All-boys Watts high school has 100 percent college acceptance

WATTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For over 50 years, Verbum Dei School in Watts has been a safe haven and a launch pad for educational success. This year, every senior at the Jesuit all-boys high school has been accepted to college.

"I want to be an orthopedic surgeon or an oral surgeon," said Zachary Byrge, the salutatorian for Verbum Dei's class of 2015.

"Most immediately, I want to major in mathematics and do a program with Georgetown and Columbia, where I can become an engineer," valedictorian Nicholas Spates said.

Translated from Latin, "The Verb" gets students to achieve more and break through any and all limitations. According to administrators, all of the students at Verbum Dai have low income and are academically behind one to two years when they arrive.

Now, they are university bound.

Juan Perez, Jr. is the first in his family to go to college. Accepted to St. John's University in Minnesota, Perez's family is thrilled.

"They always tell me every single day -- since I'm going to be the first person in my family to be going -- they're extremely proud of me," Perez said.

Verbum Dei School is located right next to the Nickerson Gardens housing project, but these students have a determination that overrules their economic situation.

"The key to success for these students is the desire for more," said Martinique Starnes, dean of counseling for Verbum Dei.

"A lot of people think we just do community service for class. We do it -- not for a grade -- but for the community. I think that's what a lot of people don't see," said Daniel Tobar, recently accepted to CSU Dominguez Hills.

Byrge said it's important to never forget where you come from. That's what motivates them to keep striving for success.
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