JSerra Valedictorian: Greetings From Fresno

*By Penny Arevalo of the Patch.com

Photo by Christi Park

“We have a problem, Houston,” outgoing Principal Tom Waszak said to a packed audience in the Fieldhouse Gymnasium. “Luke [Decker] is not here. Luke is in Fresno,” competing in the CIF state track championships in the 1600-meter race.

But the valedictorian prepared a DVD for his class from Fresno, Waszak said. It kicked off with a musical montage of scenes of Decker running.

The “secret” to his success, Decker said, was found in the faculty and staff – and his fellow students – at the school. “I surrounded myself with successful people from the day I set foot on JSerra High.”

To read the full story click Greetings from Fresno

Eight Times to Kids 4 Kids

*Special post by Principal Waszak

Many thanks to all who all who attended and supported the Kids 4 Kids Party last night.  In particular I would like to recognize Bridget for coordinating the annual party.  In addition to organizing the care packages for over 40 Marine families at Camp Pendleton she organizes the Kids 4 Kids party.  To support her there are dozens of JSerra students (led by Frankie Bastone), staff (Pat, MVT, Orlando) and JSPA (Linda Pfost) who help with the event.  This year over 100 students from Marco Forester School in San Juan attended the eighth annual Kids 4 Kids party hosted by JSerra students.  The young people who are invited to attend are identified by a community support program operating in San Juan and sponsored by Mission Hospital. The program supports the educational and social needs of young people who may be at risk due to economic challenges faced by their families.  Spending time with these students reminds you about how blessed we are materially.  It brings joy to the young people who attend the party.  They played games, got their face painted and nails made up, built a ginger bread house, enjoyed a great dinner, danced, danced and danced, received a gift and left with a big smile on their face.   Our guests are not the only ones who benefit.  Our students learn something about the joy of giving.

Thank you Bridget!

Boys’ Soccer Wins CIF Title

JSerra boys’ soccer team earned the seven-year-old school’s first CIF title in a team sport Saturday night, beating Harvard Westlake 2-1 in Downey.

Click on the photo to see more Orange County Register images from the historic game

A large crowd of students, teachers, staff and families braved inclement weather to witness the historic victory.

“The whole year we have been looking to CIF, and the guys have been working at this for two years now. It’s an amazing feeling,” coach Davor Fabulich told the Orange County Register shortly after the final whistle.

Principal Tom Waszak said the accomplishment was no fluke. “Anyone who saw the Lions play knew we had the athletic talent to win. What we demonstrated is that we have the intensity and discipline to play and win at the highest level of competition. This could not have been achieved without a total team effort.”

Waszak congratulated Fabulich, assistant coach Nick Cucuk, the team and athletic director Jim Hartigan.

“This is an outstanding accomplishment and a momentous triumph for the team, the athletic program and for the school,” he said.

To read the Register’s story, click here.

Big Game Symbolizes JSerra’s Journey

The following column runs in the current edition of the Capistrano Dispatch.

By Tom Waszak

Would it be just another football game?

Mr. Waszak

Few beyond campus thought we had much of a chance leading up our Trinity League opener against cross-town rival Santa Margarita Catholic High School.

Heading into the game, our varsity football program was 0-for-14 in league play.

But we had reason to be optimistic on Oct. 16.

Coach Jim Hartigan had led our Lions to an undefeated preseason. A few sportswriters even said this was our best team yet.

Could this be the night?

Before the game, hundreds of members of the JSerra community gathered for a tailgate party at Saddleback Community College. As we enjoyed barbecue, a few of us reflected upon JSerra’s journey – and how far we’ve come in seven short years.

It wasn’t too long ago when some wondered if JSerra could compete against the powerhouse teams in the Trinity League.

As we teach our students, the ingredients of success include perseverance, a positive attitude, character, and faith.

We are nationally recognized by the Catholic High School Honor Roll – a distinction we’ve earned for three consecutive years. More than 500 JSerra graduates are in college; some attend the nation’s most prestigious universities. Our students dedicate thousands of hours each year to community service at home – and abroad.

Community, sports and faith-based groups hold events regularly on our $110-million campus.  And, despite the challenges of the ongoing recession, we’ve maintained enrollment without cutting important extracurricular activities.

As I looked around the parking lot, I saw a growing and robust group we call Lion Nation. There are thousands of us. Moms and dads. Kids and grandparents. Friends and neighbors. The JSerra community is a tight-knit collection of civic-minded people dedicated to God, family and community.

Although the kickoff was an hour away, I already felt a deep sense of victory. Don’t tell that to Coach Hartigan and the team.  They put in hard work during the summer and preseason. These young scholar-athletes wanted to make a statement to the regional football world.

Their preparation and character showed. We got off to a quick start, scoring the first touchdown. The Eagles answered. We scored again. It was a thrilling game that came down to the wire.

Late in the fourth quarter, Santa Margarita scored a touchdown. A two-point conversion would tie the score.Capo Dispatch

Our defense broke up the play – and we secured our first Trinity League win. As the final seconds ticked away, some excited seniors doused Coach Hartigan with Gatorade. In a wonderful moment of spontaneous jubilation, the JSerra fans stormed the field to congratulate the players and celebrate the historic moment for our young school.

Sure, it was just a football game.

But it also symbolizes something much bigger.

JSerra Choirs Win Gold at Recent National Competition

JSerra Catholic High School’s Chamber Choir and Advanced Women’s Ensemble recently earned first-place gold awards at a national competition in San Francisco.

Judge Dr. Jocelyn Jensen, director of Choral Studies at the University of Las Vegas Nevada, cited JSerra’s ability to “paint a vocal picture (that) was breathtakingly beautiful, but also technically demanding and intellectually stimulating.”

The Lions beat 45 other choir groups from throughout the U.S. The victories qualify the choirs for the prestigious Festival of Gold competition in New York in 2010.

The choirs were awarded the overall trophy for division 2A, schools with 800 to 1,600-student enrollment. 

The school also earned a prestigious individual award. Student Tomohiro Majima was recognized with the Maestro Award for his violin accompaniment on the composition “Vine Hulpe di la Munte.”

“This is a remarkable achievement considering that JSerra’s choral program began less than two years ago,” said Tom Waszak, JSerra’s principal. “It’s important recognition of the outstanding commitment, hard work and talent of our choral students.”

The Chamber Choir is composed of 24 boys and girls and the Advanced Women’s Ensemble has 27 girls. The Heritage Festival was the first choral competition for JSerra students in the history of the program.

Andrew Alvarez established JSerra’s choral program in 2007, and serves as Director of Choral Music. “I’m proud of our students,” he said. “When we launched the choral program, it was our goal to have it become one of the top programs in the country. Thanks to our students’ dedication, positive attitude and talent, we’re well on our way.”

OC Register: JSerra’s Graduation A Tale of Accomplishment

JSerra Catholic High School didn’t even have a band or choir.

An OC Register's terrific photos
An Orange County Register photo

Its $40-million athletic complex hadn’t been built; its sports teams played home games off campus.

None of its graduates had yet to attend college.

“You joined JSerra based on faith,” principal Tom Waszak said Saturday as faculty, parents and friends honored the 177 graduates of the Class of 2009.

Click here to read a report published today on the Orange County Register’s Web site.

Be sure to look for veteran Register photojournalist Sam Gangwer’s outstanding photo slideshow.