Summer Program Blog
Wednesday dawned bright and early at the College, with the few clouds and last bits of fog burning off the hills during breakfast time. From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. the students joined together for a discussion of the first 10 chapters of Genesis, which recount the story of Creation and the Fall. Mass was offered in the College chapel at 11:30, followed by lunch in St. Joseph Commons.
After lunch the students headed down to the athletic field for a volleyball tournament (there were no afternoon classes), which culminated in a game between the winning student teams (led by prefects Christina Kinney and Dan Selmeczy) and the tutor team. The students won that hard-fought match, and celebrated heartily.
After enjoying a chicken and tri-tip barbeque for dinner, the students were off to the library to study. They met up again later in the evening for a dance practice, led by the incredibly talented Mr. Selmeczy. After a few halting first steps, most everyone was settled in, moving well, and very much enjoying Dan’s engaging lesson in swing dancing, which lasted until 10:30 p.m. After a snack of homemade pretzels and mustard, everyone settled in for a well-deserved night’s rest.
In their second day of classes, the students really started to get into the swing of things! The morning session, on Sophocles’ Antigone, dealt with the protagonist’s prudence, or lack thereof, and delved into what it means to be a tragic character. After a well-attended 11:30 a.m. Mass and lunch, students went back into the classroom to discuss some of the pre-Socratic philosophers and their revolutionary, yet strange, ideas of how the world is constructed.
Afternoon recreation period consisted of more volleyball, soccer, and ultimate Frisbee. The group then headed down to cool off in the ponds, taking turns on the new rope swing.
Having worn themselves out all day, the students were eager to take advantage of the evening’s study period to recoup and to get a head start on the next couple days’ readings. Afterward they got together in the coffee shop, joined by the Summer Program’s prefects, where some of the group’s musicians brought out their guitars, took requests, and led the room in a rousing sing-a-long. Others played various card games, ranging from “Spoons” to “Bluff.” At curfew everyone headed back to the residence halls, where the conversations continued — the beginnings of friendships that will last a lifetime.
After sleeping off the excitement of Sunday’s activities, many of the students began their first day of classes with an opening Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, concelebrated by the summer program’s chaplains: Rev. Cornelius Buckley, S.J., and Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. After brunch, the students were introduced to the Discussion Method with their first class on Oedipus Rex, discussing questions such as “Can a man control his own fate?” and, “Was Oedipus guilty for his actions?”
Later in the afternoon, students tackled ideas concerning the justice of Socrates’ condemnation, and the issue of his subjugating his private will to the state’s will in Plato’s Crito. After recreation — consisting of some soccer, volleyball, tennis, and touch football — the students had time for dinner and conversation before study hall in St. Bernardine of Sienna Library. Rosary followed, a beautiful time of prayer and reflection which many of the students attended.
The enthusiasm of the students from the first day’s events spilled over into their residence-hall parties. The girls in St. Monica’s bonded through games and dismantling a piñata, while the guys in Sts. Peter and Paul demonstrated manly strength in arm-wrestling chess. It is encouraging to see the excitement of the students in this summer program!
On Sunday, 128 rising high school seniors — the largest group ever — flocked to Thomas Aquinas College for two weeks of lively discussion about some of the most influential authors of Western civilization. While some attendees drove to campus, about 60 others came by way of Los Angeles International Airport. There they were greeted by the Summer Program prefect team, which is composed of some of the College’s current students and recent graduates. This year’s summer students hail from as far away as France, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates.
Upon arriving on campus, the students settled into their residence halls (St. Monica Hall for the ladies, and Sts. Peter & Paul Hall for the gentlemen) and met their roommates.
After touring the grounds, they shared a BBQ dinner with their fellow students and with the members of the faculty with whom they will be studying for the next two weeks. Later in the evening Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem (’94), offered a travelers’ Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. An orientation session followed, after which the students headed to the residence halls before going to bed.
Already the group is proving to be thoughtful and lively. Our time together will undoubtedly be exciting and grace-filled!
The Admissions Office team looks forward to welcoming some 130 high school students from around the country and abroad to the campus this coming Sunday, July 22, for the Summer Great Books Program. Please check back here regularly for pictures and posts from the program; the blog will be constantly updated throughout the two weeks. We look forward to keeping siblings, friends, parents, and teachers updated about all the classes, activities, and events!
Student check-in for the program is on Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There will be a Parents’ Orientation for those who can make it at 4:00 p.m. in St. Bernardine of Siena Library, and a barbeque at 5:00 p.m. at the picnic area near the athletic field.
Please call the College at 800-634-9797 or e-mail Jon Daly, Admissions Director, for more information.
Note: Kathleen Sullivan (‘06) served as the head prefect for women for the 2011 High School Summer Program. Below is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, which she wrote in the form of a thank-you letter to the Christianform, which generously provided the grant that paid for the prefects’ stipends.
For this program especially, one day stands out in my mind: the hike to the Punch Bowls in the Los Padres National Forest just behind the campus. Nick, a student in a wheelchair, wanted to go on the hike despite being unable to walk, and since he had a pole-chair contraption that he used during Boy Scout trips, he joined the group.
At first, it was rough going, with some of the guys struggling to carry the heavy load, and with other guys impatient at the delay caused by the slow progress. But then, about 10 minutes into the hike, a prefect stepped up, called all the guys back together and said, “Okay, men, I’m going to need each and every one of you. The girls are going ahead, but we’re all going to stay back and form shifts to carry Nick. We’ll switch every two minutes so we don’t get tired. We’ll pace ourselves and work as a team. We’re going to do this together and we’re going to bring Nick to the top. Alright, let’s make Shift 1...”
I stayed back to take some pictures, and seeing the boys group together in forming their teams to carry Nick was beautiful. My heart simply overflowed with the nobility those young men displayed that day. And they did it!
Every two or three minutes a call went out, “OK, Shift 2, carry! Shift 3, get ready!” They carried Nick over rocky river beds, trudging through the cold water; they carried him through narrow tree-lined paths, successfully avoiding poison oak, and they carried him up a steep sandy ravine, which is somewhat risky even on two feet. It was beautiful. It was inspiring. It made me so proud to be a witness of selfless teamwork. They made it all the way up to the Punch Bowls, and back down again, without a single mishap, and with constant cheers of encouragement and camaraderie.
An amazing brotherhood was formed that day. At the end of the two weeks, as I said goodbye to Nick, I asked him what his favorite part of the program was, and with a big smile emerging, he answered without hesitance, “the Punch Bowls hike.”
Yes, Nick, that was my favorite part, too.
So thank you, to those of The Christianform, Inc., for allowing me the honor of working for two weeks in a very special place with a very special group of people. You’ve given me the opportunity to share and receive much joy and happiness while developing my own abilities to guide and lead these young people to an appreciation of the good achieved by Thomas Aquinas College. It is so rewarding to have been a prefect for these past seven years, and even more rewarding to receive thanks from current students for something I said or did that caused them to think more seriously about attending the College.
So, in return, the thanks go to you. I will be keeping you all in my prayers.
Note: Kathleen Sullivan (‘06) served as the head prefect for women for the 2011 High School Summer Program. Below are some of her reflections on this year’s program, which she wrote in the form of a thank-you letter to the Christianform, which generously provided the grant that paid for the prefects’ stipends.
Whenever I’m asked how it feels to be working as a prefect for the Thomas Aquinas College Summer Program, I always respond “truly blessed.” And those words ring deep, for being able to immerse myself in the rich spiritual and intellectual community of the College during those two weeks has been a wonderful rejuvenation for my body, mind, and soul.
I’ve been working in the program since the summer of 2005, and have always, always given deep thanks for the blessings I receive in those two short weeks of the summer over the past seven years. It never fails that after every program, I have the same thought: “I wish I could sign up and begin as a freshman all over again.” The program never grows stale; every year is fresh and fun; every re-reading of the texts yields new insights; every students offers his or her own delight and energy. It’s a privilege indeed to be a guiding part of it.
I love every aspect of the summer program, and this year was no different.Read more
There was a joyful, celebratory sort of feeling in the air on Friday morning. After two weeks of intense consideration and discussion of some of the most perennial questions of Western civilization, the students are excited to celebrate their achievement and time together.
After their last two classes, a final volleyball tournament on the athletic field, and a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament, the day will end with a formal banquet and dance. All those evening swing classes will really pay off, and there will be plenty of time to say goodbye, to take pictures, and to exchange addresses.
In addition to the wonderful memories the students will bring home, they will also take with them a few surprise gifts, including a copy of C.S. Lewis’ “Complete Signature Classics”(Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and others), a Summer Program T-shirt, a Thomas Aquinas College messenger bag, and a framed picture of the group photo above (a downloadable, high-resolution version of which is available here) and one of their class section. We hope that these mementos of their two weeks at the College will serve them well in all their endeavors and remind them of their time here with us.
This was a truly excellent group of students, and we certainly enjoyed having them here!
With the week drawing rapidly to a close, there is a sense of eagerness in the classroom to get to the heart of the concepts being discussed. There is so little time left to spend with Euclid, Boethius, and all the questions these works inspire.
Any student who has gone through the four-year Thomas Aquinas College curriculum recognizes this sense of yearning for knowledge that begins to pervade the class. Whether you’re drawing close to finishing a great work that you’ve spent a lot of time studying, or whether you’re drawing your four years to a close, you become keenly aware that time is short; there is a certain anxiety to “learn everything” before your opportunity with this book, or at this college, is over.
But it also fills you with a wonderful sense of expectancy and excitement for all the amazing things left to study — and the humbling realization that you are just beginning a lifelong journey towards wisdom. Many of the students will leave here with questions still unanswered, but that’s a great thing. It whets your appetite for more study and compels you toward satiating that hunger for knowledge of the true, good, and beautiful.
The day drew to a close with a beautiful rosary procession from the front of the Chapel down to the Lourdes Grotto on the lower campus, with Fr. Sebastian leading the students in Our Lady’s prayer before her statue.
On Wednesday the students enjoyed a class-free afternoon after studying Euclid in the morning. Some took the opportunity to enjoy a light hike to the top of a hill near campus where, through some haze, they could make out the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands in the distance. Others relaxed on campus, and all then joined on the athletic field for an exciting volleyball tourney. The teams had creative names: the Jesuits, the Norbertines, and the Ladies Philosophy. The Norbertines won the tournament and faced a team of tutors and Fr. Sebastian in the tournament finale. After an in intense three-game match, the experienced tutor squad prevailed.
A tri-tip barbeque was served on the athletic field after recreation. Then, following a two-hour study period, students gathered for the rosary in the Chapel. About 45 minutes later, College President Michael F. McLean greeted them in the Coffee Shop and spoke briefly about the College and his interest in the Summer Program, of which he is one of the original founders.
Fr. Sebastian then hosted a discussion of theology in the Coffee Shop over root beer floats. Students submitted their own questions for Father to answer, such as why hell exists, how evolution can be seen as greater proof for God’s existence, and how purity makes for healthy relationships. The discussions on these and other topics carried over into the residence halls, where students talked around fires in the courtyards before retiring for the night.