November 23, 2015

O’Dowd Solar Project Wins Project of the Year

Solar Builder magazine has awarded O’Dowd’s roof-mounted solar panel project the Project of the Year Award. The project combines sunshades for classrooms and solar panels for electricity. Read more…

November 19, 2015

Sojourn to the Past

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Payton Silket’s life was changed when he took this amazing tour, so he got the school involved.

November 11, 2015

Transforming Lives Dinner 2015 Raises $315,000

Speakers at the event, left to right: Sean Lee, Claire Kelly, Dwight Taylor Sr. ’00, Aerial Chauvrain, and the host Shawn Cunningham

During his four years at Bishop O’Dowd High School, Sean Lee ’16 has been transformed from a shy, quiet freshman to a confident senior who is a campus leader on many fronts. The student body president for 2015-16, Sean is also the nose tackle on the varsity football team, plays the position of 8th man on the rugby team and is president of the Living Lab Club.

“Without assistance I couldn’t have come to O’Dowd”

Had it not been for financial assistance, Sean might not have had such opportunities for growth. His mom immigrated to America and has worked hard to provide the basics for Sean and his younger brother. There’s little left over – certainly not enough to pay private school tuition. “Without assistance I couldn’t have come to O’Dowd,” Sean said.

Sean was one of several speakers who shared their moving stories at O’Dowd’s signature fundraising event, the Transforming Lives Dinner, held on Nov. 5 and attended by 275 people, which raised $315,000 for O’Dowd’s financial aid program. Watch speeches…

“When you showed faith in me and my hard working and deserving mom, who is here tonight, you uplifted my entire family.”

The event was chaired by Tom and Annette Counts. Former parents Don and Ellie Knauss were lead donors, offering a challenge match of $25,000. Ellie and Tom are members of the O’Dowd Board of Regents.

“I am grateful to everyone in this room, not just for me but also on the behalf of hundreds of students at O’Dowd, many much less fortunate than I, who need your financial and personal support to transform our lives. When you showed faith in me and my hard working and deserving mom, who is here tonight, you uplifted my entire family. I will never forget and I will always give back,” Sean said.

Mr. Thorpe with debate alumni Rebecca Vastola and Peter Counts.

This year, O’Dowd is providing more than $2.7 million in financial aid to 30 percent of the student body who would not be attending our school without assistance. But that amount doesn’t begin to address the growing need for support.

Dwight “Transparent” Taylor Sr. ’00 served as the featured speaker at the event. An award-winning hip hop artist and motivational speaker, Taylor said his life was radically changed by his O’Dowd experience.

A Richmond, California, native, Taylor said that he experienced many “firsts” as a freshman at O’Dowd, including having positive interactions and forging great relationships with people that didn’t look like him. “All I knew was my surroundings and my culture,” he said. “But once I got here I was challenged. I was pushed. I was forced to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable forces you to grow, and while I was a student at O’Dowd I grew leaps and bounds.”

Taylor told those gathered at the dinner that they were all difference makers.

“You are making a difference in the lives of students. But you’re not just investing in a student that’s going to high school. You’re investing in a lifetime being changed,” he said.

It’s not too late to help deserving students. Visit our website to make an online gift.

Special thanks to the O’Dowd String Orchestra for providing musical entertainment at the event.

To watch speeches, click here »

November 5, 2015

O’Dowd Alums Receive NFL Golden Footballs

O’Dowd Alums Eric Bjornson and Langston Walker receive NFL Golden Footballs.

Eric Bjornson ’90 has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

After leading the O’Dowd football team to a 10-0 record and an East Shore Athletic League championship in 1989, Bjornson went on to play football at University of Washington where he was part of the Huskies’ National Championship team in 1991.

Drafted in 1995, Bjornson was a rookie on the Super Bowl XXX Champion Dallas Cowboys team that defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17, on Jan. 28, 1996.

On Nov. 5, Bjornson was in the right place at the right time again.

Along with Tarik Glenn ’93 and Langston Walker ’97, Bjornson was honored on the O’Dowd campus as part of the NFL’s nationwide kickoff to the Super Bowl 50 celebration. Glenn was not able to attend the event due to illness.

Students, faculty and staff gathered on the plaza in front of the small gymnasium to celebrate with the alumni, who made brief remarks and then chatted with those gathered.

“I consider myself a very, very lucky individual,” Bjornson said. “If you’ve followed my career you would know that I was in the right place at the right time a lot of times. I was afforded tremendous opportunities. But I was always prepared to capitalize and take advantage of those opportunities and make the most of them.”

Bjornson encouraged students to do the same. “Whether you are athletes, musicians or actors, work hard and prepare yourself to take advantage of opportunities – because they can be few and far in between,” he said.

Nearly 2,000 high schools from across the country are receiving Golden Footballs for every player or head coach who graduated from the high school and was on an active Super Bowl roster. The footballs feature the school’s name and location, honoree’s name and the Super Bowl(s) the honoree appeared in. Players and coaches honored are from both teams that competed in the Super Bowl.

Additionally, the high schools are being honored on the Super Bowl High School Honor Rolland have the opportunity to apply for a grant from the NFL Foundation to help support and grow the Dragon football program.

Glenn was a starting left tackle on the Super Bowl XLI Champion Indianapolis Colts team that defeated the Chicago Bears, 29-17, on Feb. 4, 2007. Today, Glenn is the Assistant Director of the Athletic Study Center at UC Berkeley, his alma mater. In 2001, he and his wife, Maya, established the non-profit DREAM Alive Foundation, which assists underserved youth in Indianapolis.

Walker was a rookie on the Super Bowl XXXVII Oakland Raiders team that lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48-21, on Jan. 26, 2003. Also a Cal graduate, Walker is a member of the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area organization, which empowers youth through education and greater exposure to career and social opportunity. He is pursuing an MBA.

Walker said it was great to be back on campus. “While some things have changed, many things have stayed the same,” he said. “The athletic prowess and pride of this school will always be evident. Now you guys are carrying the torch.”

Bjornson, Glenn and Walker are all in the O’Dowd Hall of Fame.

Brian Judd rocks Bjornson’s Superbowl ring.

Closeup of Bjornson’s Superbowl ring for win with Dallas Cowboys.

Student admires the most amazing ring he will probably every see in his life.

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November 3, 2015

NFL Great Tarik Glenn ’93 Talks About Goal Setting

Stefan McClure, Tony Green, and Tarik Glenn pictured left to right

Tarik Glenn ’93 had an impressive career in the National Football League as an offensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts, earning three Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl Championship. But the accomplishments he’s most proud of have nothing to do with football.

Glenn hopes to be remembered more for his efforts as a husband, father of four, and a mentor to inner city youngsters through the non-profit DREAM Alive Foundation, which he launched with his wife, Maya, in 2001. The foundation provides underserved youth in Indianapolis a safe and dynamic environment to help raise expectations and self-esteem through Discipline, Responsibility, Education, Achievement and Motivation.

Today, Glenn is the Assistant Director of the Athletic Study Center at UC Berkeley, his alma mater, providing guidance to student-athletes like football player Stefan McClure.

Glenn and McClure met with students in Tony Green’s African American History class on Nov. 3, talking about the importance of setting goals and the particular struggles of athletes of color.

Persevering Through Difficulty

Glenn said his experience on the O’Dowd junior varsity team, coached by Green and Dean Gary Mason at the time, was a pivotal in his growth as a person.

A freshman at the time, Glenn got frustrated when the coaches got on his case about not working hard enough. “I remember coming home midway through the season and telling my father I wanted to quit,” he recalled. Glenn’s father wouldn’t hear of it, saying “I don’t want you quitting every time the going gets tough.”

So Glenn persevered. “I’m really thankful for people like Mr. Green and Mr. Mason. It was really important for me to have people in my life who could see my potential and who were willing to push me to be the best I could be,” he said.

Later, as a student-athlete at Cal, Glenn struggled with academics and wasn’t getting as much play time as he had hoped. He considered transferring. Again, his father reminded him he wasn’t a quitter. “I stuck with it, cut out the stuff that was a distraction, and the next semester I ended up earning a 3.4 grade point average. It was a matter of just focusing on my goal – and that was to get an education.”

Recognizing the major impact that his father and coaches had on him, Glenn decided that he wanted to someday be in a position to mentor others.

Eye on the Bigger Picture

A highly touted recruit from Southern California, McClure played in 11 games with two starts as a true freshman, but his season ended with serious injury – tears of his ACL, MCL and meniscus – that required two surgeries. The next season, McClure tore his meniscus again and had to undergo two more surgeries.

It was a wake-up call that his dream of playing in the NFL might not become a reality. “At that point I sat down and set some goals for myself,” he said, adding that his professional goal is to become an athletic director at a university so he can have a positive impact on the student-athlete experience.

Now a senior at Cal, McClure reinforced the importance of goal setting and making personal decisions based on how best to achieve those goals – not based on what your friends are doing.

For example, McClure advised that it’s probably wise to pass up a summer trip to Cabo to party with your buddies and instead opt for an internship that provides work experience. “Don’t follow the crowd. Set yourself apart and work for your goals. Try to better yourself every single day,” he said.

Paying It Forward

Glenn said that he was fortunate that his athletic platform allowed him to have positive social impact, and he challenged students to find ways in which they can make a difference.

“Just because you go to O’Dowd that doesn’t mean you are going to be successful in life. You’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity. Are you taking advantage of the good education you’re getting here or are you just kind of breezing through wasting your parents’ money?” he asked. “I hope you guys are all going to be a positive influence in your communities.”

Glenn hopes to continue to impact those around him. He’s planning to pursue a master’s degree in education at Cal, and continue his work with student-athletes. “This is a second profession for me and I’m really enjoying it,” he said.

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November 2, 2015

Environmental Encyclical Symposium Brings Inspiration

Passion, hope, and inspiration filled the room at the Environmental Encyclical Symposium this past Tuesday. This event was sponsored by the Campus Ministry and the Department of Sustainability, and the focus of the night was to examine major themes in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, and to bring these themes to life by exploring how this comes to fruition in various industries and livelihoods.

Kicking off the night was a light refreshment period celebrating the vegetable bounty of the Living Lab with piping hot pizza from the CES pizza oven (cooked by O’Dowd’s very own Edible Garden Eco-Agriculturalists), and other savory and sweet organic and sustainable choices prepared by parent volunteers. Guests were invited to circulate the room and learn more about progress O’Dowd has made on various sustainable initiatives and goals, and how sustainability programs have developed from a curriculum and community engagement standpoint.

The night then moved into the content of the symposium, which began with Dr. Phelps leading the intergenerational audience (students, parents, alumni, and faculty and staff) in a prayer, and opening statements from Director of Sustainability, Andra Yeghoian, and Adult Spirituality Coordinator, Jocelyn A Sideco.

This paved the way for a short overview of major themes from the Environmental Encyclical delivered by theologian, James Conlon Ph.D. He invited the audience to take a careful look at how the Pope interweaved ideas connected to Care for Creation and Social Justice. Conlon’s address was followed by a phenomenal panel of professionals from a diverse mix of industries (see bios here):
Environmental Encyclical Symposium Guest Speakers
- Robert Marinai: RestorCap
- Meri Soll:
- Kelly Shea: LinkedIn
- Pauline Souza: WRNS Studios and USGBC
- Terry Symens-Butcher: Canticle Farms
- Meredith Younghein: California Public Utilities Commission

Each of the speakers (a mix of O’Dowd parents and alumni) shared information about their backgrounds and what drew them to sustainability work. The panel then moved into providing details about their industries and organizations and big picture details about the important progress being made on sustainability.

The panel came to a close by sharing what inspires them and their hopes and dreams for a sustainable future. Afterward, the audience was invited to bring their own questions forward, which provided space for an engaging intergenerational dialogue.

The night concluded by acknowledging that the Pope’s encyclical is a call to action for all of humanity to join together in a sustainable paradigm shift. Faculty and Staff will continue the work begun at this symposium with a book club focused around Laudato Si, and Campus Ministry and the Department of Sustainability hope that this is just the beginning of inviting the greater O’Dowd community into dialogue about how we can be a part of the solution.

October 29, 2015

Class of 2016 Carries On Senior Sunrise Tradition

More than 120 members of the Class of 2016 participated in the second annual “Senior Sunrise,” held on Oct. 28 at the football field, huddling together in the morning chill to watch the sun rise above campus.

The symbolic event signifies the dawn of the students’ final year at O’Dowd. At the end of the year, the seniors will gather as a group again for “Senior Sunset” to mark the end of their high school journey.

Several administrators, faculty and staff members were on hand for Senior Sunrise. “Being an early riser I wouldn’t miss it,” senior class moderator Ray Lehner said. “This is a fun group of kids. The year goes by so quickly, so it is great to see them hanging out, watching the sun come up together, and just being kids.”

For many students, getting up early was a bit of a struggle. But they agreed it was fun to arrive at school in the dark, watch the sun come up together, and bond with classmates. Coming on the heels of Spirit Week, where class unity is at an all-time high, several seniors said the sunrise event encouraged them to be more reflective about making the most of their last year at O’Dowd.

The seniors were treated to delicious baked goods courtesy of the Dragon Bakers, along with hot cocoa, topped with whipped cream, and coffee. Thanks to all the parents who donated items and helped with set up, and to Tere Hanson and Donna Cala for coordinating the event with student leaders.

Click photo thumbnail to view in slideshow THEN images can be right clicked and downloaded at 1024px wide by 768px.

October 26, 2015

Michael Petrini Passes Away

We are saddened to share that former Vice President for Advancement Michael A. Petrini passed away over the weekend.

There’s not a school department that wasn’t positively affected by Michael’s efforts. During his first tour of duty at O’Dowd (1968-1985), Michael served as an English teacher and yearbook moderator, and held various academic and development positions, including Director of Student Activities, Assistant Principal, Dean of Supervision and Instruction, and Assistant Principal for Development. In fact, he launched the school’s development program in 1970.

Later, as Vice President for Advancement (2007-2013), Michael led O’Dowd’s successful Renaissance Campaign, which raised $9.2 million for the renovation and modernization of the school’s academic facilities, and directed the fundraising for the recently completed LEED-Platinum certified Center for Environmental Studies.

His steadfast dedication to ensuring that deserving students have the opportunity for an O’Dowd education was recognized in 2013 with the establishment of the Michael A. Petrini Transforming Lives Scholarship Endowment Fund.

In 2014, Michael received the school’s Cor Unum award in recognition of his commitment to the core values of leadership, service, social justice and intellectual competence expressed in the school’s mission.

Services will be held on Thursday, Nov. 5, beginning at 10 a.m., at St. Theresa Church in Oakland. If you plan to attend the luncheon reception being held at the church immediately following the service, please RSVP to so that the family can properly plan.

October 20, 2015

7 Things about Carlos Arriaga

What inspired you to do this kind of work?

As long as I can remember, I have always envisioned myself working in a profession that connected me to athletics. All of my experiences participating in athletics have positively influenced me, from tackle youth football in the second grade to working as a student athletic trainer while attending UC Davis. I’ve been very fortunate to have played for and worked with so many outstanding leaders and coaches. To this day, I bring something from every experience to my work. Through athletics, I’ve learned about commitment, how to effectively work with others, overcome adversity, toughness, and the work ethic to be successful.

My dream was to work for a major college athletic program or professional team as an athletic trainer until I eventually discovered the demands and hours placed on many families. After eight years of working as the head athletic trainer at O’Dowd, the opportunity to move into athletic administration was presented and I felt it was time to make a change and play a different role in the operation of a high school athletic program. I always love challenges and felt I had reached a point in my career to make a difference in another aspect and in a more visible capacity within the O’Dowd community.

What is your position here and how long have you worked at O’Dowd?

Associate Athletic Director. I’m starting my 18th year at O’Dowd. I worked my first eight years as the head athletic trainer while teaching courses in sports medicine, weight training and conditioning, and health education. I’ve worked in my current role for the last nine years.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received (generally – it doesn’t have to be related to O’Dowd)? There are two pieces of advice that I carry with me. Number one, listen. You can learn a lot about people by just listening. Number two, focus on the present. This helps provide focus to always keep moving forward and not get caught up in the past. Both pieces of advice have been tremendously helpful in finding clarity and solutions in challenging situations.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Watching our student-athletes grow and mature from freshmen through senior year. Second, working with such talented coaches who inspire me with their selflessness and commitment to others. I get great satisfaction from watching our coaching staff have success working with our student-athletes. They put in so much time and energy into our students. I feel very blessed to support such wonderful coaches.

What about your field or position do you think would surprise people the most?

I would have to say the amount of organization and work that goes on behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly. I recall when I first started working as associate athletic director, I was blown away by the number of moving parts on a daily basis. I immediately gained a new respect for all that went into operating an entire department. It always looked so much easier from the outside.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing about you?

I love to cook. As a kid, I grew up regularly going to my uncle and grandfather’s ranch in Yolo County where they raised goats, pigs and cows, and grew many different crops for our family. It was during these times that I learned to appreciate the land and food that was grown. When I moved to the Bay Area in 1998, my experiences and appreciation of home grown food as a kid, along with the exposure to outstanding food in the Bay Area, came together. Since this time, my interest in food and cooking has skyrocketed and I’ve been honing my cooking skills when I have the time. My most recent experiments have been around baking bread, making homemade pizza dough and English muffins, while also maintaining a one year old sourdough starter. What I’m enjoying most about these recent experiments is taking simple ingredients and creating something tasty and filling.

If you could rescue only one thing from your burning office, what would it be?

I’d grab the wood crucifix hanging on the bulletin board near my desk. My Catholic faith is very important to me and this particular crucifix is one I’ve had over the past nine years. It has served me well as a constant reminder to keep faith and hope at the forefront in working at O’Dowd.

Bonus Questions

What is your favorite kind of music/what are your favorite bands?

My favorite genre of music is jazz. I find much relaxation coming home after a long day and listening to jazz in the backyard on our deck under a redwood tree.

What is your favorite sports team or who is your favorite individual athlete?

My favorite sports team is the San Francisco Giants. This is interesting, because when I was a kid our family attended many more Oakland A’s than Giants games. I can’t explain it other than I played on a Little League team at ages 11 and 12 that donned the San Francisco Giants uniform. It definitely wasn’t because they were good. I recall suffering many horrible seasons before breaking through in 1989 and losing to the A’s in the World Series.

October 19, 2015

On the Care of Our Common Home

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Finding God in All Things

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