August 31, 2015

TED – Alix Generous – How I learned to communicate my inner life with Asperger’s

Alix Generous is a young woman with a million and one ideas — she’s done award-winning science, helped develop new technology and tells a darn good joke (you’ll see). She has Asperger’s, a form of autistic spectrum disorder that can impair the basic social skills required for communication, and she’s worked hard for years to learn how to share her thoughts with the world. In this funny, personal talk, she shares her story — and her vision for tools to help more people communicate their big ideas.

Zoe Foster ’17 Summits Mt. Whitney

Summiting Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet, is a physically and mentally grueling wilderness adventure. Imagine taking on this challenge as a Type 1 diabetic that must constantly monitor blood sugar levels.

Zoe Foster ’17 accepted the challenge this summer, and proved to herself and others that she has the courage and confidence necessary to succeed – both in spite of her diabetes and because of it.

Zoe made the two-week Mt. Whitney trek in July under the auspices of Diabetes Youth Families, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, teens and families affected by diabetes. Every hiker and counselor on the group journey had Type 1 diabetes.

Diagnosed when she was 11, Zoe also suffers from an autoimmune disease that affects her pancreas. She wears an insulin pump – a small electronic device about the size of a mobile phone – that delivers precise doses of insulin every 45 minutes through a cannula (small tube) that is inserted in her body. An accompanying sensor and transmitter alerts Zoe when her blood sugars are too high or too low.

During the summer of 2014, Zoe participated in a six-day backpacking trip in Sequoia National Park with DYF. “It was fun and it was really good opportunity to learn how to backpack correctly,” she said.

But after that backpacking experience, Zoe knew that she needed to do a lot more training if she wanted to take on the Mt. Whitney challenge. So she spent almost a year working with a personal trainer, doing strength and conditioning exercises, and going on long hikes to build her endurance.

When it was time for her July departure for Mt. Whitney, Zoe was ready. The trek spanned 100 miles, with the final day’s segment to the summit 20 miles long. “We got up at 2 a.m. and started hiking, and we were able to see the sun rise,” Zoe said. “It was amazing.”

The altitude gains made for some challenging moments, Zoe said. “A lot of us were really feeling the effects of the altitude,” she said. “We found that the best cure was drinking tons of water.”

Maintaining stable blood sugar levels was even more difficult. “Either we were constantly eating, which makes you feel crappy when you are hiking, or taking less insulin. But if you don’t get enough insulin you can get diabetic ketoacidosis – which is like a poison in your body – and that makes you feel awful, too. It was like being on a roller coaster,” she said. “In addition to our medications, we had huge gallon bags of sugar cubes (to help stave off low blood sugar situations). I probably ate 500 of those.”

Zoe said that during most of the backpacking trip her focus was simply putting one foot in front of the other. But as the group approached the summit she became energized. “One of the best feelings was just looking down from the summit. You don’t realize how far you’ve come,” she said. “All I could think was ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’ I was so proud of myself.”

She’s received lots of congratulatory messages from friends and family members. “I don’t really think of myself as inspirational, but people tell me I’ve motivated them,” she said.

She says that while her close friends know about her Type 1 diabetes, she does get some strange looks from unaware classmates when she’s checking her blood sugar levels in class or giving herself an insulin shot if her pump isn’t working.

“I don’t mind explaining my situation to people. I’d rather have them ask me, than give me a weird look,” she said.

At O’Dowd, Zoe played junior varsity softball her freshman year and participated in the musicals “Little Shop of Horrors” during her freshman year and “Hairspray” during her sophomore year. She intends to play softball again this year.

August 28, 2015

Back to School Night September 3

Our annual Back-to-School Night is on Thursday, September 3, 2015, beginning in your student’s first class at 7 p.m. You should have received an email with passcodes and instructions to print your student’s schedule. Please contact if you did not receive it. Most future communications from school to parents will be done via email or our website’s Parents’ page, so you may want to make your home page. This is where you can find the latest, most up-to-date school information.

At Back-to-School Night, you will be attending a mini-session of each of your student’s seven classes (eight if your student is enrolled in a before-school X-period class or an online course). Remember to bring your student’s schedule with you so you know where to go. Study hall classes will not meet on this evening, so feel free to explore the library during this period.

The first session (or class) begins at 7 p.m. sharp. This is one of the occasions where our entire parent community will be in attendance and our campus parking lots may be full well before 7 p.m., so carpooling is advised. Please allow time for traffic and for walking from neighboring streets. You don’t want to miss your student’s first class! (If parking off campus, don’t leave anything in your car.)

With classroom sessions limited to 10 minutes, there is not enough time to meet the teachers individually at this event. Our Parent-Teacher conferences in October are designed for individual meetings.
Refreshments will be served in the cafeteria and annex at 8:45 p.m., and school planners/calendars will be distributed there.

This is an event specifically for parents, so students need not attend. We are looking forward to a great school year in partnership with you and hope to see you on September 3!

August 24, 2015

O’Dowd Thanks Top Supporters

Nearly 125 supporters of Bishop O’Dowd High School gathered for a reception held in the LEED-platinum certified Center for Environmental Studies (CES) on Aug. 23 to celebrate the school’s impressive accomplishments made possibly by philanthropy.

As the event attendees, including current and past parents and alumni, mingled with one another they enjoyed tasty gourmet pizza, freshly baked in the new wood fire pizza oven located on the CES plaza, and an assortment of passed hors d’oeuvres and drinks.

President Steve Phelps welcomed the group, thanked them for their generosity, and pointed out several improvements completed over the summer – the amphitheater and propagation center that includes two greenhouses – located adjacent to the CES.

Phelps noted that over the last 10 years, supporters have donated funds totaling over $25 million for both facility upgrades and program enhancements, and gave special acknowledgement to the Class of 2019 parents who have pledged more than $1.3 million to O’Dowd.

He also provided an update on the school’s master plan, which includes plans to acquire the nearby 20-acre Seneca tract and reservoir.

Ultimately, the master plan calls for a pedestrian centered campus with program innovation and facility upgrades that support the transformative learning experience at O’Dowd. This includes a nine-lane track and full competition playing field, with seating capacity for 1,500, for soccer, lacrosse, rugby and football to be built on the Seneca property. With that project completed, the current football field would be converted into a parking area that could accommodate up to 200 cars.

Other early phase master plan improvements include construction of a new multipurpose gymnasium that seats 1,300, and includes a dance studio, and the repurposing of the small gym into a performing arts center for music.

“We have been patiently building the foundation of a great school where we do find God in all things, have real community in diversity, help students develop strength of character, champion academic excellence, walk the talk of kinship with creation and live and promote social justice, so that joy will be the result for each member of this community,” Phelps said.

“We could not have come this far without you. We will be successful in this visionary plan because of you and those who come after you. Thank you for all you do and for gracing us with your presence,” he said.

Debate Team Announces Tryout for the 2015-2016 Season

The Bishop O’Dowd Debate Team will be holding its only tryout for the 2015-2016 season on Sunday, September 6 from 2-6PM at the Bishop O’Dowd High School campus.

If you are interested in participating in the 2015-2016 tryout prospective debaters must email coach Jon Thorpe at by Friday, September 4. Please type in the subject line: RSVP for Debate Team Tryouts.

More information on the tryout will be included in the response to the RSVP.

August 20, 2015

Evin Yang ’16 Achieves Perfection

Most students would be ecstatic to learn that they earned a 2280 on the SAT. Not Evin Yang ’16.

After achieving the more than respectable score on the SAT last November, Evin opted to take the standardized college admissions test a second time in June. “I felt that there was room for me to improve in the writing section, and my practice test scores for math and reading were very consistent so I didn’t expect to lose ground there,” he said.

In fact, Evin gained ground, scoring a perfect 2400 on his second test attempt.

Evin took several practice tests prior to sitting for his first SAT, but says he struggled to write a strong essay within the 25 minute time limit. But thanks to some half-hour timed writing exercises in Lani Wolf’s Honors English 3 course Evin’s speed and clarity improved.

“He’s a great, focused, thoughtful kid who takes control of his learning and growth.”

“She also gave grammar and vocabulary quizzes, which honed my ability to identify subtle grammatical errors. Thanks to this preparation, I performed better on my second SAT,” Evin said. “And I felt a lot better during the second test because I was far more prepared than I was on my previous attempt.”

Director of Counseling Fran Warmerdam says it’s clear that Evin learned how to take the SAT more effectively, and that translated into other areas. “He also passed all of his AP exams,” she said.

Added Warmerdam, “he’s a great, focused, thoughtful kid who takes control of his learning and growth, and is well-liked and involved in school.”

Evin carries a 4.39 cumulative grade point average, and says math, physics and computer science are his strongest subjects. He participates in math and physics competitions from time to time, and is a member of O’Dowd Debate Team.

Looking ahead, Evin hopes to attend a college with a strong engineering and science program and study computer science or physics.

Evin’s advice for juniors getting ready to take the SAT for the first time? “Focus on your weak subjects,” he said. “Instead of doing entire SAT tests, sometimes I would practice essays and grammar only. This way you’ll see more improvement in less time.”

Rita F. Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

Watch it on TED website »

August 17, 2015

New Faculty and Staff

Find out more about our new faculty and staff »

Resource Conserving Summer Facility Improvements

Resource conservation is a key component of Bishop O’Dowd High School’s Sustainability Management Plan (SMP). This summer, O’Dowd put the SMP into action with two major facility improvement projects geared toward reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, and conserving water.

Classroom Building Solar Shade Installations: Energy Conservation

The Department of Sustainability has helped O’Dowd become increasingly aware of their overall ecological footprint and has established a goal to reduce net GHG emissions close to zero by 2025. One of the main contributors of O’Dowd’s overall ecological footprint is energy use; therefore, the administration has set the goal to become a zero-net-energy school by 2020. This goal will be reached through two major strategies, energy conservation and a shift to renewable energy sources.

The Classroom Building shading project presented itself as a great opportunity to increase on-site renewable energy sources, and take another step forward towards zero-net energy. The original vision of the shading project came out of the need to reduce the temperature in classrooms on the south side of the main Classroom Building. Looking to solve this problem with a systems thinking approach, the Administration and Director of Facilities looked to the CES as a source of inspiration with its natural ventilation and solar powered energy system.

The new solar (PV) powered awning shade structure improves the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) for students and faculty by reducing temperatures by seven-to-ten degrees on the south side of the building. It is also more financially sustainable at just 10 percent of the cost of an expensive energy intensive air-conditioning system. Additionally, at a count of nearly 200 solar panels, the project aims to generate $15,000 worth of electricity energy savings each year. Finally, O’Dowd can be proud to take another step forward in its environmentally sustainable goal to be zero-net energy and reduce overall GHG emissions.

Quad and Dominican Courtyard Turf Installation

An opportunity for water conservation efforts came about as a direct result of the need to replace sewer lines under O’Dowd’s quad, and therefore the need to tear up the quad lawn. With Stage Four Drought conditions in California, East Bay Mud has issued mandatory water restrictions on residential and commercial water use, and aims to be a part of the overall CA state-wide goal of a 25% reduction compared to 2013 (Executive Order B-29-15). Looking for a way to reduce O’Dowd’s overall water usage, the Administration and Director of Facilities made headway on a plan to keep the functionality of the quad as a gathering and seating area, and reduce overall water consumption.

The EPA estimates that nationwide landscape irrigation (often for lawns) accounts for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than seven billion gallons per day (2012). While artificial turf has some environmental concerns in terms of heat island effect and end-of-life disposal, the new artificial turf at O’Dowd replaced 11,000 square feet of water intensive lawn, and aims to reduce overall water consumption by nearly 60,000 gallons a year.

Bishop O’Dowd will also continue efforts to reduce outdoor water consumption through the 2015-16 school year by replacing water-intensive landscaping around the classroom building with native and drought tolerant landscaping.

August 14, 2015

Important BART Shuttle Information

The Bishop O’Dowd BART Shuttle service to the San Leandro
BART station will begin on Friday, August 21, 2015 and run
through Friday, June, 03, 2016.

No BART Shuttle service will be available for class orientations August 17th – August 20th.

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Finding God in All Things

9500 Stearns Ave | Oakland, CA 94605 | Phone: (510) 577-9100 | Fax: (510) 638-3259