Insights

Let’s start a meaningful conversation. Insights looks deeper into Catholic education, all-boys schools and Palma School’s relevance in our Salinas Valley and the Central Coast. We’ll strip away the institutional puffery to expose the thoughts, philosophies and motivations for our founder, president, board, current faculty and staff and the community that supports Palma — from families and friends to businesses and organizations.
THE PERSPECTIVE OF FAITH January 2017 — Roger Rybkowski

Any discussion about service and stewardship must begin with gratitude. Gratitude for each other for the fellowship, support and encouragement we willfully offer. Gratitude for spiritual mentors, from Br. Dunne to Campus Ministry and the faculty for their devotion, education, wisdom and insight. And, of course, gratitude for God — for everything we have comes from God. Not just our possessions, but everything that is good and decent in our lives — our family, our abilities, our associations, how and where we live. God blesses us in great abundance. And the greatest of these gifts is the gift of Faith. For Faith is the most powerful force on earth. 
 
Faith makes us all equal. Faith changes lives and transforms hearts. And Faith allows us to see things we would otherwise overlook. In order to fully experience the power of Faith, we must be able to look at life from the perspective of Faith. This isn’t easy, for we have been made secular by society. And how could we not? We were born into, raised, shop, and seek entertainment and recreation in a secular world. The secular world more often than not influences our decisions, judgment and values.
 
The difference between a secular perspective and a Faith perspective can be illustrated using what we may have all experienced. When an unanticipated bill arrives, from a secular perspective, one might say, “We barely have enough to pay this.” The same statement from a Faith perspective is, “Thank God we have enough to pay this.” The difference between a secular perspective and a Faith perspective is the difference between pessimism and optimism — between anxiety and gratitude — between despair and hope. 
 
Simply put, without Faith we deny the existence of God. And without God, there is no hope.
 
The very act of us coming together to worship, sharing the Eucharist and celebrating the Mass, makes us all stewards of the precious gift of Faith. We are the keepers, protectors and promoters of the most powerful force on earth. This is our purpose — to spread the good news and build the kingdom of God on earth. There is no greater purpose. 
 

Insights Archive

List of 10 items.

  • IT’S LIKE ROCKET SCIENCE December 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    We’ve all heard the term, “it’s not rocket science.” But in a large way, secondary education is like rocket science. The success of a NASA mission is not realized when the rocket is on the launch pad, but the rocket scientist’s job is done at that point. The rocket has been prepped, the telemetry set and the trajectory has been predetermined. All of it must be in place before the rocket takes off.
     
    In the same way, junior high and high school instructors are preparing students to take off and operate independently. Many will leave the atmosphere of their parents’ home, requiring they possess the ability to make good decisions. That ability, of course, comes from his upbringing; but is reinforced with lessons, expectations and the standard of conduct at Palma School.
     
    Young men experience an academic environment where behavior and performance are measured by both their instructors and their peers. The brotherhood compels young Chieftains to recognize, experience and appreciate the value of stepping outside themselves to serve others, whether they be a person in a marginalized population or a classmate. Learning to treat others with dignity and respecting other points of view are valuable telemetry to carry through life.
     
    A rigorous course load, along with counselors who proactively guide students toward their goals, set the trajectory for college. A plethora of athletic opportunities and clubs ranging from Know That You Matter to Mock Trial and Robotics provide places to make new friends and learn through sharing common interests.
     
    Palma School, in concert with parents, prepare young men to take off, travel independently, and fulfill their mission wherever life takes them. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a lot like it.
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  • PALMA IS LOVE November 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    What is Palma School’s identity? It cannot be derived from a description of its attributes nor the virtues of its benefits. It must be more rudimentary than that — Palma School’s identity must come from its roots. Like the mighty palm tree for which it’s named, everything springs forth from the root. And, the story of Palma School, to be precise, must spring from that root or risk being misinterpreted.
     
    It doesn’t take long to see the obvious; Palma is love. The evidence is all around. The way students regard each other in brotherhood. The way teachers shepherd their classes. The way coaches relate to their student-athletes. The way campus ministry is integrated into every aspect of school culture. The way parents treat all of the boys as if they were their own. The way this school community will rally around a cause. The way every constituent will step up when there is a need. The way every person representing Palma School maintains a high level of integrity and professionalism.
     
    One cannot even drive into Palma’s parking lot without looking straight into the greatest symbol of love on earth, the cross atop the Blessed Edmund Rice Chapel. For that matter; did a young Edmund Rice forego wealth to educate the poor for profit? For status? For nothing but love for Christ and humanity.
     
    It’s from this foundation of love that the Palma School story comes into focus. The concepts of “team” school, peer power, support, unity, brotherhood, passion and compassion are all borne from love and resonate on a visceral level in addition to appealing to the intellect.
     
    The word “love” might sound juxtaposed with an all-boys school, but once one is able to reconcile the concept, then it is difficult not to see it — everywhere. And, as St. Paul says, “without love, we are just clashing cymbals.”
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  • WHAT’S IN A NAME? October 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    There’s profound power in the name “Palma,” which is Latin for Palm.
     
    The palm is a symbol of victory, peace and eternal life, originating in the near east and Mediterranean regions. In ancient Greece, the palm frond was awarded to victorious athletes. The palm frond was so associated with victory in ancient Roman culture that the word meant both palm tree and victory. In modern Christianity, the palm symbolizes victory of the spirit over the flesh. In the Middle East, it is symbolic of hospitality. In Northern Sudan, the palm is a symbol of endurance.
     
    Throughout history, the palm has been a strong and powerful symbol. Today, Palma exemplifies this association with uncommon achievement in the classroom, on the field and court, and in the manner in which Chieftains conduct themselves.
     
    The only way to meet high standards is to set high standards. These principles permeate every aspect of campus life. Chieftains work hard to be great and harder to be grateful. They reach far outside themselves while standing fast with family and friends. The brotherhood enjoyed by the student population is borne of respect in the highest order. Appropriate deference is the toll exacted for the title Chieftain.
     
    Palma School, then, is not just a name. It’s a definition.
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  • BOYS WILL BE MEN September 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    “Trusting in God’s help, I hope to be able to educate these boys to be good Catholics and good citizens.” — Blessed Edmund Rice
     
    In an era when a segment of society is asking the whole to accept that gender be relegated to the status of one’s personal interpretation rather than tangible physiology, it would seem inauspicious to champion the Palma School model. Despite the voguish inclination toward androgyny, decades of research, along with anecdotal observation and strangely coincidental outcomes, make a compelling case for the preponderance of an all-male school format.
     
    Let’s start with the research. Studies conducted both in the US and abroad almost unanimously conclude that boys learn in a different way than do girls. Boys tend to be better at spatial visualization and abstract mathematics while girls are superior with communications. Girls have a tendency to begin reading and writing earlier than do boys and reach physical and mental maturity sooner. And, boys learn easier when lessons include visual cues, motion or some type of physical activity.
     
    Having an all male student body allows Palma faculty to employ the methods proven best for boys. But the academic climate is only one advantageous aspect of this dynamic.
     
    Young men thrive in a disciplined environment where they are aware of both the boundaries and consequences of their behavior. Students are immersed in a culture where they learn as much from their peers as they do from faculty and staff when it comes to matters of deportment. Good conduct, honesty and loyalty become second-nature and a standard by which they learn to orchestrate their lives.
     
    The ultimate result of Palma School’s campus culture is a heightened sense of both belonging and of discernment. Both qualities are impossible to quantify, but are evidenced by the connection many alumni have for the school. They understand, when all of the hard work is done, that they arrived a boy of promise and graduated a man of character. This leads them to becoming good sons, brothers, fathers, grandfathers and good citizens.
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  • IT’S IN GIVING August 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    What does a person possess? I would argue that a person only truly possesses that which can never be taken away. So the question becomes what do we have that cannot be taken — not what do we own, but what do we have — that can never be taken?
     
    Everything we have can be taken because everything we have has been given. This, then, speaks to the depth and breadth of how we are all interconnected, for we all have been recipients since birth, and givers to others for exactly as long. An examination of human circumstances prompts introspection that scarcely illuminates the gravity of our individual responsibility as an interconnected member of society.
     
    The important question, then, becomes: what have we given to those with whom we are connected? It is each of us who gives others love, hope, confidence, esteem, respect, kindness, compassion, truth, dignity, and the list goes on. Yet, in an ironic twist, it is also us who can take these exact same things away from our brother and sister. God has made each of us perfectly imperfect.
     
    Recognizing that we are constantly giving to others means we are relevant to the rest of the world and provides the necessary motivation to make every attempt to perfect ourselves. And in so doing, we can then grasp in full measure the insight that what we need to improve ourselves, we will never possess. It can only be given to us by others.
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  • THE VALUE OF AN “INTERACTIVE” EDUCATION July 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    Technology is not just cutting a swath through which social and methodological change is rapidly advancing, it’s also changing terminology and common definitions.
     
    Case in point; for most under the age of 30, interactive learning involves the use of digital technology and virtual environments with which children learn through prompts and online discussion panels that are conducted at the pace best suited for each student’s learning style. Indeed, many colleges and universities, with secondary schools close behind, are incorporating an increasing number of interactive lessons. This shift in pedagogy is in response to understanding how today’s students learn and best practices for maintaining engagement in a subject.
     
    An argument can be made, however, that the antiquated definition of interactive learning — children playing with and learning from one another — has an intrinsic value that cannot be supplanted by technology.
     
    Some of life’s most constructive lessons have come from a playground. The ability of a young man to thrive among a group of his peers when outside the aegis of his parents and home is vital to his capacity to absorb and deflect the natural interaction among people in society at large. Such interaction is also integral to a young man’s natural instinct to be part of a team. To be respected, one must first be exposed to those who will provide the respect. In turn, such respect, as the result of publicly witnessed accomplishments, is the catalyst for self esteem and the positive self image that provides the necessary motivation to continually push past one’s own self-imposed limitations.
     
    The successful gardener learns as much from his calluses and he does from his books. Social interaction in a school environment provides team-based problem solving, point and counterpoint debate and think-on-your-feet skills. Boys in particular benefit from experiential learning and meaningful connections with, and feedback from, their mentors and peers. The abilities to critically think through a fluid situation and work collaboratively are essential to future success.
     
    Perhaps a correlation can be drawn between today’s seeming lack of tolerance and the relative isolation many of today’s youths experience in their daily life. Countless hours are spent interacting with a screen, whether it be a lesson, video game or text conversation. Social etiquette has been abandoned, personal commitments are null and void, and group dynamics have become forms of intimidation. Our children are losing their ability to adapt and co-exist.
     
    The benefit of an educational environment in which rules of social conduct are understood and enforced is incalculable for both a young man’s future and the future of society. A boy thrives in surroundings that promote healthy competition while emphasizing sportsmanship and camaraderie. He flourishes in a group of his peers who are supportive. And he grows to his full potential when challenged, but not broken, by a group to which he feels the sense of belonging.
     
    The new interactive learning may streamline a boy’s capacity to learn, but the old interactive learning has the power to build a solid man and unleash unlimited possibilities. How robust, then, would an environment be in which both definitions are in play?
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  • DIVERSITY VS INCLUSIVITY May 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    Diversity. The concept, pure in its motive, is to break down barriers and establish that equal opportunity will be realized when we embrace and celebrate our differences. It is an admission that our nation is not one culture, but a conglomeration of cultures co-existing under one government. The greater the divide between cultures, the louder the clamor to recognize diversity and re-define it as our strength. Diversity, once a goal, has morphed into a yardstick by which organizations are measured.
     
    When it was first championed, it was necessary to jam the diversity wrench into the gears of the American consciousness. Most people needed to be jolted out of a pattern of homogenous thinking. But, let’s not forget, most people in the early to mid 20th Century had limited exposure to other cultures. Neighborhoods and entire towns had been settled and populated by a majority of people from one country or religion. Their world view seldom extended further than their boundary. Without television nor the Internet, news arrived via daily paper or word of mouth. From beginnings like these, it’s easy to see how the evolution of transportation and communication started bringing people of every stripe together for the first time.
     
    Ignorance of other cultures was usually just ignorance and the need to promote diversity was born.
     
    The world today is a different place. Children grow up with more than exposure to other ethnicities, races and cultures to include intimate details of daily life expressed peer-to-peer through social media. For many of these children, diversity is a reverse concept. We are asking children who see the world as one people to separate them into categories. It’s time we embrace a new paradigm: inclusivity.
     
    The inclusivity model does not attempt to erase cultural identity. It teaches to accept and respect differences under the umbrella of what we hold in common. It teaches that we are not all that different when viewed through the lens of our basic needs. Embracing what makes us one — the love of God and the brotherhood found at Palma School — enables differences to be explored in a context that makes them assets instead of threats. It holds at its base one goal: include everyone. Under the inclusivity model, families are not just accepted, they are welcomed.
     
    When harnessed, diverse cultures, experiences and points of view become powerful points of light. Inclusivity brings those points of light together to form a beam bright enough to see truth and justice. And, one must be able to see the light in order to be the light.
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  • TEAM SCHOOL March 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    Sure, I’ve heard it before and have heard it for some time: Palma is a “sports” school. And, when you count the number of winning seasons and championships, there seems little evidence to counter the claim. To verify that this assertion is false, however, one need only to visit the campus. You will find that Palma is not a “sports” school, rather Palma is a “team” school.
     
    What makes any team successful? It starts with respect…respect for the program, respect for its leaders and respect for each other. There is a process that takes place over a young man’s tenure at Palma. He is encouraged to step outside himself and place others’ needs in front of his own. He begins to view his school, his community — even his world — through the lens of faith and compassion. At a time when teenagers are instinctually placing themselves first, Palma is asking its students to place themselves last. Through this prism, a young man starts to understand his place as part of something bigger than himself. He sees the merit in making a positive contribution to the bigger picture and the spirit of “team” begins to not just make sense — but become a way of life.
     
    Teammates don’t let each other down, even though they may be fiercely competitive. In fact, it is their inherit competitiveness that inspires them to support their teammates. That’s why you find the boys of Palma more likely to lift each other up, than put each other down.
     
    When working as a team, each contributing as he can to the common goal, they find success. Whether it be at a mock trial, in the digital media lab, helping each other succeed in an AP course, or yes, even on the court or field, Chieftains find energy and optimism as a team. The transformative experience at Palma School turns a diverse collection of junior high school students into friends, lower classmen into brothers and upper classmen into mentors. There exists a connection between grades seven and twelve, not a divide. The youngest student feels part of the “team,” while the most experienced remember their own path and are compelled to offer their guidance and wisdom.
     
    Respect for their teachers and the entire Palma experience leads students to take school seriously. They learn self discipline, self respect and the value of sacrifice. When these principles are applied to any aspect of school, success quickly follows.
     
    It may look like a “sports” school from the outside, but once on campus, you’ll discover Palma is the ultimate “team” school. 
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  • THE POWER OF THE MASSES January 2016 — Roger Rybkowski

    The more time I spend on campus at Palma School, the more nuances I discover that contribute to Palma’s uniqueness. Case in point: this morning attending Mass of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
     
    I had a pre-conceived notion that Catholic Mass at a high school where fully one-third of the student population is not Catholic would exclude that segment from the whole of the experience. There was something about being non-Catholic — when I was one — that made me feel like an outsider and that the welcome on people’s lips only meant I was welcomed in the building, not into the faith. I thought this same inclination would be prevalent here and would cause young men to mentally withdraw.
     
    What I discovered, however, was the opposite. Whatever the reason, these young men were respectful and engaged.
     
    As I marveled at this unexpected phenomenon, something struck me. I realized that Mass on campus, regardless of what faith, if any at all, you approach with, is a unifying event. Every person who enters the chapel and humbles himself is now equal to everyone else. It removes accolades and stations and makes the seventh grader who has been here five months equal to the league MVP senior basketball center who is standing next to him.
     
    The Mass experience also makes students, in that moment, equal to members of the faculty and staff who are present — the good equal, where boys are elevated to the level of their teachers in their standing before God. There has been a plethora of appeals for a “level playing field.” I have never seen one so plumb.
     
    Is it any wonder that these boys become men? Whether it’s conscious or subliminal, the students at Palma School have opportunities to envision their future selves. They understand their responsibility and act respectfully and accordingly.
     
    Everyday is a new pleasure to work at such a place.
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  • FIRST RESPONDERS November 2015 — Roger Rybkowski

    I witnessed an amazing thing the other day. A student with an unzipped backpack was rushing to his next class when, in the middle of the hall, the pack gave way and the contents spilled noisily onto the ground. Books, papers, calculator, pencils, and sundry other accoutrement lay strewn about the corridor in a swath of scholastic scatter.
     
    In my high school, this unfortunate event would have been immediately followed by applause and laughter. Bystanders would have pushed items out of his reach with their feet while chiding the poor student, turning a simple mishap into an embarrassing and traumatic episode. But — and this is the amazing part — that did not happen here. Instead, three fellow students who were standing at the end of the hall, hurried over to help him. In a matter of moments, all of the loose articles were swept up and the backpack’s contents were restored. With a quick zip on either side of the pack, they were all on their way to their next class.
     
    I was astonished by the consideration paid to a fellow student. I do not know if all of these students were friends, acquaintances or if they even knew each other at all. Chances are good, with the culture on campus, that they were at least acquainted. But that small detail cannot overshadow the fact that fellow students rushed to his aid. Like first responders, they ran toward the problem with their instinct being to help.
     
    I’m learning, as I spend more time here, that this response among students is more common than not. I don’t know if it’s a culture at Palma School that has been purposefully cultivated or if it’s because faith is at its center or if the school is all boys…or if it’s a combination of all three. I do know that young men in their junior high and high school years are acutely susceptible to peer pressure and, if this is the kind of peer group within one is immersed, odds are he will emerge with similar traits of kindness and good will.
     
    Real bonds are formed here — as real as those found among fraternities, the military, fire and police squads. They start out from all backgrounds and socio-economic strata and somehow all turn into first responders. Perhaps they don’t want to admit it — or maybe they do — but these guys love each other.
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Palma is a private, college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 through 12 owned and operated by the Christian Brothers Institute of California. Palma School is dedicated to providing young men an excellent education in a Roman Catholic environment that embraces the Essential Elements of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother Education and challenges each individual to develop spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically, and socially.