September 2, 2014

2014-15 Teen Challenge Presentations

The following presentations were made at the 2014 Teen Challenge event.

Senior Presentation to come

Jim Lobdell of Stanford School of Education – The Well Balanced Student

Freshmen Teen Challenge – Or How to Be the Parent of a 9th Grader

Jim Cantor – Drugs and the Adolescent Brain

August 26, 2014

Alum of the Month – September

Derreck Johnson ’82 Serving Up Success

Derreck Johnson ’82 has found the recipe for business success – and its main ingredient is compassion.

Owner of the Oakland-based Home of Chicken and Waffles restaurant chain, Johnson actively employs those on parole or probation, giving them a second chance to be productive citizens. He started this practice when he launched his first business, a car detailing company, in 1988.

Johnson says there’s nothing more fulfilling than helping ex-offenders secure a job and paycheck, which allows them an opportunity to rent their first apartment or purchase their first a car.

“Not every ex-offender we hire is successful, but we have a really high percentage who continue to maintain their employment,” Johnson said. “I think that’s because when they come here and work with others who have similar backgrounds they don’t feel so isolated and ostracized. It helps their confidence a lot.”

Most customers are aware of Johnson’s hiring practices, and are understanding when there’s a hiccup in service. “Many of the people I hire have never really worked before and sometimes they might say or do something that’s not appropriate. But we get through it,” he said.

Johnson believes the reason his staffing model works so well is because he’s from an urban community and understands the social and economic issues his employees face outside the workplace. He can generally tell, at a glance, when an employee is having a tough time and needs support.

“It’s rough and rocky at times, but at the end of the day you have to open the door for those behind you, right? We’re going to be relying on that next generation or two behind us,” Johnson said.

Launching Home of Chicken and Waffles

Johnson had never worked in a restaurant before he opened Home of Chicken and Waffles in 2004. “I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into until I opened the doors,” he said. “I didn’t understand how many things you need to manage at one time.”

So Johnson set out to learn the business by going to his favorite San Francisco restaurant to observe. “I went there every single day, for two or three months straight, with a notepad and took notes,” he said.

“One day the manager came up to me and asked ‘How are we doing?’” thinking Johnson was from the corporate offices.

Johnson confessed he owned a restaurant, but had no idea what he was doing. “That manager came over to my restaurant a few times and tutored me,” he said.

The Path Traveled

Johnson interned at IBM while earning a degree in business management from Fisk University. He subsequently enrolled in the MBA program at Golden Gate University, but quit midway during the first semester because the program’s focus was too corporate for his liking.

So he launched a car detailing company, which he operated for 13 years. At the same time, he ran a production/entertainment company and also worked with large firms like Gallo, Hewlett Packard and Frito Lay on their urban marketing initiatives.

Today, Johnson oversees two Home of Chicken and Waffles sites – in Oakland’s Jack London Square, and in Walnut Creek. Two more locations are set to open soon – one in the E One Entertainment complex on Hegenberger Road in Oakland, and the other in the BART parking structure in Richmond.

Johnson’s business philosophy is simple – provide a consistent and quality product. “The chicken and waffles concept has become popular, but we keep it very basic,” he said.

The entire menu, named after family members, is creatively hand-painted on the restaurant walls. Johnson’s dish – Derreck’s Deal – features a thigh or leg, candied yams, greens and cornbread. The restaurant vibe is easy going, with Motown and soul classics spinning in the background.

Johnson is also a staunch supporter of the local community. He regularly supports local non-profit organizations, including the East Bay Youth Symphony.

He also gives back to his alma mater, and has provided on course food for the Dragon Golf Classic, because he feels the college prep education he received at O’Dowd set him on the right path. “Since day one when you walk on campus there’s never a conversation about ‘are you going to college?’ It’s ‘which college are you going to?’” he said. “That experience was the start of me knowing that I could do better.”

Though the restaurant business can be challenging, Johnson can’t imagine a more satisfying career. “We have customers come in to celebrate birthdays and other special moments. Couples sometimes come up to me and say they met their wife or husband in here,” he said. “Those kinds of stories make you feel good, and make you feel like all the craziness is worth it.”

Get more information about Home of Chicken and Waffles.

Richard St. John: 8 secrets of success

Why do people succeed? Is it because they’re smart? Or are they just lucky? Neither. Analyst Richard St. John condenses years of interviews into an unmissable 3-minute slideshow on the real secrets of success.

Watch on

Honoring O’Dowd’s Top Supporters

Contributed by Caroline Desler ’14

O’Dowd parents, alums and others spent a lovely evening on the quad Aug. 24 in honor of their generosity and financial support of Bishop O’Dowd High School. All of the attendees enjoyed tasty food and drinks, wonderful company and beautiful weather while mingling with one another throughout the evening. Strategically located near the steps of the main lobby in Hurley Hall, home to the library and administrative offices, the event highlighted one specific aspect of O’Dowd made possible through philanthropy-the library.

President Steve Phelps began by welcoming the group, stressing the crucial role each person’s support plays in ensuring the maintenance and improvement of the school community-from the programs offered by O’Dowd to its various facilities. He was followed by O’Dowd librarian Annette Counts, who shared her excitement about the ever-changing and improving world of the modern library. “For kids today, the burden of research has shifted from getting their hands on the information to the more complex tasks of evaluating and organizing the flood of information,” Counts said. The Library, open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the school week, offers not only 13,000 books available to students, but subscriptions to dozens of online databases and periodicals as well.

Caroline Desler ’14 offered a student perspective, detailing the many projects she took part in throughout her four years that required the resources offered by the Library. From completing the animal project her freshman year to the infamous Junior Research Paper (JRP) as an upperclassman, Caroline explored the wide array of databases, periodicals and online programs that students are encouraged to take advantage of throughout their four year experience.

Of the knowledge that she has acquired from her time spent in the Library, Caroline said, “Mrs. Counts shared invaluable insight and skills with me that I will definitely use in college. I learned how to identify which sources were most reliable to use in my research, along with the best ways to maneuver the online databases and analyze different types of works.”

In addition, for Caroline and many other O’Dowd students, the physical space provided by the Library is just as important as the virtual dimension. “The Library is like a sacred sanctuary for students to de-stress and get away from the distractions presented by technology and social life. It’s a place of peace for quiet studying and learning, as well as a spot for group collaboration in the separate meeting rooms located toward the back of the space,” she explained. “The Library at O’Dowd is far from a thing of the past…both its physical and virtual presence is appreciated by all students.”

Lastly, Chief Advancement Officer Jeanne Jenkins announced O’Dowd’s new annual giving campaign “Transforming Lives.” She urged attendees to attend the Transforming Lives Dinner, set for Thursday, Nov. 13.

The night was a great success and wonderful tribute to many of those who support our community!

O’Dowd Students Participate in Community Service in Ghana

“This trip has truly changed our lives. It has opened our eyes to the importance of helping others and giving back.”

O’Dowd varsity soccer players Claire Attias ’16 and Alexa Hanson ’16 traveled to Takoradi, Ghana, over the summer, where they used their academic and athletic talents to help others.

Attias and Hanson, along with 10 teammates from the U17 ACC (Alameda-Contra Costa) Mavericks girls’ soccer team, volunteered at Basic Services Primary School, helping teach language and math classes, spent time with children at the Egyam Orphanage and promoted soccer in the local community.

The trip was organized by the Mavericks soccer club’s technical director and U17 head coach, Robert Sackey, a native of Ghana and the founder of Sabisoccer, an organization that provides soccer opportunities for underprivileged girls in Ghana. This was the fifth such goodwill trip he’s led to the country.

Sackey is the former head coach for Ghana’s U20 women’s soccer team, The Black Princesses, which qualified for the 2012 World Cup.

“This trip has truly changed our lives. It has opened our eyes to the importance of helping others and giving back,” Attias and Hanson said. “The children we met on this trip, who had close to nothing, were always full of joy and great appreciation for our visits. It has truly given us the gift of knowing how blessed we are for all we have. We feel we made a difference in Ghana and hope to go back.”

Attias and Hanson enjoyed experiencing the community’s rich history and vibrant culture, including traditional cooking, dance and drumming. “We ate a traditional dish called ‘fufu,’ which was vigorously mashed plantains and yucca plants. It was interesting,” Hanson said.

The girls participated in a year-long fundraising effort in which cash donations, soccer equipment and school supplies were collected for Basic Services Primary School.

The O’Dowd community joined in the effort by providing many pairs of cleats, jerseys and shorts, and the athletics department generously donated full sets of old soccer uniforms.

Prior to going to Ghana, Hanson partnered with Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Alameda to begin a pen pal project with the children at Basic Services Primary School. She worked with 50 first graders to write letters to the children in Takoradi and handcraft bracelets and book marks to be taken to Ghana.

Once in Ghana, Hanson and Attias assisted the Primary School students with reply letters to bring back to Amelia Earhart. Hanson is hoping this can be an ongoing project between the two schools.

Reflecting on her experience in Ghana, Hanson said, “It was so rewarding to be able to help others. It wasn’t just the donations – the children so appreciated our being there. You could tell it made their day.”

Added Attias, “It was a great experience all around. And I’m now so much more appreciative of everything I have.”

While in Ghana, the Mavericks played a friendly match with a local club team and participated in practices with local players.

O’Dowd’s Second Annual Honey Harvest

O’Dowd beekeepers harvested honey from the two hives on Monday August 24.

O’Dowd beekeepers prepare to harvest honey.

A honey covered glove is also covered with bees attempting to reclaim they honey and bring it back into the hive. Bees are attracted to the honey but don’t sting. Bees don’t sting because it will kill them.

Students gather around the honeycomb which will be cut off and shared.

Beekeepers prepare to cut the comb and harvest the Living Lab’s own unique melange of flavors. Honey is the condensed nectar made from the flowers found in the Living Lab.

The section of the comb on the top is filled with honey, which provides energy. The section on the bottom is filled with pollen, which is a source of protein for the honeybees.

A rarely seen queen bee is discovered. She’s the big one with the black hump on her back.

Students enjoy harvest honey.


The best honey you will eat is directly from a fresh harvested comb.

August 25, 2014

Walsh & Zepeda Repeat As POI National Champions; O’Dowd Top Parli Club in the Nation

Bishop O’Dowd Caitlin Walsh & Marco Zepeda prepping before the final round of the Windsor Invitational.

Point of Information, the central website for national high school parliamentary debate, certified O’Dowd Debate alums Caitlin Walsh & Marco Zepeda as the POI National Champions for the 2013-2014 debate season. The duo finished the year first out of 293 teams and, perhaps most impressive, are the only team in the history of the national rankings to repeat as champions. Walsh & Zepeda were joined in the top-ten by fellow O’Dowd teams Shawn Cunningham & Lily Zaballos (#7) and Nadia Perl & Tara Viviani (#9). The performance of Bishop O’Dowd’s parliamentary debaters as a whole was recognized by the certification of the program as the nation’s #1 program. This is the fourth year in a row that Bishop O’Dowd High School has finished at the top of the national club rankings.

Click here to read POI’s coverage of Walsh & Zepeda.

For a complete list of the 2013-2014 national rankings, please click here.

Click here to see the 2013-2014 national club rankings.

Saturday Sept. 6 Teen Challenged Cancelled

The Saturday Teen Challenge Make-Up session, scheduled for September 6th, has been cancelled.  We will offer a make-up session as part of a parent education night at a later date, in either late September or in October, as part of a general parent education evening.  The topic will be on the legal ramifications of improper use of social media.

August 24, 2014

O’Dowd Debate: 2014 Parliamentary Debate Tournament of Champions Recordings

Take a look at what it’s like to be an O’Dowd parliamentary debater competing in the most challenging and prestigious parliamentary debate tournament in the country. O’Dowd Debate qualified four teams to the April 5-6, 2014 Parliamentary Debate Tournament of Champions hosted by Claremont High School in Claremont, California. The O’Dowd teams of Walsh & Zepeda, Perl & Viviani, and Johnson & Zeme advanced from the preliminary rounds to quarters. Walsh & Zepeda would go on to win the tournament by defeating Dougherty Valley Konath & Wang on a 10-1 split decision in finals.

Finals: Bishop O’Dowd Walsh & Zepeda v. Dougherty Valley Konath & Wang

Resolution: The USFG should end drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Decision: 10-1 for Bishop O’Dowd Walsh & Zepeda.

Semifinals: Palos Verdes Peninsula Chang & Foltz v. Bishop O’Dowd Walsh & Zepeda (Ending Cut Off)

Resolution: U.S. colleges and universities should not allow military recruiting on campuses. Decision: 7-0 for Bishop O’Dowd Walsh & Zepeda.

Round 7: Dougherty Valley Konath & Wang v. Bishop O’Dowd Perl & Viviani

Resolution: The American Studies Association should end its boycott of Israel. Decision: 1-1.

Round 3: Bishop O’Dowd Johnson & Zeme v. Claremont Musa & Schnabel

Resolution: In the US, the government is justified in limiting the freedom of speech in order to prevent violent backlash against the speaker. Decision: 1-1.

Round 2: Bishop O’Dowd Walsh & Zepeda v. Sonoma Academy Apostle & Noel

Resolution: The USFG should significantly raise its inflation target. Decision: 2-0 Bishop O’Dowd Walsh & Zepeda.

Debate Team Fall Tryouts: Saturday, September 6 from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Incoming O’Dowd debaters honing their craft with alum Nadia Perl last month at UC Berkeley.

O’Dowd Debate will be staging its fall tryout on Saturday, September 6 from 1PM to 5PM. O’Dowd Debate accepts all interested students into its program, however participation at the tryout is mandatory for team membership. If you are interested in attending the fall tryout, please contact us by no later than September 4 at

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Finding God in All Things

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