While Marquis Hargrave, 18, was growing up, his mom, Mary, would often discipline him with the threat: “I’m going to send you to Verbum Dei to straighten you out.” He always thought the all-boys school in Watts, Calif. was a scary place for bad kids.
But after four years at the renowned school for low-income minority students, Hargrave is on his way to El Camino College to fulfill his dream of working in Japan as a 3-D animator. He has nothing but praise for the school he once feared.
“In my head it was a bad school, but when I got there the teachers were like parents to you,” said Hargrave on his last day as an intern at Edison International. “Each year my grades got better and better. Now my mom is crying all the time because she’s so proud of me.”
For the past 51 years, Verbum Dei, also known as The Verb, has been helping young men become successful adults. They boast a 100 percent college acceptance rate and families who meet the income requirements are able to attend the Jesuit Catholic High School.
At the core of Verbum Dei’s success is its work study internship program. Once a week, every student works at his assigned corporation to acquire useful job skills. It’s a program with numerous Fortune 500 partner companies, including Edison International.
Since 2006, Edison has worked with Verbum Dei students, helping them learn meaningful people and job skills. Currently, eight Verbum Dei students are being mentored by the company’s employees.
“The Verbum Dei work study program is a wonderful opportunity for Edison employees to give not just their money, but their time and love to support young men from South Central Los Angeles to grow, mature, and develop into young professionals,” said Jim Scilacci, executive vice president of Edison International.
“My goal and hope is over time, that these young men will graduate from college and then have an opportunity to seek employment with our company,” he added. “I am very proud of our Verb students, and Marquis and Jorge (our graduating seniors) are two excellent examples of the quality individuals from Verbum Dei.”
Jorge Contreras, 18, was born in El Salvador and moved to the United States when he was 3 years old. He is the first member of his family to be accepted to college and hopes to one day teach math at Verbum Dei.
“My parents are extremely proud of me,” he said. “I’ll have a future and become someone here.”
Hargrave has been with Edison since his sophomore year and Contreras since he was a junior. Soon, they will join a long list of Verb students heading off to college.
“The fact that I already have a resume, that got me ahead of every other college student,” said Contreras, who will attend California State University, Los Angeles this fall to study math.
Some of Hargrave’ and Contreras’ duties during their Edison internship included learning public speaking with the Local Public Affairs managers, basic finances with the financial analysts and how the company helps our communities with the Community Investment team.
In addition to work skills, Hargrave says he has made some special connections at Edison.
“Everyone at Edison was really easy to talk to,” he said. “I really enjoyed my three years here.”
Each year, dozens of young boys submit their applications to Verbum Dei with the hope of making something of themselves. It’s a demanding program, and these two graduates have some words of advice.
“If you want to succeed in life, go to Verbum Dei,” said Contreras. “They care about you and will help you succeed.”
“This school has a 100 percent college acceptance rate,” added Hargrave. “They will get you into college. They won’t abandon you.”