February 6, 2016

2016 Energy Guest Speakers Motivate Youth to take Action

This year’s S4S Energy Initiative featured two Sustainability Guest Speaker Panels with experts and practitioners from across the Energy Industry.

Energy Guest Speakers: Panel 1 – January 18, 2016

Alumni Erin Fieberling (’11) – also an AmeriCorps intern in the O’Dowd Sustainability Department – was first up on the panel. She provided an engaging overview of issues within the Energy sector, providing up to date statistics and effects. She moved from the basic overview to outlining connections to college and career pathways available to students once they graduate.
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Up next, was Molly McCobb from Rising Sun Energy. She shared how the organization conducts “Green House Calls,” which are essentially appointments where youth ages 16 – 21 complete energy and water efficiency installations in homes throughout the Bay Area. Students were eager to learn more about how they could get involved with internships and summer jobs, and to learn more about steps they could take at home to become more energy efficient.
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Water Contamination Guest Speakers

Students who attended the December Sustainability Guest Speaker Panel were introduced to another important aspect of protecting water resources, preventing and cleaning up water contamination.
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The panel kicked off with Mary Stallard, President of Montclair Environmental, providing an engaging overview of groundwater. She moved from basic understanding to a deeper dive into common contaminates of groundwater. Her overview concluded with the most common methods for treating contaminated ground water, and what people can do to be part of the solution. Stallard, also provided information for students on the pathways they could take in college to have a successful career in the water industry.
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Up next, was Pete Reich, an inspector with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He provided an overview of the Clean Water Act’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program, and the emphasis on surface water contamination and cleanup. Reich also outlined his path to becoming an inspector at the EPA, and shared the work he does as an advisory board member of the Saves the Waves Coalition.

The MP session ended with both guest speakers fielding questions from the audience made up of students and faculty. The entire audience walked away with a solid understanding of the pressing issues facing ground and surface water resources, and the actions by key stakeholders.

February 5, 2016

Sustainability Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General Sustainability Questions

Sustainability in Schools


General Sustainability Questions

1) What does sustainability really mean?

“…Making sure the current generation can meet its needs while at the same time making sure future generations can meet their needs…” – Brundtland Report (1987)

The most well known definition of sustainability comes from the 1987 United Nations Brundtland Report: Our Common Future, which says: “…Progress should not come at the expense of future generations by warming the climate, reducing bio-diversity, depleting forests, increasing pollution, or reducing the resource base. All change should be in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations…”

This extension of the Golden Rule through time means recognizing that the earth has limits – limited resources, limited arable land, limited water, etc. – and unlimited growth within a finite system cannot be sustained forever. Therefore, the sustainability movement is all about finding new ways to live so that we (planet, animals, people) can go on living together forever.

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2) What is the difference between “sustainable” and “green”?

Are “environmentalism” and “being green” the same thing as sustainability? These three ideas are often used interchangeably, but “being green” is more of a principle of using practices or products that are less harmful to people, animals, plants, and other natural systems. Additionally, “Environmentalism” is more of a lens that brings to mind forests and rivers, or climate and animals, but not always people. What makes sustainability different is that it takes a whole-systems approach.

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3) Are there frameworks that explain sustainability as a whole systems approach?

Sustainability frameworks have come about to help people create a shared understanding of what the practice of living sustainably really looks like in the big picture. These frameworks are often paired with principles that provide guidance on how to live sustainably. Below are some of the most well-known frameworks.

Nested Triple Bottom Line

The Nested Triple Bottom Line framework recognizes that the health of our economy and society rely on the health of our environment. In other words, if our planet is suffering, our societies will begin to suffer as well, and when our societies suffer, our economy struggles. Therefore, in order to have a thriving economy and strong cultural societies, we must take care of our environment.

The Natural Step

The Natural Step (Developed in Sweden in 1989) is a framework grounded in scientific research that connects human behavior to natural laws through four “Systems Conditions.”
1) We cannot dig up stuff from the earth at a rate faster than it can replenish.
2) We cannot make stuff faster than it takes to naturally break down.
3) We cannot cause destruction to the planet at a rate faster than it can re-grow.
4) We cannot do things that cause others to not be able to fulfill their basic needs.

Ecological Footprint

The Ecological Footprint (credited to William Reese in 1992), is a tool that quantifies the average amount of land needed per person to provide the resources and ecosystem services they use. This can be calculated at the individual or national level. Ex: If everyone lived like people in North America we would need 4 planets.

Herman Daly’s Triangle

Economist Herman Daly shows in his framework that the environment is the basis for all human activity. The environment provides the sources from which humans get all their materials and energy. Additionally, the natural environment sink is where humans dispose of these materials and energy when they are done. Daly’s framework demonstrates that without the natural environment, there can be no human economy or well-being.

Natural Capitalism

Natural Capitalism recognizes that the economy is dependent on natural resources and the ecosystem services that nature provides (a.k.a “natural capital”). These services are of immense economic value, yet current practices fail to take them into account. Natural Capitalism accounts for the cost of these services.

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Sustainability in Schools

What is a Sustainable (or Green) School?

“Building the capacity for sustainable future oriented thinking is a key task of education” – Koichiro Matsurra

When it comes to schools, people often use the terms “green” and “sustainable” interchangeably. Therefore, a sustainable school (green school, eco-school, or high performing school) is one that embeds sustainable practices into the 4 Cs: campus (facilities), curriculum, community (internal and external) and gets to the point where sustainability becomes institutionalized in the culture (mission, decision making, etc.).
While bringing sustainability into a school can feel like a big challenge or change, the overwhelming benefits of being a sustainable school (green school) are so exciting: economically the efficiency facility improvements saves schools money, the curriculum shifts strengthen student achievement (both for test scores and passion for learning), and the site and communities are all around better for student and employee health.

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What is Education for Sustainability, and what are other Related Movements?

Over the course of the last 100 years there have been many different forms of “schooling for sustainability” and bringing environmental awareness into education (see table below), but the most all encompassing movement is Education for Sustainability (EfS), or as it is known internationally, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). EfS and ESD are defined by the Cloud Institute for Sustainable Development as, “a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve the economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend.”

EfS/ESD also seeks to engage students in the following skills: envisioning a better future, critical thinking and reflection, systems thinking, participatory decision making, and collaborative partnerships. All of these skills allow students to become the change that we need and want to see in the world.

Environmental Education

Environmental Education, is a learning process that increases people’s knowledge and awareness about the environment and associated challenges, develops the necessary skills and expertise to address the challenges, and fosters attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decision and take responsible action.

Environmental Literacy

Environmental Literacy means that students will: demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the environment and the circumstances and conditions affecting it (particularly relating to air, climate, land, food, energy, water and ecosystems); demonstrate knowledge and understanding of society’s impact on the natural world; Investigate and analyze environmental issues, and make accurate conclusions about effective solutions; take individual and collective action towards addressing environmental challenges.

Holistic Education

Holistic Education highlights the importance of an individual’s mental and physical health, and is concerned with nurturing healthy, whole, curious persons. It is education for a culture of peace, for sustainability and ecological literacy, and for the development of humanity’s inherent morality and spirituality.

Outdoor & Experiential Education

Outdoor education is a means of curriculum extension and enrichment that takes place in the outdoors. Experiential education is a process through which a learner constructs knowledge, skill, and value from direct experiences. Both emphasize the student experience in the outdoors as a path towards becoming more environmentally aware and more self-aware, and will teach us about the relationships needed to live more sustainably.

Place-Based Education

Place Based Education (PBE) immerses students in local cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, as s foundation for learning in all subject areas. PBE emphasizes service learning.

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February 4, 2016

Founders Day Celebrated at O’Dowd


Cor Unum in Christo was Bishop James T. O’Dowd’s Motto

Bishop O’Dowd High School’s founder, the late Bishop James T. O’Dowd, had a vision that Catholic schools would be places where students and teachers would come together with one heart to learn serve and grow.

The O’Dowd community acknowledged and honored the legacy of the nationally revered educator during a Founders Day Celebration, held on Feb. 4 in the large gymnasium, praying for one heart where each person is welcomed with all the gifts and uniqueness they bring to the community. The event was held in conjunction with Catholic Schools Week.


Only 34 years old when he was named the Superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1941, Bishop O’Dowd helped plan and establish nearly two dozen Catholic schools, including Archbishop Riordan High School, Marin Catholic, Serra and O’Dowd (the original name proposed for O’Dowd was East Oakland Catholic High School). He was named a Bishop in 1948, and died on Feb. 4, 1950, as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident. Though he was only 42 at the time of his sudden and unexpected death, Bishop O’Dowd’s impact on Catholic education was tremendous and is still felt today.

The Founders Day Celebration featured a slideshow, gospel reading, reflection by Principal Pam Shay, special blessings for students, faculty and staff, song, and a Family Feud game featuring fun survey results and trivia questions related to O’Dowd.

Faculty member Brian Cushing ’84 played host for the game, and the two competing families (black and gold) were comprised of faculty members and students from each grade level.

During her reflection, Shay talked about finders and founders, and the special gifts that each brings to a community.

“It takes both the finders and the founders to make dreams come true, to make goodness happen, to grow a family like the one we have here. Bishop James T. O’Dowd is our founder. His vision, his sense of community and his Christ-like presence are all things we can appreciate and are things that are reflected in our Charism,” she said.

“Every time each one of you does something kind, shows mercy, lends a hand, takes responsibility for your actions, cleans up your own messes in the cafeteria – you are making a contribution to O’Dowd’s legacy because you are a finder who makes the founder’s vision of community, faith and family come true. You add to the beauty and richness of the O’Dowd family. And when you stand for goodness in the face of sinfulness, justice in the face of evil, gratefulness in the face of greed, you are planting a stake in the ground just like James T. O’Dowd. You are a founder,” Shay said.




February 3, 2016

Celebrating Black History Month

When: Saturday February 27
Time: 7:00 P.M.
Where: Bishop O’Dowd Large Gym
Price: $5 Cash or Check at the Door


February 2, 2016

Give to the Senior Class Gift

Click to give to the Senior Class Gift »


A Chorus Line is Cast


A Chorus Line Has Been Cast

Bishop O’Dowd High School’s spring production is A Chorus Line, a classic Broadway musical about dancers putting their life on the line for a job. The first day of the spring semester was the first day of auditions. Four days, and 12 hours later, the highly anticipated show was cast. Close to 50 talented students attended the challenging auditions vying for 19 speaking roles and multiple ensemble opportunities.

A Chorus Line opens April 29 and will play three weekends, with two Sunday matinee performances. Click to purchase tickets »


Please Note: A Chorus Line is suggested for Mature Audiences.

Cast List

Carl Ballantine, Seth Moure, Cameron McLaurin, Drew Downs, Bryce Ashford,
Jett Roberts, Chuck Novak, Eric Yu, Giuliano Sanchez, Christine Curulla, Taylor Daniel, Aliyah Turner, Nora Hurley, Ruby Perez, Nathalie Rivera, Maddie Parsnick, Gaia Bostick, Sophie Friedman, Cameron Park, Leila Barbera, Nina Goncharova, Lauryn La Duc, Sophia McHugh, Sheridan Grenda, Kyle Connors, Julia Hansen, Liana Willis, Gaia Palliere, Mathilde Provencher, Cece Garofoli, Maile Morrish, Maddalena Baldo, Sophia Rodriguez, Kalimah Davis, Arianna Pride, Morgan Ambers, Beatrice Velline, Kai Kendall, Nathan Francis, Alexa Carera, Sydney Lewis and Hanna White.


Bishop O’Dowd Social Justice Teach-In


Saturday January 30, 2016

On Saturday January 30th, O’Dowd students attended our first ever Bay Area Social Justice Teach-In, hosted by the social justice club Solidarity not Solitary. For five hours, including a lunch break, students learned about injustices from their peers, teachers, and experienced adults and were inspired to take action on local issues.

The Teach-In started out with the first keynote speaker, state assembly member and social justice advocate Rob Bonta. He spoke about coming from a family whose father marched with Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma and eventually lived in the same neighborhood as Cesar Chavez. Mr. Bonta reached out to the participants and encouraged them to get involved in their community. Expression through art and music is important to social justice work, so Sophomore Kate Marcel and Freshman, Liana Willis shared their musical talent to offer reflections for our time together.

The day continued with 2 break-out times that included 6 workshops participants can choose from:

  • Brittany King from the The Sierra Club spoke about resisting Coal in Oakland.
  • S4S student leaders, Amaris Durst and Isabel Weinerth led a workshop on Fair Trade with Ms. Yeghoian, Director of Sustainability
  • Juniors Olivia Johnson, Alexis Stanley, and Seniors Payton Silket and Dani Viviani hosted “Racism Jeopardy” and talked about the rise of hatred towards Muslims, or Islamophobia
  • Junior Adryanna Ruiz-Mendoza, Immigration lawyer, Susan Bowyer, and Religion Teacher and Retreats Coordinator, Ms. Gallarreta led activities exploring humane migration reform.
  • Juniors Audrey Byrne, Dylan Brown, and Canticle Farm resident, Troy Williams talked about the reality of incarceration and the need for Prison Reform.
  • Senior, Cas Spiegel, lead a workshop on Gender and Sexuality using resources Cas has shared with others through Gender Spectrum, an organization that helps to create gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens.


After a community lunch and check-in, we finished our day together inspired by women working to improve our community. Ms. Michelle Clark, has devoted her life building an innovative job-training program for Oakland youth called YEP. In fact, she was named a Presidential Champion of Change in 2013. Black Girls Code founder, Kimberly Bryant, introduces programming and technology to a new generation of coders. She spoke about her own personal journey of studying engineering to starting a non-profit so that her daughter’s future was better than her own past.

The first ever gathering attracted almost 30 students and a handful of parents. Judge Trina Thompson came to support her daughter as she led “Racism Jeopardy” and said, “I learned from my own daughter how to engage students. I was overwhelmed with pride and was just trying to take in the day.” She continues, “The students are comfortably brilliant. They are naturally inclusive and are dedicated to becoming community builders. Social justice is one of my passions, but to see the next generation take the baton is breathtaking.” Judge Thompson was so inspired, she created a slideshow of this and a previous event she attended with O’Dowd students. View her slideshow here.

We ended our time together by sharing our hopes. We all share in the hope of making this happen again.

Thanks to the entire club, to the Ignatian Family Teach-In participants for the continued support, vision, and momentum, and finally a special thanks to Juniors Audrey Byrne and Dylan Brown for their work in organizing this amazing community event.

Select Pictures from Event

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January 29, 2016

Sustainability DIY Holiday Extravaganza

More than any other time of the year, the holiday season often finds us in the aisle or the checkout line, with a shopping cart – real or digital – full of things. Over the past few weeks, the Sustainability Corps (S-Corps) have reminded the O’Dowd community to consider the environmental and/or ethical costs of the products we choose to purchase, and to consider alternative ways of giving gifts this year.
1_DIY Extravaganza

Last Thursday during MP, the Living Lab division of S-Corps took on the challenge of sustainable consumption by inviting students and staff into the annex for an afternoon of do-it-yourself holiday crafting and merriment. Over sixty people showed up to make wreaths and swags out of freshly harvested Living Lab greenery, decorate homemade cutout cookies, and construct tiny acorn reindeer. Participants also popped Living Lab popcorn to make sticky treats and assembled take-home hot chocolate kits in glass jars.
2_S-Corps with Swag
3_Wreath Making

The event occurred alongside an initiative from S4S (Students for Sustainability) encouraging sustainable consumption around the holidays. S4S students have promoted giving “a gift of experience” as a creative alternative to buying presents, and have researched businesses that treat their workers well and obtain materials in an environmentally responsible way.

As students have learned, practicing sustainable consumption means shopping for products that are environmentally and socially preferable, while avoiding products that are not. It also means reusing materials and products that already exist, and, most simply, just consuming less.
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15_Popcorn Ball Supplies

Last Thursday afternoon, the annex was filled with the laughing sounds of students relaxing one last time before finals, and the fragrant smells of redwood, eucalyptus, sage, and popping popcorn. As branches traded hands and got tied into wreaths by students and staff alike, consuming sustainably did not feel challenging at all.
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9_Cookie Master
10_Enjoying Cookies
11_Decorating Cookies
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12_Coco Making
16_S-Corps Ribbons
13_Swag Fun
16_DIY Holiday Time
17_More Swag Fun

Rico Mok ’11 Transforming the Way Business is Done


A week and a half. That’s all the time that Rico Mok ’11 had to make a significant life decision. Should he take a job offer from an established company that offered a comfortable salary and benefits package or continue with the development of his startup, OneRent, which was generating next to nothing in revenue but held much promise in Mok’s eyes? “I didn’t want to work at a big corporation. I really wanted to keep doing what I love,” he said.

After deciding to seek advice at his university’s Career Center, Mok was disappointed to learn that appointments with career counselors were booked solid for two weeks – past his deadline to accept or decline the job offer.

But Mok persisted. He happened to notice a counselor standing nearby and asked him for five minutes of his time. “We started talking and I mentioned that I was working on a startup and he got super excited. He had been an executive with a Silicon Valley startup,” he said. “That five-minute meeting turned into a two-hour lunch session that led to my getting a lead investor in OneRent.”

With $500,000 in hand, Mok was able to grow the business that he co-founded with three Santa Clara University classmates in March 2014 from four to a dozen employees and move OneRent’s headquarters from a garage in Santa Clara to a 12th floor office building in San Jose.

Today, with second round financing of $1.5 million nearly secured from investors such as Jeff Dean, an early Google engineering executive who co-created MapReduce and other core functions of Google technology, Mok is forging ahead with OneRent – a property management platform that caters to tenants as well as landlords.

Becoming Inspired

Mok credits O’Dowd faculty and staff with fostering his interest in technology and inspiring him to explore the world of startups. As a student he worked closely with associate athletic director Carlos Arriaga on creating an athletics live stream platform to broadcast games. “He was a great mentor to me,” Mok said of Arriaga. “And that’s how my passion for technology started.”

“The supportive culture at O’Dowd was extraordinary.”

Later, as a student at Santa Clara University majoring in Management Information Systems, Mok continually dabbled in the startup world, launching various apps including “Moments-remembering the past” that allowed users to reminisce the past with the use of location.

He subsequently started OneRent with Greg Toschi, Arman Dezfuli-Arjomandi and Chuck Hattemer. “The idea started when all of us had a really hard time finding off campus housing,” he explained. “So we decided to try to use technology to make a platform that made it easier for students to find housing.”

Within about four months after their initial launch, the young entrepreneurs had secured almost 80 percent of all off-campus housing in the vicinity in their system. “We were able to transact about $1 million in security deposits and rent,” he said.

Broadening the Scope

While tenants and landlords alike were enthusiastic about OneRent services, Mok said there was a demand from landlords for more comprehensive services. “So we pivoted,” he said.

OneRent now provides a full spectrum of property management services, including an on-demand network of “property concierges” who service properties all over the San Francisco Bay Area.

“We are using a lot of technology to automate and make the process for tenants and landlords more efficient,” Mok said.

Tenants can browse OneRent’s exclusive listings online, as well as pre-qualify for rentals, schedule viewings of properties at their convenience, sign documents, pay rent and submit property repair requests online.

“My core belief is that there is no such thing as a very unique idea. There’s always someone working on the exact same thing.”

For landlords, OneRent handles property marketing, tenant screening, showings and leasing, move in and move out inspections, rent collection and maintenance. “And we charge about 3.5 times less than traditional property managers,” Mok said.

A dashboard feature offers landlords transparency and convenience, allowing them to monitor things such as how much revenue they are receiving each month to how much maintenance is required to upkeep their properties. “It gives them great peace of mind,” Mok said.

Adds Mok, “This industry has been stagnant for many, many years, and we’re here to push it forward – to make the whole experience better for the tenants and the landlords.”

Mok says that while OneRent’s current direct competitors are traditional property management companies, he’s certain there are others working on a similar concept. “My core belief is that there is no such thing as a very unique idea. There’s always someone working on the exact same thing,” he said.

Serving two different kinds of customers – tenants and landlords – who have very different needs can be challenging, Mok says. “What we’ve learned is we need to be adaptable,” he said.

Challenges and Rewards

One of the most challenging aspects of getting OneRent up and running has been finding capable employees, particularly proficient engineers.

“It’s harder in Silicon Valley than in other areas because the tech giants like Google and Facebook are sucking up the talent with very high paying positions,” he said.

And startups have lot of ups and downs, Mok said. “In most cases there are more downs than ups. That’s why I believe it’s very important to have a good team. Without that you don’t have the mental support you need to go through the rough times – especially in the early days when you are working 90 hours a week. If you are working on your own, and you don’t see a different perspective, it can be hard.”

“I think my future would look very different if I hadn’t gone to O’Dowd”

Mok says OneRent team members all feel like they are living their dream. “Everyone is working around the clock to ensure this venture is successful and every call they make, every client they secure, has a direct impact on the success of OneRent,” he said. “I’m so glad that every single one of us still has that passion and dedication.”

An international student who moved to the United States when he was a sophomore in high school, Mok says that choosing to attend O’Dowd was the best decision he ever made.

“The supportive culture at O’Dowd was extraordinary. I don’t think you get that kind of opportunity in other schools. I think my future would look very different if I hadn’t gone to O’Dowd,” he said. “A lot of what I learned at O’Dowd is directly helping me now.”

His advice for young entrepreneurs hoping to launch a startup? Don’t be afraid to take chances. “You need to be somewhat naïve. If you are too critical you’ll never get anything done, and you’ll find 10,000 different ways to shoot down an idea,” he said.

“OneRent was nearly a victim of that. We had a problem that we couldn’t figure out and actually scrapped the idea and crumbled up our notes and threw them in the garbage,” he said.

After attending an entrepreneurial workshop that encouraged acknowledging and embracing risk, Mok and his fellow OneRent co-founders went back to the drawing board. “We accepted that we had a problem, but just kept going,” he said. “After a few months, we realized that problem really wasn’t a problem.”

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Finding God in All Things

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