As the San Fernando Valley experienced a continuing population explosion in the aftermath of World War II, Saint Genevieve parish was founded in 1950 to respond to the spiritual needs of Catholic residents in Panorama City and Arleta. With the success of St. Genevieve Elementary School, parents in the parish—as well as those in neighboring parishes—increasingly felt the need for a local school that could also provide a Catholic secondary education. December 7, 1958 marked the ground breaking and beginning of construction of St. Genevieve High School, the soon-to-be home of the Valiants.
Starting Out: Under the wise administration of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, St. Genevieve High School welcomed its first students in September 1959. The school's pioneer teachers and students shared facilities with the adjacent elementary school until January 4, 1960, when the newly constructed high-school building was completed. Cardinal James Francis McIntyre formally dedicated St. Genevieve High School in May, 1960.
In June 1996 a new gymnasium was completed along with a new weight room and a music room.
Early Enrollment Highs and Lows: Enrollment had reached an all-time high in the mid-1970s, with a student population of 1,100. During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, enrollment declined, as did the reputation of the school. By fall of 1999, enrollment bottomed out at approximately 300 students.
Renaissance: In August of 1999, St. Genevieve High School began to experience a renaissance with a cutting-edge program in Character Education as the catalyst. Also contributing to the renaissance was the visionary senior class of 2000, which helped to implement major changes in the ways that students interacted. With "Lessons Learned From Columbine" as the theme for the 1999-2000 school year, freshmen were warmly welcomed with tremendous enthusiasm and spirit that paid homage to the lives that had been lost that year at Columbine High School. There was a positive, seismic shift in relationships and daily reality on campus.
National School of Character: The Character Education program that began in August of 1999 quickly blossomed, and eventually became a model for the nation. On October 17, 2003, St. Genevieve High School became the first Catholic school in the United States and the first high school in California to be recognized and honored as a National School of Character by the Washington DC-based Character Education Partnership. That autumn, as part of their annual retreat, St. Genevieve High School faculty and staff flew to the nation's capital to accept the award on behalf of the school community.
Celebration of Character: On November 2, 2003, the school held a grand Celebration of Character in the gymnasium. While numerous local dignitaries attended the spiritual day-long celebration filled with festivities and reflection, it was the event's keynote speaker who made the most lasting impression: Mrs. Beth Nimmo, the mother of Rachel Scott, the first student who had been murdered at Columbine High School in April, 1999.
Smart and Good High Schools: In 2005, St. Genevieve High School was recognized in Smart and Good High Schools, a report to the nation authored by Thomas Likona, Ph.D. and Matthew Davidson, Ph.D. As one of the 24 schools in the nation that were studied and chronicled in the report, St. Gen's was characterized as, "…an exemplary school whose programs provide a blueprint for success in school, work and beyond by integrating academic excellence and high ethical and moral standards."
Learning Alongside A President
Beginning of a Rare Friendship: In October of 2005, former U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn welcomed four St. Genevieve High School students to the Carters' hometown of Plains, Georgia. As circumstances would have it, the St. Genevieve students had been presenters at a National Conference on Character Education in Atlanta. Following the conference, the delegation of students, along with one of their teachers and their principal, drove to Plains to attend President Carter's Sunday school lesson. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter sat in the pew with the St. Gen contingent and, after the lesson, stood to introduce the group to her husband and the congregation, saying: "Jimmy, I'd like to introduce you to my friends from California."
Friendship Blossoms: In the following years, the relationship among the Carters, the town of Plains, and St. Genevieve High School continued to grow. In the spring of 2009, the St. Genevieve faculty and staff went to Plains for their annual retreat, where. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter gave the opening talk, reflecting on her own spiritual personal journey from childhood to the present, and Brother Dan Ariale, retired pastor of the Maranatha Baptist Church, and Nelle Ariale, Pastor Dan's wife, also were speakers. On the last night of the retreat, President and Mrs. Carter and members of their church joined the St. Genevieve faculty and staff for a final evening of prayer and song. The Valiants gathered everyone in a prayer circle in the church's sanctuary and led the assembled in "The Anointing," a prayer in word and song that is especially meaningful to our community and which has become, through our students' ministry, quite meaningful to others, as well.
That same weekend, the St. Genevieve cast and crew of Singin' In the Rain, the school's fall musical production, joined the faculty in Plains. With permission from the National Parks Service, St. Genevieve High School students staged the "East Coast production" of Singin' in the Rain at the historic Plains High School, now a national museum. That particular show will be remembered for three things: 1) it actually rained onstage during the production; 2) a former U.S. president and first lady attended the opening performance; and, 3) the building was surrounded by secret service agents.
The relationship between the Carters and St. Genevieve High School continued to flourish. For his 85th birthday celebration, President Carter requested just two musical performances: David Osborne, his favorite pianist, and the St. Genevieve High School choir. So on September 27, 2009, the Valiant Voices, St. Gen's performing choir, was joined by the school's award-winning boys' and girls' dance teams in providing 45 minutes of dynamic entertainment specifically designed and produced to honor the former president on his birthday. The venue for this historic event, the Rylander Theater in Americus, Georgia, was filled to capacity. The students' show was received with enthusiastic cheers and standing ovations.
A Presidential Visit: On Monday, October 25, 2010, former president Carter, while in California promoting his new book, "White House Diary," dropped by to say hello. He entered a gymnasium filled with our entire student body as well as parents and friends, and his first words were a question: "Can anybody guess what is my favorite high school in America?"
You'll Never Walk Alone: In his book "White House Diary," Carter revealed that his favorite Broadway show was Carousel, which set the Valiants immediately into motion to work on taking that show on the road back to Plains. This time, however, the school invited Academy Award-winner and star of the movie version of Carousel, Shirley Jones, to join us. She accepted, and on Friday, February 10, 2012, Shirley Jones sang You'll Never Walk Alone to open the Valiants' production of Carousel. Following her performance, she sat in the front row alongside President and Mrs. Carter. While being interviewed by students for the documentary You'll Never Walk Alone, which St. Gen students filmed during the trip, President Carter revealed that he was looking forward to a return visit to the school, this time with his wife.
An Unforgettable Cinematic Experience: In August of 2012, the entire St. Gen student body packed the historic Cinerama Dome in Hollywood to watch the student-made documentary, You'll Never Walk Alone, which featured students and staff on their journey to Plains, Georgia to perform Carousel for the Carters.
An Evening to Remember: On February 19, 2013, Jimmy Carter's motorcade returned to St. Genevieve High School and this time, keeping his promise, he brought his wife Rosalynn. Upon their arrival, the Carters were taken on a student-led tour of the school, the highlight of which was the unveiling of "the Carter Wall," which chronicles the special relationship the school has shared with the Carters.
His Excellency, Bishop Kussala: Following the tour, the Carters were escorted into our gymnasium, where Mass was celebrated with a crowd of 1,600 people. Our celebrant was Bishop Eduardo Kussala from the diocese of Tamburo-Yambio in what was the world's newest and poorest nation, South Sudan. Since the Carter Center had been pivotal in fighting disease and negotiating a peace in that nation, the school hosted the Bishop, who stayed as a guest of our pastor for a week in the St. Genevieve rectory.
Record Donation to the Carter Center: Students had held fundraisers for months prior to the Carters' visit, and during the Mass, when student body representatives presented them with a check for the Carter Center in the amount of $8,500, President Carter remarked that it was the largest amount ever donated by students.
Dinner Fit for a President: The Carters held a press conference in the school's library following the Mass, and were then escorted to Madonna Hall, which had been transformed into an elegant banquet hall. Parents of current students prepared and served a meal that highlighted some of the diverse ethnic cuisines of our families. Musical entertainment was provided by the Valiant Voices as well as by Grammy Award-winner Helen Reddy and Academy Award-winner Shirley Jones, while well-known rapper Chuck D recited a poem he wrote especially for the occasion.
Resounding Remarks by Rosalynn: After the dinner and entertainment, the final remarks of the evening were provided by Rosalynn Carter, who said, "If only more schools in the world were like St. Genevieve, there would be more peace in the world."
Dear Rosalynn Premieres at the Rosebowl: Numerous students had a hand in the making of the documentary, Dear Rosalynn, a biography of our former first lady as told through the eyes of St. Genevieve students. On Friday, February 2, 2018, more than 1200 students along with hundreds of parents, students from other schools, special friends and benefactors, and relatives of the Carters had an experience of a lifetime. Former President Jimmy Carter escorted his wife, Rosalynn from the 50 yard line of the Rosebowl walking toward our Valiant Community with a display of mutual affection from our community to them. Once seated, they watched performances ranging from Preschoolers singing, International students performing a traditional Chinese dance to the football squad dancing to Volare. Following the opening acts was the world premiere of Dear Rosalynn…on the Jumbo-Tron.
Visionary Pastor: In July of 2008 Father Alden Sison became pastor of St. Genevieve Parish, which had operated for more than seven years without a pastor. Upon his arrival, Father Alden articulated a clear vision of a united parish and campus. Under his leadership, a master plan for the future was crafted that would provide teacher in-services and other programs to better unite both elementary and high-school staffs. In July of 2013, for the first time in St. Genevieve history, both elementary and high school united under one leadership model. Since then, master planning has continued with the goals of building a new Parish and Performing Arts Center. Stay tuned.
A School Transformed: There have been many articles written about St. Genevieve High School since the school's renaissance began in 1999. One of the articles we are most proud of was published in the Los Angeles Times on August 26, 2008. After spending many hours on our campus, writer Carla Rivera referred to St. Gen as, "One of the most innovative schools in Los Angeles." Ms. Rivera was referring to the fact that our entire school travels to the Hollywood Bowl each fall to attend an evening performance, not only to expose students to great culture and music, but also as a way to teach character and manners. Ms. Rivera was also impressed that ours was one of the first schools to offer Mandarin and that our students were taking field trips to China.
Milestone Celebration: In October, 2009, St. Genevieve High School celebrated its 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion, a beautiful Mass was held in the school's gymnasium the Friday night of Homecoming Week, which was attended by all current students as well as hundreds of alumni. The Mass was concelebrated by Monsignor Jack Foley, a 1963 St.Gen faculty member, Monsignor Robert J. Gallagher, member of the class of 1964, and Father Alden Sison, the school's current pastor. The following afternoon there was a parade down Roscoe Boulevard to the stadium at John H. Francis Polytechnic School, where the Homecoming football game would be played. The three eastbound lanes were closed to traffic to allow students, floats, the Homecoming Court, and 13 former Homecoming Queens—including the very first queen, Whanita Lonsberry Moore—to make their way to the stadium. The theme for the event was A Michael Jackson Homecoming, paying homage to the entertainer who had died four months earlier and had transfixed teenagers and adults alike throughout the school's 50-year history. Hall of Fame rapper Chuck D and his wife Gaye, friends of our school, were the Grand Marshalls of the parade. As the parade progressed eastward on Roscoe Boulevard, an airplane flew overhead, pulling a banner that read, "Happy 50th St. Genevieve High School." The stadium stands were filled with a record crowd, and alumni and former players watched from a special reserved section in the end-zone. The half-time performance included the collective efforts of boys' and girls' dance teams, cheerleaders, band members, and the cast of the fall musical doing a giant production of the number Footloose. After the game, hundreds of alumni returned to the campus for a huge reunion. It was a wonderful 50th anniversary celebration!
A "Supremely Superior" High School: On December 17, 2009 the school held what can only be described as a stunningly beautiful and meaningful Advent Mass. A proud Cardinal Roger Mahony proclaimed at its conclusion that St. Genevieve High School was a "supremely superior" high school. Two months later, when the Valiant Voices and invited dancers performed at the annual Cardinal's Award Dinner in Hollywood, the Cardinal again congratulated our students and told the audience after the performance that they now knew what makes Catholic education great.
Living the Ascension: In March, 2010, St. Gen's 10th annual faculty retreat was held in Pismo Beach, California. The faculty and staff posed with our pastor for a photograph that now graces the cover of "Living the Ascension: Your School's Guide to Increasing Enrollment," a book written by St. Gen Principal Daniel Horn and published by the National Catholic Education Association. The book provides insights rooted in the successes experienced at St. Genevieve High School about how to turn around failing schools and reverse the national trend in Catholic education of declining school enrollment to provide much needed hope and direction.
Music Icon Comes Out of Retirement at St. Genevieve High School: In 2010, Grammy winner Helen Reddy spoke as part of St. Gen's Character Education Speakers' Series. She referred to the event as one of the highlights of her life. In fact, she was so taken by the Valiant community that when she was looking for a venue where she could appear in concert after 10 years of retirement, Reddy chose St. Genevieve High School. Two historic coming-out-of-retirement benefit concerts took place on July 13 and 14, 2012, with St. Gen's Jazz Band and Valiant Voices as Helen Reddy's opening acts. Guests from three countries and 18 states visited the campus for these special benefit concerts.
Further Unifying the Parish: Continuing to realize the unifying vision laid out by Father Alden Sison when he became pastor of St. Genevieve parish in 2008, a parish-wide athletic program was implemented with a single athletic director for all sports during the 2012-13 school year. And in 2013-14, a new administrative structural model was adopted, featuring a single President-Principal for both the elementary school and the high school, with two Heads of School, one for the elementary school and one for the high school.
Even Further: By 2016-17, the administration had changed once again to include the President-Principal over both schools and one Executive Director whose main job was to oversee the day to day efficient running of the schools with an emphasis on managing the academic life of the school.
Unification Results: At the 2018 commencement, for the first time in 18 years, perhaps longer, the valedictorian and salutatorian were both "lifers," or students who had attended St. Genevieve since kindergarten.
On the Edge: Following the publication of "Living the Ascension" in 2010, a steady stream of educators continually visited, called, and wrote with questions and requests for guidance. Now that St. Gen's seemed to have answers for how to recruit students, more and more people began asking how to retain those students once they were recruited. To provide helpful answers, St. Gen principal Dan Horn and many of the school's teachers wrote and self-published, "On the Edge: Your Catholic School Guide to Student Recruitment and Retention" in April of 2013, with proceeds going to the school's endowment fund.
Inspirational Programs and Speakers: St. Genevieve High School's signature Character Education Program continues to gain local and national attention and garner praise and accolades. The program's Speakers' Series has attracted many noteworthy presenters from around the country and the world. More often than not, those who have been invited to inspire our students have come away being themselves inspired. In recent years, our school community has been addressed by such notables as:
- Arun Gandhi, activist, diversity speaker and grandson of the father of modern India, Mohandas Gandhi
- Sister Clare Fitzgerald, motivational speaker and teacher, expert on the history of Catholic education
- Richard Riordan, 39th Mayor of Los Angeles
- Jeffrey Cleveland, English Channel and long-distance swimmer
- Pastor Dan Ariail, former pastor of the Maranatha Baptist Church, author of "The Carpenter's Apprentice"
- Michael Josephson, attorney, civic activist, and founder of Character Counts
- Julia Chavez Rodriguez, community activist and granddaughter of labor organizer and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez
- Dr. Gerald Durley, motivational speaker, pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church (Atlanta)
- Dr. William Shultz, former Executive Director of Amnesty International
- Oatess Archey, former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and author of "Going Over All the Hurdles"
- Mike Medavoy, film producer, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures
- Sister Helen Prejean, activist and opponent of capital punishment, author of "Dead Man Walking"
- Edward James Olmos, actor, producer, director, community organizer
- Helen Reddy, former recording and television star, environmentalist
- Chuck D, rapper, author, motivational speaker and record producer, leader of the rap group Public Enemy
- Immaculee Ilibagiza, survivor of Rwandan genocide, author of "Left to Tell"
- C.T. Vivian, footsoldier to Martin Luther King and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient
- Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal
- Senator Kamala Harris, United States Senator representing California
Like a Hollywood Musical: Music has become such an integral part of who we are at St. Gen that the running joke is that at any moment the school community is likely to break out in song. Between our elementary and high schools, we have 13 different bands, and we stage two full-scale musicals each year. Anyone who has ever attended a Mass here likely remembers it as a highlight, with students—and all participants—brimming with spirited joy.
Current Enrollment: St. Genevieve High School currently enrolls approximately 525 students from more than 20 San Fernando Valley parishes.
Graduates: Since 1963, more than 5,000 young Catholic men and women have graduated from St. Genevieve High School. They have attended—and continue to attend—colleges and universities throughout California and across the nation, and are employed in a wide range of careers. It has been a particular point of pride that for generations our graduates have
Growth of Academics and Athletics: In recent years, additional Advanced Placement classes have been added more and more St. Gen students are opting to take Advanced Placement classes with a growing success rate. For several years, our Advanced A.P. Calculus class has achieved a 100% passing rate.
Typically 96-99% of seniors are accepted and attend college. The number of students being accepted and attending 4 year university is also on the rise with 70% of the class of 2015 going to a four year school.
The school's athletic program also has grown significantly over the years. Today we have a grand total of 38 teams with 17 being varsity. Since 1999 the school has placed 127 teams into CIF Playoffs.
Making a Mark on Saint Gen's Remarkable History: For more than a half-century, Saint Genevieve High School has enjoyed a rich history of excellence. The school community continues to work hard to add to the richness, diversity, and excellence that define it. Parents and students are invited to add their contribution to the school's history and are encouraged to share their talents and dreams, their time and energy, to make this community the very best it can be…to make St. Genevieve High School an Ideal Catholic School Community.
Inspiration Building: Looking to the future, St. Genevieve Parish and Schools launched the Inspiration Building Campaign in September 2015 with a goal to build a Parish and Performing Arts Center. By summer of 2019, the campaign had raised $30 million with a groundbreaking to happen during the fall of 2019. Projected completion is set for some time in 2021.