Summer Program Blog
Following up on last week’s introductions of the 2015 High School Summer Program chaplains, we now present the first in a three-part series introducing this year’s prefects:
Sarah Dufresne (’14)The women’s head prefect for this year’s High School Summer Program is Sarah Dufresne (’14), who has served as a prefect on two previous programs and is currently the College’s resident assistant. A onetime volunteer for her high school’s campus ministry team and an occasional missionary with Justice for All’s pro-life campus outreach, Sarah sees being “radically available” as key to working well with young adults. In her roles as a Summer Program prefect and resident assistant, she has organized numerous student outings, including early-morning runs, a pancake breakfast, hikes, a women’s campout, and a trip to Ventura’s Grant Park Cross.
Chris Sebastian (’13)Returning for his sixth High School Summer Program as a prefect — and first as men’s head prefect — is Chris Sebastian (’13). A graduate of the College who attended the program as a high school student in 2008, Chris is the public relations and marketing coordinator for the Mother of Divine Grace distance-learning program. “I’m always gratified by the seriousness with which the students tackle the difficult subjects they discuss during the program, from questions of fate to the existence of God,” he says. “These students give us much hope for not only the future of Thomas Aquinas College, but also for the whole world.”
Anthony Maza (’15)A member of the College’s most recent graduating class, Anthony Maza (’15) attended the High School Summer Program in 2010 — a turning point in his life. Despite having already decided to attend college elsewhere, “after two weeks of thinking, I decided TAC would teach me best how to be truly wise,” he remembers. “The College utterly changed my life, and I made the best friends here.” Later this summer he will head off to Colorado to pursue graduate studies in theology at the Augustine Institute, but first he looks forward to “ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, and talking about the hard questions of life” during this year’s program.
Khyber White (’15)“The thing I enjoy most about the Summer Program,” observes Khyber White (’15), “is being able to introduce our college and the life of liberal education to a new generation of students.” A recent graduate and convert to the Catholic faith, Khyber has a passion for international affairs as well as playing medieval and Middle Eastern instruments, including the Turkish bağlama. (If we’re lucky, maybe he will play it for us on the program.) He has participated in numerous medical missions to Western Africa with his father, who is a doctor, and he will volunteer this fall as a tutor at a Catholic school in Jamaica.
Samantha Wiebersch (’16)A rising senior at the College, Samantha Wiebersch (’16) is returning for her second year as a prefect. “I am thrilled to come back!” she says. “Having the chance to meet so many incredible high school students and engage them in the academic, social, and spiritual life that I love so much is the opportunity of a lifetime.” She is spending the summer in her hometown of Delafield, Wisconsin, providing therapy for an autistic boy. Although she loves her job and the time with family, she cannot wait for the program to begin. “Sharing what you love with people you love — it doesn’t get much better than that.”
David Langley (’15)This summer will be the fourth that David Langley (’15) has served as a prefect on the High School Program. “I enjoy getting to know the young men and women,” he says. A member of this year’s graduating class, David spent last summer performing research in chemistry at MIT’s Jamison Laboratory. This summer he is busy studying for the Medical College Admission Test, after which he plans to apply to at least five medical schools. Thus the Summer Program will serve as something of a study break for him, although, like all prefects, he will be reading the great books along with the students.
Aileen McCarthy (’14)Fresh from a nearly nine-month missionary trip to Cordoba, Argentina, Aileen McCarthy (’14) is returning for her fifth High School Summer Program as a prefect. In Argentina she did various forms of service work, such as aiding terminally ill cancer patients, helping out at orphanages, and tutoring poor children. She is now working for a magazine in her hometown of Gallup, New Mexico, from which she will be taking a break to rejoin the Summer Program. The reason she gives for returning to the program every summer? “I love this opportunity to give back to the College.”
Clara Diodati (’17)When Clara Diodati (’17) attended the High School Program in 2012, she found the experience so powerful that she wrote a song about it. “I don’t know that I would be at TAC if it weren’t for the Summer Program,” she says. “So it means a lot to me, and I’m very excited to give back and meet all the programmers this year!” A rising junior from Ave Maria, Florida, she delights in the students’ “genuine enthusiasm” for the life of the College. “It reminds me not to take what I have for granted,” she says. “July 19 can’t come soon enough!”
We are pleased to announced the all-star lineup of chaplains for the 2015 High School Summer Program!
Rev. Nick Blaha (’02)Although joining the program for the first time, Rev. Nick Blaha (’02) is well accustomed to working with young people. A priest of the Diocese of Kansas City (Kansas), he runs the Didde Catholic Campus Center at Emporia State University, a 6,000-student, public university some 100 miles southwest of Kansas City. After graduating from the College, he spent three years as a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary before entering the seminary. You can hear podcasts of his homilies via the Didde Center website.
Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P.Returning for his second consecutive program, Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P. is the College’s head chaplain. He, too, has extensive experience in campus ministry. After his ordination in 1984, his first two assignments were at Newman Centers on the campuses of the University of Arizona in Tucson and the University of Oregon in Eugene. He has also served a total of seven years (split over two terms, interrupted by an assignment in Alaska) as a chaplain at the College. An avid hiker, Fr. Paul enjoys sharing the trails and the natural beauty of the Los Padres National Forest above the campus.
Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94)Joining Fr. Nick and Fr. Paul is the Summer Program’s long-serving chaplain, Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), who has been ministering to attendees since 2007. Among Summer Program students, he is famous for his commanding presence on the volleyball court, his theology Q&As, and leading nightly consecration in the residence halls. For the other 50 weeks of the year, he is a professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. A graduate of the College, he is also a regular guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program.
Admissions staff assemble the packets.
Members of the Admissions Staff have spent the day busily assembling packets of great books for attendees of the 2015 High School Summer Program! The mailings, which went out via the U.S. Postal Service this afternoon, contain the first three readings of this year’s program — Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Plato’s Euthyphro, and Sophocles’ Antigone.
A note to rising high-school seniors: There are still a few openings for men in this year’s program. It’s not too late to apply. We promise we will get you the readings in plenty of time!
The packets await their trip to the Post Office.
In response to burgeoning demand, Thomas Aquinas College is increasing enrollment for the annual High School Summer Program — from 136 students in 2014 to 153 at this year’s program, which will take place from July 19 to August 1.
“We were pleasantly surprised at how many applications came in for the 2015 program, from across the U.S. and abroad, too,” says Director of Admissions Jon Daly. “Not wanting to turn anyone away, we decided to boost our enrollment.”
Despite the larger overall numbers, classes in the Summer Program will still be capped at 17 students. “We are bringing in another full-time member of the College’s teaching faculty to lead the classes,” says Mr. Daly. “That way our Summer Program students will continue to learn in the same manner as our undergraduate students — in a small classroom setting, sitting around a table, engaged in powerful conversations about the greatest works of Western civilization.”
Although the program is rapidly filling, there are still some spaces available for men and a waitlist for women. “Increasing our enrollment gives people who have been holding out one more chance to apply before it’s too late,” says Mr. Daly. “But they should move quickly.Time is running out!”
Today’s edition of the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Daily blog features an article about the College’s High School Great Books Program. “The summer program,” writes author Kathryn Zagrobelny “is designed to encourage students to pursue truth and wisdom and experience student life at Thomas Aquinas College.”
If you are a high school junior, and you would like to spend two weeks in Southern California this summer — reading great books, deepening your faith, considering important questions, making lifelong friends, and having lots of fun — then apply now for this year’s program!
Sarah Rivera (’17) may not have composed a song about the High School Summer Program, but at the most recent meeting of the College’s Board of Governors, she talked about how those two weeks on campus changed her life. Below is an excerpt from her address:
“My Thomas Aquinas College experience started in an unorthodox way. I had not even heard of the College until my junior year of high school. I was looking at some big state schools and some Catholic schools, and I was seriously considering Princeton and Harvard. To further my chances of getting into these schools, I wanted to do a college summer program between my junior and senior years in high school. So I googled ‘programs for high school students at colleges,’ and then scrolled through pages of search results. On page 23 was TAC. I saw that the application was short, so I fired it off and moved on.
“I was accepted to both TAC’s summer program and Harvard’s, but Harvard’s cost around $10,000, so my parents said, ‘You’re going to TAC!’ At that point I took another look at this college to see where I would be spending two weeks. I saw ‘Socratic Method,’ and didn’t even know what that was. I saw that the College offered the Latin Mass, and I freaked out a little bit. I got a packet in the mail that spoke about a dress code, and I freaked out a little more. This was like nothing I had ever experienced. I told my parents I wasn’t going. They used their parental authority and said, ‘Yes, you are.’
“So I came to the Summer Program and something totally unexpected happened: I fell in love with this school. The texts we read and the classes were amazing. My tutors were bringing up ideas that I never would have come up with on my own. And then my classmates also began to think of and draw new notions out of the text. Whenever the tutor asked a question, there would, at first, be silence, but then we would realize that it was up to us to think through the matter for ourselves. It was, indeed, like nothing I had ever experienced..
“Then there was the joy of being immersed in the spiritual community of the College, to see students who were alive in their faith, who were making use of the Sacraments, who really cared about what we were learning. These weren’t the boring, stuffy people I was expecting. They were smart, friendly, and attractive people who were going to go out into the world and do good things. To see that there was a place that was fostering such people, almost as its mission, was life-changing.”
Care to join this year’s Summer Program? Apply now while space is still available!
Plans are already under way for the 2015 High School Summer Program, and the College is assembling a team of prefects. Among them will be Clara Diodati (’17), who attended the program in 2012, the summer before her senior year in high school. Back then, Miss Diodati had serious doubts about whether she wanted to apply to the College — doubts that vanished over the course of the program. When the two weeks were over, she returned to her Georgia home, and wrote a song about her experience:
The song, TAC Chose Me, is “about how my perception of the school changed,” Miss Diodati writes, and “how the program and all the people there made me fall in love with it.” Consider this sampling from the lyrics:
We bonded over ancient readings, studied Euclid when we’d rather be sleeping.
That kind of friendship, it doesn't happen overnight, but it can happen in two weeks, only if you’re at TAC, only if you're at TAC.
You can listen to the song through the player below:
Care to join this year’s Summer Program? Apply now while space is still available!
This morning some of the 2014 High School Summer Program prefects who are still on campus gathered to say goodbye to Head Prefect Kathleen Sullivan (’06), who is returning to Washington, D.C., where she is a PhD candidate in literature at the Catholic University of America. Kathleen began working on the Summer Program in 2005, when she was still a student at the College. She has just completed her 10th program as a prefect!
Last year, in a reflection about the Summer Program, she remarked:
“In the great books program, by encountering the original thoughts and minds of the thinkers of the past, these young students are both enabling their minds to think rationally and training their minds to communicate clearly. Freeing themselves from the shackles of ignorance, especially in the faith-filled atmosphere of the College, these young students become more aware of their purpose in life, become more certain in their hope for a life eternal, and become more eager to live a rational, moral, and ethical life — to live the good life.”
Thank you, Kathleen, for your decade of generous and dedicated service — for helping these young men and women to live the good life! May God bless you on your way.
Starting at the crack of dawn this morning — about 4:45 a.m. — the 2014 Summer Program students began departing campus to make their way back home. Having forged close friendships over the last two weeks, the students had to fight back tears when saying goodbye to one another.
Before they left, the students presented a thank-you card to Admissions Director Jon Daly, whose tireless efforts make the Summer Program possible. Below are just a few of the students’ comments:
“You made this an unforgettable two weeks, and I’m still super stoked that we went 9-3 in the roll call race.”
— Tom G.
“I’d write a big, long speech thanking you for everything you did for us, but it would end up being a thesis!”
“Thank you so much!!! These were the best two weeks of my life.”
— Ryan U.
“I’m more grateful than I can say. Thank you!”
Thanks be to God for a great two weeks! It is sad to see our Summer Program students go. By God’s grace, many of them will return as members of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2019!
Photos from last night’s banquet and dance!