Mater Dei alumni return to campus


“Once a Monarch, always a Monarch.” – this popular phrase, coined by the Office of Alumni and Advancement, has always been a time-honored belief at Mater Dei. The school commemorates and honors its alumni in several aspects, whether it be in professional sports, such as its two Heisman Trophy Winners, or in the way alumni are welcome to return to educate and support their alma mater.

In the spirit of “once a Monarch, always a Monarch,” Mater Dei once again welcomes several of its past alumni as new teachers, faculty, and staff.

Marisa Winch, Mater Dei alumni of ‘96, returned to Mater Dei in 2019 as the Performing Arts Department Assistant. When asked to recall her favorite high school memories, Winch reminisced on her band days. She explained that her time in the band room with friends and teachers taught her life lessons that she would hold on to forever.

“I [would] go back to just being in the band here,” Winch said. “… Even though [band] wasn’t academic, I was learning life lessons and they really got instilled in freshman year and then just kept going. I’m thankful for that.”

Although Winch had a love for Mater Dei band, when asked if she wished she had branched out more during her high school career, Winch expresses some regret about missed opportunities and offers advice to current high school students to not be afraid to explore new clubs and other activities presented to them.

After all of her personal high school experiences and watching her students grow and mature, Winch has truly gained insight on how to get the most out of a high school career, with little to no regrets. Reflecting on her own high school career, Winch offers this piece of advice to all students:

“As a student I wanted to do other things, but I thought I couldn’t.” Winch said. “And on the other side, now working here, [I say] just go for it because the worst thing that can happen is that you will stay where you are, but the best that can happen is you can get everything you want.”

Dr. Kiva Spiratos, the Assistant Principal of Mater Dei Campus Life, graduated from Mater Dei in 1990. She spent her high school career participating in ASB, yearbook, and recording statistics for Mater Dei’s football team.

Spiratos has remained an active contributor to the Mater Dei community and continues to give to the school through her current position in administration. Though it has been thirty years since she was a student, she feels as though no time has passed.

“The [Mater Dei] culture is the same. . . it’s the culture of excellence, the culture of love, of community, of camaraderie and collaboration, and of finding your best friends,” Spiratos said.

Spiratos recalls her time at Mater Dei as a critical point in her life, one which helped shape who she has become today.

“I remember every single minute. And they’re all special. They’re the fabric of who you become. Every year of your life creates the fabric of who you turn out to be.”

Prior to this year, Spiratos worked at Los Alamitos High School. But, after returning to Mater Dei for a school tour, she knew it was time to come back home to her alma mater.

“I just felt right back at home as if 31 years had washed away,” Spiratos said.

Associate Activities Director Arthur Hinojosa was a graduate of the class of 2013. Although he originally came back to Mater Dei to work for the Track and Field Team, he now serves as a member of the Activities Office.

“Once I graduated college, I came [back to Mater Dei] to coach track,” Hinojosa said. “Over time, people began telling me about an opening in the Activities Office. As a Mater Dei student, I did not know a lot about what goes on behind the scenes in terms of planning events. Now that I see how administration and planning works, I feel happy to be able to bring fun events to students.”

When reflecting on his decision to stay with Mater Dei versus finding employment elsewhere, Hinojosa remarks that he stayed because of the school’s impact on his life as a young adult.

“After having been back at Mater Dei for four years, I kind of realized how the institution is almost like a mini university in a sense,” Hinojosa said. “I don’t feel the need to go anywhere because Mater Dei was always a big part of my life. I truly believe in the fact that, regardless of your experience, this school always leaves a big impact on all its alumni and students.”