tough. His shooting and taking the ball to the basket has been very good for us. D'Marco is a hybrid. He can play inside and outside. He is a very good defender and can shoot. When he rebounds hard, he is very good on both backboards. We need that from him in the playoffs.

    Nate Watson photo

    TWTW: In my conversations with you, I think that you really, really like this team. Why so? What makes 'em who they are?

    COACH WOOTTEN: I do like this group. They are a great group of guys. They love to be in the gym. In fact, a few of them have a 'breakfast club' going. They come in and shoot before school: Matt Becht, Matt Lewis, Jay Heath, D'Marco Baucum and Xavier Johnson. Matt and Matt are religious about it. It is no mistake that they shoot the ball well. They work at it. As a coach, you love players that are passionate about the game and really want to put the work in to separate themselves. Jay Wright at Villanova has said you want the perfect gentleman off the court and the toughest competitor on the court. We have great guys who are learning what it takes to get it done.

    TWTW: It's year 18 in the Joe Wootten era at DJO, and you just hit the 400-win mark. Share with us your thoughts on that significant achievement and what does it mean to you personally?

    COACH WOOTTEN: It means to me that I have coached really good players and really good teams. All the credit goes to them. It also brings up so many great memories. I still have great relationships with so many former players, and I am their biggest fan as they progress in the game of life. I believe that what makes basketball work is the same thing that makes life work – and seeing them be a success and using the work ethic, the teamwork, the never give-in mentality in life is very rewarding.

    THTW: With the post-season looming, give me five keys if you are to be successful in the upcoming WCAC Tournament and the State playoffs.

    COACH WOOTTEN: Toughness and more toughness, great defense, get on the boards and offensive execution.

    TWTW: Anything else that you would like to add?

    COACH WOOTTEN: The after-school basketball club has been an inspiration to our team this year. Every Wednesday we work with Katie, Adam, Nolan, Thomas, Henry and James. They bring such love of the game and love of life. They are so positive. And by the way, whenever we work with them before the game, we are 2-0! They are our good-luck buddies!

    This is Tommy Orndorff, and that was The Week That Was.

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  • 02/17/17--13:26: A Super Tradition

    This is the time of year, just before the Superdance assembly, when faculty and staff who are alumni are asked to recall their Superdance memories. As an alumnus now almost 35 years removed from graduation, I don't have an abundance of specific memories. I remember that as a member of the Student Council, I was working with a very motivated group of students that wanted to be remembered in O'Connell history for doing a good job on Superdance...and of course, to beat the Class of 1982's pledge total. I remember the form we used to receive pledges by the hour...ten cents/hour; 25 cents/hour.

    I also remember being involved in a committee focused on getting celebrities to come out to the dance and encourage the dancers. I learned a lot of lessons about networking and persistence from that exercise. The 1983 yearbook reminds us that a big highlight was a visit and dance performance by the "Redskinettes," something I did not remember until I looked in the yearbook.

    I remember the gym feeling full, it being hot and humid, and everyone seeming to have a sense of the value of what they were doing. This continued as we worked hard in the weeks after the dance to collect all the pledged money. We collected $34,000 in the spring of 1983. That would be about $85,000 in today's dollars. It is very heartening that the efforts of students during the nine years I have worked in the school have yielded, on average, about $120,000 a year toward finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.

    As our student committees go through the ramp-up for this year's Superdance, the community keeps Danny Bessette '02, Jason Cage '95 and Walter Whitt '16 in its prayers. These gentlemen, all courageous fighters living with cystic fibrosis, are well known to our students and our entire community and they continue to provide inspiration to all of us daily. Next Friday, as we hold the annual Superdance kickoff assembly, they, and all who live with cystic fibrosis, will be especially in our prayers. I ask all of you to pray for them as well.

    For those new to our community, next Friday'sassembly is a critical jumping off point for us to build energy, enthusiasm and action in the student body for the cause that motivates Superdance -- the search for a cure to cystic fibrosis! The assembly happens about a month before the actual dance and during that month students register for the dance and set out to secure commitments from family, friends and neighbors. By Easter, God willing, the efforts of our students will result in us adding at least another $120,000 to the more than $4 million that has been raised at Bishop O'Connell over the past 42 years.

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  • 02/21/17--11:30: Knights Visit City of Hope

  • "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12.

    In Camden, New Jersey, 40 percent of people live below the national poverty line, 20 percent of people do not have health insurance, and 30 percent of the population uses some form of intravenous drugs.

    On Feb. 2-5, thirteen Bishop O'Connell students and two teachers visited the heart of North Camden at the DeSales Service Works operated by the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales. The group spent Friday morning making and handing out sandwiches at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception's sandwich ministry. Any local can walk up to the window and receive up to three free meals; during the two hours they manned sandwich ministry, 300 meals were given out. Serving at the distribution window, interacting with the people of Camden, was extremely rewarding.

    Senior Lucie Drahozal commented on the sandwich ministry: "Being able to see the hope in their eyes and attitude towards everything had a profound effect on me."

    Later in the day, the group visited Holy Name School, the local Catholic elementary school. At Holy Name, the group helped with recess and with after school care. Here the interaction was different; just like in Northern Virginia, these kids have the same hopes and dreams as any other kids. In that moment, there were no reminders of Camden, it was just another school. However, if the statistics remain true, only 40 percent of the kids will receive a high school diploma and only 8 percent will graduate from college. Those numbers were sobering for the O'Connell students. They were reminded that the goal of the weekend was not to leave feeling guilty, but rather to reflect on their own life circumstances; it's how they use these that matters.

    The evening mood changed from cheerful middle schoolers to recovering alcoholics and addicts. Fr. Mike McCue OSFS, director of DeSales Service Works, took five students to the local alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous (AA/NA) meeting at the Last Stop. For many, the AA/NA meeting was the highlight of their trip. One attendee was a man named Rick, a four-years-sober, recovering alcoholic and a volunteer of DeSales Service Works. He later joined the O'Connell group back at the retreat house to lead the nightly reflection. The excerpt used to reflect that night was, "Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'" (John 8:12). In turn, the group explained what this verse meant to them and how it related to the work they were doing in Camden.

    "Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves." Solomon 1:15

    On the second day, Father Mike used this scripture quote to explain the "broken window theory." When the area you live in is tidy and more beautiful, it can raise people up in a small yet profound manner. People begin to take pride in where they live.

    That morning, the O'Connell group grabbed rakes, shovels, bags, and gloves cleaning a city block, the local park, and the recess area for Holy Name School. Enough trash was collected to fill at least twenty large trash bags. Even though it seemed a miniscule and inconsequential step in the large scheme of things, this act was extremely meaningful according to Father Mike.

    "I really didn't get the point of what we were doing there in Camden until the moment when we were cleaning. We were shoveling trash off the street and a man was stopping at a stop sign and just began to smile and clap his hands. Then I understood," said Junior Dominic Rosenthal. What was done there truly gave these people hope, maybe in a small way, but some hope nonetheless.

    If Camden, New Jersey is the city of hope, Father Mike is the man of hope, or at least brings much of it to the people of Camden. Without a leader like him, much of the progress that has been made improving people's lives would not have been possible.

    "Spending the entire weekend in his presence, I noticed I have never in my life seen a more respected person. When I was walking around Camden I was simply honored to be in his presence," commented junior, Wyatt O'Donnell .

    No matter where the group went, Father Mike knew every local, and the greeting he gave was profound. Just in seeing the way people would talk to him on the street, you could truly see the hope he brought people. When the group of O'Connell students were cleaning the trash off the street, he grabbed a rake. This simple example of a priest serving others as Jesus would have sums the weekend up perfectly: to humble yourself to serve others so that you may come to a deeper faith and experience Christ face-to-face.

    - Story by Joe Kamal '18

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    Congratulations to O'Connell senior Grace Halford who has been named a Finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP). This milestone makes her eligible for one of approximately 7,500 Merit Scholarships administered by the NMSP program. She became a semi-finalist last fall, based on her performance on the 2015 PSAT/NMSQT.

    In addition to her challenging course work at Bishop O'Connell, Grace has undertaken an independent science research project focused on bacteria growth over the past three years. She has also been involved in the robotics club, working at a robotics camp in the summer, as well. She has volunteered at the Missionaries of Charity in Washington, D.C., and at a Catholic bookstore in Virginia. Most recently, she has been sharing her talents as a member of the entertainment committee for the upcoming Superdance—O'Connell's 12-hour dance marathon dedicated to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.

    Grace is headed to Wellesley College in Massachusetts this fall where she plans on studying bio-chemistry, eventually pursuing a career in the field of bio-technology.

    Photo (l to r) - Sister Catherine Hill '66 (Dean of Academics), Grace Halford, Carl Patton (Assistant Head of School), and Dr. Joseph Vorbach (Head of School).

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    Last week I reminisced a little about Superdance, anticipating today's assembly. Today seems a time to share with parents, old and new, a little bit of a sense for how the remarkable optimism, idealism, creativity, passion, empathy and spirit of the young men and women at Bishop O'Connell was on full display today as the clock is now ticking on our countdown to Superdance 42.

    I had some fun today with some colleagues in a band we called "Instrumental Chemistry" as a nod to the fact that our main vocalists are both chemistry teachers. We sang Van Morrison's song Full Force Gale that goes, in part, "Like a full force gale, I was lifted up again, I was lifted up again, by the Lord." That is how I felt throughout the assembly as the gifts and talents of our students were on full display along with the courage of our guests who came to share with us their personal stories of living with cystic fibrosis...I was lifted up again.

    Learn more about the Superdance tradition at

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  • 02/28/17--13:23: 60 Hour Challenge
  • Camden cleanup

    In honor of Bishop O'Connell's 60th Anniversary, we invite all members of the O'Connell family to pledge 60 hours of service to their neighborhood, to their community, to their church, to those in need...

    WHO - Students, alumni, faculty members and their families are invited to participate as individuals or as a family.

    WHEN - We are launching the program on Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Service should be completed by Dec. 31, 2017.

    HOW - Fill out our pledge form and commit to 6o hours of service this year. Tell us what you plan to do. Then, at any point in your project, please send us photos and tell us what you are doing.

    At the end of the year, we plan to present Bishop Burbidge with a symbolic "service bouquet" from the Bishop O'Connell school community.

    Current O'Connell students who participate will be recognized at the end of the year service awards ceremony.

    We hope you can join in! Together we can make a difference.

    For more information and to sign up, visit

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    "18 months ago, Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, Va. began offering inclusive educational services to students with intellectual or cognitive disabilities. Beginning in 2015 with two freshmen and adding four freshmen in 2016, the school currently provides inclusive services for six students... Inclusive services are a full-school effort and therefore bring forth full-school rewards. As we continue to build and strengthen our services, there are many lessons we are learning."

    These are the opening words in a recent NCEA Talk blog entry by Susan Rinaldi, director of expanded services at Bishop O'Connell. Read the wonderful reflection, Answering the Call to Inclusive Catholic Education, on the NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) blog site.

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    O'Connell students may recognize freshman Mark Brown as the accompanist for the men's choir and the school's praise and worship music ensemble at Masses. But for the parishioners at St. Mark Church in Vienna, Mark is now known as the accompanist for the children's choir which leads the assembly's song at the 8:15 a.m. Sunday Mass each week.

    "His musical growth is quite impressive," said Nancy Novelly, the director of liturgy and music at St. Mark Church. "His confidence as an accompanist and his strong playing style has qualified him for this position, which in the past has been filled by adults."

    Mark has been playing the piano for six years and is enjoying the challenges that his new role brings. When he's not at the keyboard, Mark is an altar server and a boy scout.

    Congratulations, Mark, on all your young accomplishments!

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  • 03/09/17--07:08: Mount 2000 Retreat

  • Seven students from Bishop O'Connell recently joined a group of more than 1,000 students from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware to participate in Mount2000--a three-day Eucharistic retreat at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md. The group was chaperoned by three members of the religion department: Mr. Dennis Dwyer '61, Ms. Anne-Marie Funk, and Ms. Margaret Carroll. To lead their small group, they were assigned a seminarian, who happened to be O'Connell alumnus, Robby Renner '12. The weekend included daily Mass, presentations by lay Catholic leaders, and opportunities for confession, and adoration.

    "The music ministry was also a highlight," said junior Frank Lucchetti. "I especially enjoyed the Friday and Saturday evening programs which included a mix of popular and religious songs."

    "This is the third year that I have accompanied students from O'Connell to Mount 2000," said Anne-Marie Funk. "It was especially wonderful for our group of students to be able to interact with Robby Renner, a recent O'Connell graduate."

    Find out more about Mount2000...

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    Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be out to dinner in a group that included two Bishop O'Connell alumni who recently got married to each other. They are happy newlyweds and it was fun to hear them share some stories from their time together at O'Connell.

    Just two days later, I attended the funeral of the mother of an O'Connell student -- someone I did not know well but who was well known to me because her reputation as a doer, organizer and good friend to others in the community was so well appreciated. The presiding priest at the Mass of Christian Burial, Father Lee Roos, knew the deceased well and knows the O'Connell community well too. He spoke to all who were mourning that day, including the many O'Connell students and parents there to support their friends, with a beautiful homily. He noted that moments like this funeral were occasions for "deep and anguished Faith" and reminded us that the Lord will "know the weight of our grief and bear us up." He also encouraged us to see "that this divine helplessness is really divine strength." It was what I told someone later a "beautifully sad" funeral that concluded as all Catholic funerals do with the Song of Farewell which begins "May holy angels lead you forth to paradise" and ends "May you know rest and peace with God forever more."

    A day or so after the funeral, I found myself thinking about the newlyweds and the funeral and the blessing of family and friends in the happiest and saddest moments. O'Connell history is woven into so many beginnings and endings. The many dozens of wakes I have attended over the past nine years are so frequently occasions for reminiscing about the times at O'Connell when lifelong friends were made. These are the friends who are "the face of God" providing support some years later when there is loss.

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    The Bishop O'Connell boys varsity lacrosse team beat conference rivals DeMatha in overtime 8-7 in the second game of the season on March 8. It was a hard fought battle with the score tied at the end of every quarter and regulation. The overtime face-off turned into a skirmish for the ground ball and just when it looked like DeMatha would win it, O'Connell checked the opponent's stick out of bounds and it was Knight's possession. The team wasted no time getting the ball O'Connell goalie, Jake Hahn, who skirted past defenders preventing an outlet pass. Hahn passed midfield and threw a dart to Kadin Kightlinger whose defender went for the steal, but missed. Kadin caught the pass and without hesitation cut inside 15 yards then shot the ball past another defender and the goalie into the upper left corner for his third goal of the game. Both the JV and varsity teams rushed the field in celebration. It was an all-around team effort with 11 players winning ground balls and 18 different players earning statistics contributing to the win. This is the first time in known history of the program that O'Connell boys lacrosse has defeated DeMatha and an excellent WCAC win! Congrats to Coach Giblin, his staff and the team. It was another great day to be a Knight!

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    On April 8, the Bishop O'Connell boys lacrosse program will participate in the the Seventh Annual Checking for Cancer Lacrosse Invitational at the Haverford School near Philadelphia, Pa. The tournament will feature premier ranked boys and girls lacrosse programs. All teams will compete in the spirit of the game while promoting the important cause of cancer awareness.

    The mission of cancer awareness is particularly personal to both coaches. Haverford School Head Coach John Nostrant was diagnosed with prostate cancer nine years ago, and Bishop O'Connell Head Coach Kevin Giblin, is now in remission from his colon cancer.

    John and Kevin were roommates in college and line mates on the lacrosse field as players. They remain the best of friends. Both highly acclaimed coaches helped coach the United States U-19 Men's Team to the International World Federation Championship in British Columbia in 2008. Each, however, has had to quietly but courageously endure private ordeals that are all too common to the thousands of individuals who are diagnosed with cancer each year.

    Find out more about this event...

    Support this cause...

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    Every school year has a number of important milestones -- yesterday's Registration Night for the class of 2021 was one of them for us. After a year of preparing in different ways, and getting to know prospective students around the Diocese and the greater metropolitan area, we registered the class of 2021. At Open Houses, school tours, shadow visits, meetings connected to our athletic and fine arts events, and other opportunities, we have shared the O'Connell story and learned the special stories of families and students considering Bishop O'Connell. Last evening, things became more tangible for everyone involved and it was, as it is each year, a very exciting evening full of great hope.

    Registration night is a reminder of the great trust families place in the school, and therefore a reminder of the important duty we commit to. This reality is made most clear when speaking with parents registering their oldest or only child for our school. The process is new and the questions are many. For the parents, there often seems to be a sense of disbelief that the time has gone by so quickly and they are registering their child for high school. They know their child better than anyone and understand their goals and dreams. They want their children to be happy and to know success. At the school, conversations like these are moments that remind us of both our opportunities and responsibilities as educators.

    Registration night is a reminder of the sacrifices made in the service of Catholic education. As the Head of School walking around the event, I observe my colleagues engaged with families and helping to put the school's best foot forward as we more formally introduce ourselves to the families of the new class. "All hands" evolutions like this night ask everyone to assume a role and execute it so that we can best serve the families. Seeing so many colleagues doing this so joyfully and with a sense of pride is inspiring.

    Registration night is about community. For as many families and students who come in to register with friends and current school classmates, there is also a lot of initial ice breaking going on as parents get to know other new parents and students start to get to know new classmates...a process that will continue at the 8th grade dance tonight. Taking in the shared sense of excitement is very energizing.

    Registration night is about tradition and transformation. Over the course of the evening, we see alumni coming to register their 8th graders and reconnecting with former teachers. We see parents about to register their 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th child at O'Connell seeing other parents they've known over the years but haven't seen in a while. We also see, in the newer conversations beginning around the building, the start of new relationships among parents and students, some of which will grow into lasting friendships forged over volunteer opportunities and cafeteria tables.

    Last night was an important and exciting moment in the life of our school that conjured for me important reminders about vocation, duty, community, tradition and transformation.

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