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Heidi Rocha Witte * Class of 2005 *
With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Heidi (Rocha) Witte, from the Class of 2005, is successful at her goal in life: to serve others while loving goodness. After her Paraclete graduation, Heidi attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in American Studies, with minors in Catholic Social Teaching and Education, Schooling and Society. In 2011, she earned her Master’s in Education through Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program. None of this is surprising. While at Paraclete, Heidi was a valedictorian and an All CIF [California Interscholastic Federation] Scholar. She excelled in her AP [Advanced Placement] classes while running cross-country and track, singing in the school choir, and making friends in numerous clubs like the Christian Leadership Club. Heidi earned numerous subject awards and served as a peer tutor.
Heidi is someone you would want on your team! While at Notre Dame, she enjoyed the following activities and accolades: Notre Dame Cross Country and Track Monogram winner, Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Christopher Zorich Award for Community Service, Byron V. Kanaley Award for Exemplary Student Leadership, service opportunities with the Center for Social Concerns, cantor for Dorm Masses, and member of Unchained Melodies, a Christian a capella group.
Heidi feels that her courses at Notre Dame deepened her faith in many meaningful ways. “My courses also opened my ears to the call to serve, which led me to the teaching profession through the Alliance for Catholic Education, where I taught as a 2nd grade teacher in an inner-city Catholic school in New Orleans. The ACE program shaped me in countless ways and gave me the tools to serve my students and teach them at their level. Teaching 2nd grade was also a special experience, as I was able to prepare my students for the sacraments of First Confession and First Communion, and I witnessed these special moments with them, sharing in their joy as they received Jesus for the first time. I continued serving as an inner-city Catholic school teacher and Reading Specialist in Los Angeles for four years. At present, I share the skills I learned in the classroom as a volunteer catechist for Christ the King Church’s Children’s Liturgy program and as a mom of two.” At her parish, Heidi also sings as a cantor, serves on the leadership team for the St. Gianna’s Moms Group, and is also part of their Christian Action group.
Heidi and her husband Mark met during their senior year at Notre Dame. Mark graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in English and Japanese, and currently works as a Post-Production Manager at Notre Dame. Their family is complete with their children Grace, 5, and Dillon, 2. Heidi loves being so close to their “second home,” Notre Dame. “It’s such a blessing to take our kids to campus to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. We love going to the Grotto, feeding the ducks by St. Mary’s Lake, and watching the Notre Dame Marching Band parade by on football Saturdays. We also love getting to enjoy the snow in the winter!”
Taking a moment to think about her years at Paraclete High School, Heidi fondly remembers Mrs. Nadine Nichter-Seidel as her favorite teacher for her inspiration to “reach higher and to push myself harder.” Heidi and her family come back to the Antelope Valley about twice a year. “Our kids always love seeing their fun-loving grandparents, so they look forward to it!” Heidi’s parents, Mike and Linda Rocha cherish the visits. She shares that while she and her family do love the change in seasons in Indiana, they miss the year-round sunshine of Southern California.
Following in Christ’s footsteps is Heidi’s life mission. Her favorite passage of the Bible is Micah 6:8: “You have been told…what the LORD requires of you: only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” She is reminded of our calling to act justly towards our neighbor and to show God’s love to others.
Heidi finds solace in a favorite prayer of Father Ted Hesburgh, best known for serving as Notre Dame’s president for over 35 years and as the chairman of the Civil Rights Commission starting in the 1950s. The prayer is simply, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Heidi finds that those three words are a “source of strength and comfort to me, reminding me of the Holy Spirit – the Paraclete – will guide me and accompany me on every step of my journey here on Earth.”
When asked how she and her family have managed the quarantine, Heidi replied with enthusiasm! “Taking on the production of our online Children’s Liturgy program has been a great blessing and distraction for us during this time of quarantine. When our parish, Christ the King, closed due to the pandemic, Mark and I wanted to continue our 5-year-old daughter’s faith formation. Normally, she attends Children’s Liturgy at our parish. We asked our parish if doing an online Children’s Liturgy would be something they’d be interested in, and our pastor encouraged us to go for it. I was able to get in touch with my favorite children’s liturgical composer, John Burland, and he graciously allowed us to use his music in our videos, and Pflaum Publishing also offered free weekly leaflets for families. It just all came together very organically (and definitely with the help of the Holy Spirit)! I couldn’t have done this without the amazing behind-the-scenes work by my selfless husband, Mark. With my teaching background and Mark’s production and editing skills, we have worked as a couple to create this ministry for children from all over the world. We had 2,500 viewers our first week, and families were watching our program from 5 different continents. Our videos were shown on CatholicTV each Sunday morning, as well. We received so many emails and messages from parents thanking us for helping their children during the difficult time of the pandemic. I created a free coordinating coloring page each week, and parents could send in their child’s coloring sheet to be featured on the next week’s Children’s Liturgy video. We received over 140 submissions of beautiful artwork one week! Parents repeatedly told us that the inclusion of children’s liturgical music, movement (including signs in American Sign Language), and the interactiveness of these Children’s Liturgy videos encourage their children to participate and have kept their children’s attention. Music, movement, and speaking to our children in simple terms (or in their ‘language’) can really help young children understand the Gospels and their faith more easily and more fully! They are our future Church, so starting faith formation early is so important. Our hope is that more parishes will offer Children’s Liturgy of the Word, so that young children can grow even more in their faith. It has been truly rewarding to be a part of this ministry!” After much prayer, Heidi and Mark have decided to continue producing their Children’s Liturgy episodes. To learn more and to help support or spread the word about their ministry, visit www.patreon.com/kidsliturgy.
Pflaum Publishing Group has recently hired Heidi as an independent contractor to film short Gospel reflection videos for their Children Celebrate and Gospel Weeklies Faith Formation programs. She is excited to continue spreading the Good News with little ones.
Heidi has certainly given us direction in leading a life of goodness. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your passion. Blessings and good health to you and yours Heidi!
To see past videos and learn more about Heidi’s projects with Pflaum, visit her Twitter account at www.twitter.com/KidsLiturgy.
Brighton Bacchus * 1989 *
This is a tale of an adventure one alumnus took beginning in June 2019 down the path to create and host the perfect Paraclete party. His love for Paraclete High School is profound and everlasting. Meet Brighton Bacchus, a member of the Class of 1989. His reunion organizing story has made him a Rock Star Party Planner with his mission of giving back, and he just might be sought out for advice for other Spirit Reunions!
Brighton is a friend to many, and with his forever love of Paraclete High School, getting to know him is a joy that will earn him the title “Friend to All.” We asked Brighton to tell us about himself and his pursuit of a the perfect Paraclete party.
“I was born in Lancaster in 1971, and attended Sacred Heart School through 8th Grade, and only wanted to go to Paraclete. After graduating Paraclete in 1989, I went to Loyola Marymount University and graduated in 1993 with a double major in Political Science and Communication Studies. I completed my MBA in 1998 at the University of La Verne with an emphasis in Organizational Communication and E-Commerce.”
“I was married in 1995 to my wife Aimee (who graduated from Antelope Valley High School in 1991) by Father Joe Scalco (more about him later), and we have been married 24 years. I have two daughters: Lauren is a sophomore at California Lutheran University and is a biology major interested in careers in the medical field, and Amanda is a junior at La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks, and is interested in careers in psychology or counseling at this time.”
Life After Paraclete
“After graduation from Loyola Marymount University in 1993, I moved back to the Antelope Valley, and worked at Jones Intercable as a production assistant/news reporter doing new, sports, and feature stories on the local channel. I was also working at A.V. Bank in Palmdale, where I lasted six weeks, but met my wife there, and that was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.
“I have a condition called Chiari Malformation (which is a congenital malformation similar to Spinal Bifida) and I blacked out while hiking with Carl Ladensack [PHS teacher], Geoff Bates ’89, and Matt Simanski ’87 in 1998. The ironic thing about being on this hike with these three Paraclete Spirits, is it literally saved my life. Within three weeks, I had brain surgery, and I was out of work for over a year – rehabilitating myself physically, learning how to walk again and rebuilding my strength. I had my driver’s license also taken away temporarily due to my neurological condition. One of the advantages of not working while rehabbing is that I was able help with our ten-year class reunion in 1999.”
“I have been in sales for over 25 years working in litigation support sales, and yellow pages and internet advertising for 10 years. The last 15 plus years, I have been in supply chain and logistics sales working specifically on small package, international e-commerce shipping. In early 2019, I was recruited to join the FedEx Cross Border Sales Division, and lead sales for the western U.S.
Faith & Volunteerism
“My Catholic faith is still very important to me, and is the foundation and cornerstone of my existence. I have been a catechist at Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo for over 15 years, working in religious education for the First Communion, Reconciliation, and Confirmation Programs. I have been a member of the Knights of Columbus for over three years as part of Padre Serra Parish. I also serve my community as the president of La Reina Dad’s Club at La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks.
“My wife Aimee and I have worked for almost two decades for a charity called Sammie’s Circle – which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars as a non-profit for USC Norris Cancer Research Center. Sammie’s Circle has annual events that raise funds for the center, as well as raising awareness about cancer and cancer treatments.”
What Paraclete Means to Me
“My years at Paraclete High School represent a very special time in my life. I remember attending the Spaghetti Dinner as a new incoming freshman in 1985, thinking how tall and mature everyone else looked there. I remember being very scared and intimidated at that event, just because I didn’t believe in myself.
“Once I got comfortable with myself and my own skin, I got very involved in Paraclete, primarily through clubs and activities. I was very involved in ASB as Christian Service Secretary and Sophomore Class President. I was also Financial Manager of the Yearbook, and was involved in other clubs and organizations.
“One of the things that I remember most is going to communion almost every day at lunch with Geoff Bates, Mike Murphy, Tim Ward, and Rick Abueg (all class of 1989), as it was a very quick Eucharistic Service said by Fr. Joe Scalco [Paraclete campus priest], which was such a blessing during the middle of the day. The Eucharistic Service at lunch would help me realize how thankful and blessed I was to be going to such a special school, where we can pray openly and practice our faith.”
“Fr. Joe Scalco was always a very special person in my life. I used to meet with him frequently for spiritual counseling and support, whether it was when my parents had gotten divorced and years later, still feeling like I was responsible for it in some way, to just being blessed and appreciative for the opportunity to go to Paraclete High School. I had the honor of attending the Religious Education Conference in Anaheim three of my four years at Paraclete. One of them was the ultimate opportunity, as we had the honor of seeing Pope John Paul II officiate Mass, and a small select group of students had the honor of attending it with Mr. Andy Gavel in a twelve passenger van. These are the experiences that I will never will forget that that you are blessed with the opportunity while attending Paraclete High School. After I had brain surgery, Fr. Joe came down to visit me at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank. I will never forget seeing his smiling face and the blessing he gave me.”
Paraclete Multi Year Reunion
“What started off as a simple call to Paraclete to find out the status of the Class of 1989 30-Year Reunion back in June, was literally a phone call that changed my life for the better. After speaking with Janet Godde Bower [PHS alumni coordinator], I felt ‘the calling’ from the Holy Spirit that we needed to do something more than a traditional 30-year reunion; we needed to give back to the school that gave us so much.
“I had a minimum headcount of 75 that I had to fulfill at the venue, and I wasn’t having any luck with just my class. I expanded it to 1988 and 1990, and still wasn’t having enough traction. I then realized that it didn’t matter what year you graduated from Paraclete. If you love the school, have positive memories of the school, want to see old friends and meet new friends, and want to give back to the school that had given us so much, then you were welcomed at our Multi-year Paraclete Reunion. I needed more support to get this moving so I reached out to any alumni who were interested in supporting me. I was fortunate to get Shannon Stephens Clasen ’89, Angie Navarette Bowman ’89, Sabrina Ortega ’89, Steve O’Neal ’90, Juanita Edwards Gagnon ’90, Yanir Ram ’91, and Tamar House ’91 to help me spread the Paraclete joy. We had two goals that we envisioned for the Paraclete Multi-year Reunion: to give alumni the opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones, and secondly to raise money for current students at Paraclete so that they could continue their education at Paraclete.
“We didn’t know until speaking with Janet that some 30% of the students at Paraclete, approximately 175 students, receive some support of financial assistance from Paraclete High School. As financial conditions have changed and the population of the Antelope Valley has evolved, there is an increase in population of families that need financial assistance to send their children to the only private Catholic High School in the Antelope Valley.
“We started out by sending letters to Paraclete graduates over an eleven-year span, and realized that we needed to get more creative. We undertook the strategy to get back in touch with faculty, teachers, and staff and invited them to the event for free. We also reached out to some generous Paraclete alumni, and asked them if they would be willing to sponsor the event to accommodate our guests of honor and to keep the prices as low as possible. Our commitment was to keep the cost of the event cheaper than your prom, and you don’t have to ride the bus 30 years later at $50 per person.
“We then asked the teachers to get involved. We were very blessed to have Mrs. Deborah Duke [former teacher at PHS] record a video on social media that spread like wildfire, inviting people to the reunion. I would then record weekly updates on Facebook and Instagram, while traveling for work with FedEx. I did videos at airports in Los Angeles, Reno, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, and Seattle, saying that while we are busy traveling and working, we want you all to consider coming to the event. We were also creative and used memes of screen shots from 80’s musicians from Madonna to Bon Jovi to Michael Bolton to encourage interaction and a sense of humor. We would also post who was going to attend the reunion with a brief profile of what they did at Paraclete when available, to hype up the event and get people interested in going. We wanted to also have raffle prizes donated from alumni to raise funds.
“Thank you to the generous donations from sponsors Team House Realty/All Valley Leasing (Tamar House ‘91), DRI Holdings (Yanir Ram ’91, Derek McMurtry ’91, and Zohar Ram McMurtry ’93), Baker Rescue Services (David Baker ’86 and Brian Baker ’87), and Camacho Auto Sales (Gustavo Camacho ’90).
“Thank you to raffle prize donors: Magic Castle Grand Prize Experience from Tom Laquidara, gift cards from Gino’s Italian Restaurant, Therapeutic Massages by Dr. Buck and Angie Navarette Bowman ’89, Double Smoke BBQ gift sets by David Suppe ’87, Chronic Tacos gift card and T-Shirt by Chad Eberhardt ’91,Wine Basket from Rene Lazare ’84, Arbonne Skin Care Basket by Steve O’Neal ’90, gift card from Mary Grace Fabian ’85, DJ Session Provided by DJ Splice Paul Worthey, Photo Booth provided by Spotlight Photo Booth, Hand Carver Wood Letter Opener by Ms. Jan Wiskerson [retired teacher], Antelope Valley Wine Gift Basket, Tasting & Tour provided by Mrs. Gail Monti [retired teacher] and AV Winery, and Nike gift cards provided by Sarah Hart Pease ’87.
“When the red and yellow Paraclete magic dust settled, the event blossomed into a gargantuan success. We had 130 attendees at Gino’s Restaurant in Palmdale, and raised over $3500.00 for scholarships for students at Paraclete High School. We had the honor of Mr. Carl Ladensack [teacher at PHS] attending and saying a blessing before dinner. Mrs. Deborah Duke and her husband Jay made a very generous donation to the reunion, and students were lined up twenty deep to have their picture taken with the Paraclete Matriarch, Mrs. Caryl Hier. We were also fortunate to have Janet Godde Bower [’74, PHS Alumni Coordinator] attend the event as well.”
“I still remember all the words to the Alma Mater, but what is really important is what the ‘Paraclete Spirit’ means. To me, it means that you are a positive, enthusiastic person trying to do the best that you can every day with the talents and treasures that God blessed you with, to be the best possible person that you can be through a life of service, humility, and modesty.
“I try to apply that principle to every aspect of my life. On my college applications, I called it the 3 F’s – friends, family, and faith. In the working world as I have gotten older, I call it the 3 A’s – activity, attitude, and accountability. I believe the Paraclete Spirit is a compilation of both.
“With the help of your friends, family, and most importantly, your faith, use your God given talents and treasures in positive and meaningful activities with a heart of service, and a positive, loving attitude, all the while holding yourself accountable to yourself, your family, your friends, and your faith. To me, that is truly what the Paraclete Spirit is, and I believe the Paraclete Multi-year Reunion is a prime example of demonstrating the ‘Paraclete Spirit.’”
In December, Paraclete High School Student Body welcomed Brighton as a guest speaker at a Spirit Start-up where he shared his Spirit and the values he cherishes. Thank you Brighton for your love of school and generosity of time, talents, and passion.
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.