Spirit Success Stories

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Todd Davis * Class of 2010 *

Once a Spirit…now a Saint!
Paraclete graduate from the class of 2010, Todd Davis, signed with The New Orleans Saints. Todd, a linebacker, was signed to a three-year contract. After graduating from Paraclete High School, he continued to play football at Sacramento State. While in college, he recorded 351 career tackles, 9.5 sacks, 30 tackles for losses, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, three interceptions, six passes deflected and one blocked kick. As a senior, the middle linebacker registered 131 tackles, five sacks, 10 stops for a loss, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, four passes deflected and one blocked kick.

Congratulations to Todd and best wishes for success and good health in the NFL!

Camille Loria * Class of 2011 *

Camille’s mother is happy to share this update: Camille was in Vietnam during the summer of 2013 as a volunteer with the Vietnam Tooth Project (VTP).

Traveling to Asia for the first time, Camille had an unforgettable experience being able to donate time and service to the children of Vietnam. Combating malnutrition and promoting oral health, she loved the children she helped as well as the volunteers she worked with who are now her VTP family. With such a blessed experience, Camille hopes to volunteer again as she is passionate about community outreach and her pursuit of dentistry as a potential career.

Camille just completed her sophomore year at UC Berkeley and is currently taking summer classes. She recently joined a dental office nearby as an intern (with pay!).

Tom Saenz * Class of 1993 *

Navy pilot earns degree in combat zone

By JULIE WATSON | Associated Press – Fri, May 17, 2013

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Finals week was dangerous for Thomas Saenz.

The Navy lieutenant needed armed guards and an armored car to get to an exam site, in Kabul, Afghanistan. A deadly bomb attack also caused him to his miss classes — transmitted live via the Internet — but he persevered and earned a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Southern California while commanding a top security team.

His class graduated on Friday, as he joins a growing number of service members earning college degrees while deployed in a war zone.

“Not only was he out there living on the edge, but he had to get his homework done,” USC professor Frank Alvidrez said.

The Obama administration is pushing universities to find creative ways to help service members complete their degrees as it tracks the success of its post 9/11 GI Bill, which is designed to be the most comprehensive education benefit for veterans since World War II.

Enrollments for the new GI Bill number more than 480,000, according to the Veteran’s Administration, which is starting to track the number of graduates.

It’s not known just how many others like Saenz earn their degrees while in combat. A commencement ceremony for 100 war-zone graduates from various universities is planned in late May in Kandahar.

“They really are multi-tasking in the extreme,” said Bob Ludwig, spokesman for the University of Maryland University College, adding that the coursework can provide relief from the mental turmoil of war. “It really is an opportunity to step away from the battlefield and have the sort of the safety of being in a classroom.”

UMUC has about 30,000 active-duty service members among its students and was among the first schools to send faculty to Iraq to teach troops in 2008 during the war. UMUC also has adjunct professors giving classes in tents in remote outposts of Afghanistan as well as online instruction on bases.

Completing degrees online is a growing phenomenon, as more traditional public universities join private, for-profit schools in offering courses.

Saenz, a 33-year-old father of two, used the GI Bill to enroll at USC but midway through his studies, the Navy pilot was called to be deployed to Afghanistan.

After getting approval from his professors and Navy commanders, Saenz spent his final year of studies racing to his computer on base at 5 a.m. to attend the live transmission of his classes before dedicating his day to overseeing security for top generals and then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

He missed a class that required his online presence when a suicide bomber blew himself up near NATO’s headquarters in Kabul, killing six civilians.

The base was locked down. Saenz wrote to his professor and aide when the Internet was back up to explain his absence.

“I was worried because it was early in the semester and I was afraid it would affect my grade,” he said. “But they were real supportive.”

Another time, he was absent because he was arranging a helicopter to transport Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Saenz caught up by watching the recorded classes.

“I told my class if Thomas can get his homework done on time then I don’t think there are any excuses for the rest of you all,” Alvidrez said. “And he pulled an ‘A.’ He was one of the top 10 percent.”

Even getting to finals was treacherous. After military officials checked intelligence to ensure there were no imminent threats, he crossed Kabul on a highly dangerous road with armed guards in an armored SUV to the Army base where a military official was certified to give him the university exams. While there, he picked up ammo, weapons and dropped off radios to be repaired, then grabbed some barbeque at a tent.

Saenz said he was determined to finish his advanced degree — the second person in his extended family to do so — knowing his 10-year Navy career was ending in June. He is one of 91 service members in the university’s online engineering graduate program called DEN(at)Viterbi.

An essay he wrote for one of his classes was on WWII veterans going on to lead top companies after returning home. With today’s technology, he sees opportunities for veterans to follow in those footsteps more easily than ever.

“I think we’re in that period again, with the post 9/11 GI Bill and all these kids coming back with their experience overseas,” Saenz said. “Hopefully we can come back and do great things for our country outside of our uniform.”

Note from Paraclete: Congratulations Tom! Thank you for your service! May God keep you safe!

Savannah Gutierrez * Class of 2011 *

Alumnus Savannah Gutierrez Named as All American for California Community Colleges!

Savannah placed 2nd in her conference for her batting average, and 31st in the state. She also placed 4th for her Earned Run Average, and 6th in strike-outs. Savannah also led her conference in steals! Way to go Savannah!!

Ashley Velazquez * Class of 2012 *

Congratulations to Ashley!

The Los Angeles County Fire Department selected Ashley as the Post 17 Explorer of the Year!

The Paraclete Family wishes to congratulate Ashley on a job well done. Best of luck to Ashley in her future endeavors!

Alexandra Sepolen * Class of 2012 *

Alexandra shared the following update: “I’ve finally settled into life on Brown University’s campus! Everyone here is extremely friendly and open, and I’m thankful for the tools that Paraclete’s teachers have given me in both academics and leadership. My foundation at Paraclete has allowed me to become a research assistant as an incoming freshman in Brown’s cognitive science department. I’m currently studying how the human body responds and adjust to new environments based on the span of one’s memory. I’m also studying how the body recuperates from physical damage through long-term “muscle memory”. I am one of only two freshmen working on the research project, and I am one of only three women working on the project as well. Here’s a link to the lab’s website for more information: http://www.cog.brown.edu/research/ven_lab/index.html.” Impressive! Good luck to Alexandra!

Scott Sturdyvin * Class of 2000 *

Scott Sturdyvin is the newly hired media/theater technician at Eastside High School in Lancaster. The theater’s sound system was designed by one of the best acousticians in the country. The complex also features a Black Box Theater, dressing rooms, soundproof instrumental and practice rooms, a choir classroom, television production room and a shop where students can construct stage sets. The facility will be available for the high school district and community. Scott said he is looking forward to working with the variety of people from concerts to plays to comedians likely to perform in the theater. He and his wife Monique will welcome their first child in June. Congratulations, Scott!

Mike VanKirk * Class of 2011 *

Mike VanKirk (’11) has given his verbal intent to attend San Jose State and play Spartan basketball. Congratulations Mike!

Karli Norville, * Class of 2012 *

Paraclete Alumn Karli Norville has decided to focus on childhood literacy for her Girl Scout Gold Award Project. The Girl Scouts have long been an organization aimed at helping society and promoting a brighter future for generations to come. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest and most prestigious award that Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors can earn.

Karli has organized and is running a literacy day during which families from throughout the Antelope Valley can come and learn about childhood literacy and kids can start to develop a passion for reading. This day includes story-times, crafts, and a book-give-away. It is taking place on August 25 from 2-4pm. Paraclete students are able to volunteer for Christian Service hours if they would like to come and help with this wonderful event to promote literacy.