Summer Program Blog
On weekday evenings throughout the Thomas Aquinas College High School Summer Program, students meet in the library for a two-hour study hall. Before they dive into their readings, though, they indulge in a moment of levity with a lively sort of roll call — a fast-and-furious race that pits Admissions Director Jon Daly and half of the students against a prefect and the other half.
Many thanks for all the prayers that readers have offered for Summer Program student Philip Carrescia! College Chaplain Rev. Cornelius M. Buckley, S.J., and Deacon Chris Sandner visited him this evening, and they report that his condition has much improved. Philip is awake, smiling, talking, and eating Jell-O. God be praised!
Please continue to keep him, his family, and his caretakers in your prayers.
Please pray for the full recovery of Philip Carrescia, a Summer Program student who fell ill last night and is currently hospitalized in Santa Barbara.
Please also pray for wisdom for his parents, Barbara (Wynne ’78) and Philip Carrescia, and for doctors who are deciding on the best course of treatment.
Students on one of the three 55-passenger buses on their way to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles
After a night of deep sleep following the weekend’s adventures, students began Monday with Mass, breakfast, and a morning class on Euclid’s definitions, common notions, and postulates. They then made their way to the campus coffee shop, where Director of Admissions Jon Daly led a question-and-answer session for students interested in applying to the College.
The topic of conversation at lunch was Euclid, with students preparing to present his first three propositions for demonstration on Tuesday. Students also discussed who was most at fault for the tragedy that occurs in Macbeth — the subject of their Monday-afternoon class. During recreation time, tutor Dr. John Nieto hosted an overflow crowd in the campus coffee shop, where he delivered a talk entitled “Art and Beauty.” The talk, which discussed the need art for art and man’s desire to gaze upon what is beautiful, will serve the students well when they visit the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Then, following dinner, study hall, and Rosary, the students challenge the prefects to an evening basketball game.
In the women’s game, the prefects won 21-18. In the men’s match, it was the students who emerged triumphant, 33-28. After their victory, the men hoisted their coach — a fellow student, Dominic Scaglione, who was celebrating his birthday — above their shoulders. As they carried him across the court, some friends approached with a cake, capping off the celebration.
Friday’s classes focused on works by Fabre and St. Thomas Aquinas, with students discussing the connection between the natural order and God’s divine plan. They also analyzed Pascal’s Wager, and how a person not inclined to faith might be persuaded to believe. Classes were followed by a restful period and then a dramatic — and oftentimes, hilarious — reading of Macbeth in St. Bernardine of Siena Library. The students shone in their chosen roles, and prefects provided some comedic entertainment at the end of each act with a brief summary and skits from their own play, How Macbeth got his Groove Back:
After the show came the evening Rosary, followed by a trip to one of the campus ponds for a bonfire, sing-along, and ice-cream sandwiches:
Said student Gabby Douglass of Stillwater, Minn.: “Thomas Aquinas College is a place where you make friends you never want to say goodbye to.” Or, as her classmate Jorge O. Moncada Hernandez, of Oxnard, Calif., put it: “The Summer Program is a life-changing experience and it makes you feel at home.”
The next morning, many students gathered early for a 2.5-mile hike to the “Punch Bowls” in the adjacent Los Padres National forest:
Meanwhile, others stayed closer to campus and painted with watercolors in the nearby “painter’s shack.” Afterward, all enjoyed a tri-tip barbeque prepared by Admissions Director Jon Daly. The evening ended with some sports, the Rosary, and then a movie and popcorn on the St. Joseph Commons patio.
Sunday morning began with Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, accompanied by the Thomas Aquinas College Choir. Students then prepared for Monday’s classes by reading Euclid and Macbeth before heading off for a day of adventure …
First stop: Rincon Beach, which is about a 45-minute bus drive from campus and surrounded by cliffs with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The weather was slightly cloudy, but the sun broke through soon enough. Highlights of the trip included volleyball, Frisbee, football, swimming, and snorkeling:
Second stop: Santa Barbara, where students enjoyed dinner at various spots of their choosing: family-style Italian at Palazzio’s, burgers at The Habit, a local Lebanese restaurant, and others. Prefects then led students down State Street for shopping and ice cream:
At the end of the trip, students and prefects gathered at Stearns Wharf for a group photo, after which Prefect Andrea Florez (’14) surprised one student who was celebrating his birthday with cupcakes lit by candles. The entire group launched into singing “Happy Birthday,” and some passersby joined in the chorus. In the buses on the way back to campus, the group prayed the Rosary, and upon returning to the campus, all were grateful to call it a night after a delightful — but full! — day.
After working their way through Kierkegaard on Thursday afternoon, some 18 students joined prefects for a run/hike in the foothills surrounding campus. The outing was highlighted by great conversation and an encounter with a friendly cow, who attempted to follow the group for as long as she could. After the hike, all (save the cow) cooled off with a swim in the campus ponds. Others used the afternoon recreation period for yet more volleyball and Frisbee.
Then it was off to dinner, study hall, and the nightly Rosary with Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. During this prayerful time, Chaplains Rev. Joseph Illo and Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), generously heard confessions; and outside of the Chapel’s mahogany confessionals formed two beautifully long lines of students seeking to avail themselves of the sacrament.
Following the Rosary, Prefect Dan Selmeczy — who is widely recognized in these parts as The Greatest Dance Teacher in the World — began preparing students for the end-of-the-program dance, instructing them in the rumba, foxtrot, and swing. “As I walked around, I didn’t have to stop to help the couples as much I was expecting,” says prefect Annalisa Tombelli. “They all picked up the steps really well, and there were smiles on every face.”
Soon after curfew, the ladies of St. Monica’s Residence Hall were startled to hear music coming from outside their courtyard. When they looked out their windows, they saw the men of the Summer Program singing “Stand by Me,” followed by “Happy Birthday,” after which they presented a cake to one young woman who was celebrating her birthday. In gratitude, the ladies gave the gentlemen a batch of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies. The serenade made such an impression that it was the subject of conversation at breakfast on Friday.
Friday’s classes consisted of stimulating conversations about Fabre and Pascal. The prefects report being very impressed with the thoughtfulness of students’ classroom comments. Meanwhile, all look forward to tonight’s dramatic reading of Macbeth. The photo below shows some students eagerly signing up for the parts in the performance!
The students in the Thomas Aquinas College High School Summer Program meet for their classes each day in “sections” — groups of 17 students and 2 tutors who, together, work their way through the texts of the program’s classical curriculum. The slideshow below features photos of each of this year’s groupings:
When we last left off, we wrote of the students’ victory over the faculty in Wednesday afternoon’s volleyball tourney. That glorious event was followed by a barbeque dinner and then — a High School Summer Program favorite — Theology on Tap, complete with root-beer floats, in the College coffee shop.
The speaker for the evening was Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), a professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey Seminary in Orange, Calif., and a Summer Program chaplain. Answering anonymous questions that students had posted beforehand, Fr. Sebastian addressed a wide range of topics including philosophy, theology, morality, and Scripture. Summer Program staff report that this year’s students submitted a record number of inquiries, with the question box filled to the point of bursting. Even after the talk had formally concluded, the conversation continued back at the residence halls as students mingled around the courtyard fire pits.
The early Mass on Thursday morning was well-attended, as always, and at the late-morning Mass there was an unexpected treat — an impromptu choir. Sensing that musical accompaniment was needed, Summer Program prefect Thomas Quackenbush (’14) invited students to join him in the choir loft. Some 25 brave souls agreed, filling the Chapel with sound.
Then it was on to the day’s classes. In the morning, students considered the story of Abraham in Genesis. Then, in afternoon, they considered Kierkegaard’s take on Abraham’s faith.
As promised, below are photos from Wednesday’s student-tutor volleyball tournament:
The best-of-three series began with an exciting game in which the students trailed early, but came from behind to take the victory. The second game was also close, but students again emerged on top, winning the game — and the tournament — by a score of 25-21.