Transfiguration Catholic School is a cornerstone in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles. With a motto of ‘A Legacy of Learning,’ the institution is entering its 70th year of educating and preparing children, from preschool to kindergarten to 8th grade, for high school and beyond.
The Sentinel spoke with Principal Mechele Yerema and Vice Principal Evelyn Rickenbacker, both alumni of Transfiguration, along with Deacon Gregory Patterson to learn more about the school.
LAS: Why has Transfiguration School lasted so long?
DCP: I’m astounded at the generational popularity of this school. I’m always meeting people who had a father or mother or someone they knew attended here. Also, Catholic school education has a 98 percent graduation rate from high school and college.
MY: We actually have the great grandchildren (enrolled at Transfiguration) of a woman who graduated from the school in 1950.
LAS: Is it only open to Catholics?
MY: We’re open to children and families of all faiths. Also, our students who go on to attend Catholic high schools are of all faiths. They want to continue on and do well.
LAS: What makes the school unique?
MY: We have programs for children of all faiths. We have ballet for girls and hip-hop for boys. We have a library, a computer lab, and we are online and wireless. We offer piano class for students in grades 2 through 8. We also have a breakfast, lunch and dinner program.
LAS: How did Ms. Yerema and Ms. Rickenbacker, both alumni, end up working here?
MY: I taught in public schools, then I taught here for a while, then left to teach in Nigeria. I returned to the U.S., and began teaching again in public schools because my daughter was getting ready to go to high school and I knew I couldn’t afford Catholic High School. So, I told the pastor at Transfiguration and he offered me a job as principal. I told him, ‘Father, you can’t afford to pay me what I’m getting in public school.’
But then, my daughter got a scholarship to high school and that was a blessing, so I accepted the job. This is my sixth year as principal, but I’ve taught over 22 years.
ER: My parents sent me here in 3rd grade and I graduated from here, and then went to St. Bernard’s High School. For college, I went to UCLA and next, got married and moved away to Virginia with my husband who is in the Navy.
When I came back to L.A., this is first place I came to look for a job. But, there were no openings seven years ago. So, I worked at another Catholic school until this year when Mechelle came to me and said ‘We will have an opening next year.’ So, this year, I’ll teach 7th grade and serve as vice principal for 5th through 8th grades.
LAS: Do you only take ‘good’ children?
MY: We want to give every child a chance and we work hard at that. We had one girl come for junior high and she repeatedly gave us problems. Her family is not Catholic and she had never attended private school. I met with her Mom and found out that in previous schools, she learned the things to do to get kicked out.
So, we decided to come at her from a different point and we worked with her. She went on to graduate and is now a junior at a Catholic high school. We are so proud of her.
LAS: Why should parents send their child here?
ER: I’m a parent as well, so I like the sense of community that my son receives as a student here. The whole child is taught, not just academics but spiritual as well. I feel he is safe here.
MY: Your child will be ready to go on to the next level of your life. We give them academics, empowerment, knowledge and confidence.
DGP: There is also the spiritual and moral aspect. I work with the Altar Service and most students want to be a part. Doing that, they gain a sense of commitment; responsibility and even become more rooted in their own faith. Many students want to participate and they are not Catholic, but we’re flexible. You don’t have to be Catholic to be in Altar Service.
MY: Also, Deacon Greg tutors high school students in math here for free on Wednesdays. You don’t have to be a Transfiguration student or graduate. He brought my nephew’s grade up to a B.
LAS: How can parents obtain more information?
DGP: On the first Sunday of every month, we have an Open House for parents and children and we invite the community to attend. You can also call us at (323) 292-3011 or visit us at transfigschool.com.