Skip to Content
Summer Program Blog

Summer Program Blog

Students pray the Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel Students pray the Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

We have an avalanche of photos from Monday afternoon and evening to share!

Let’s begin with the time immediately after lunch, when students gathered outside the library to pose for their ID photos:

  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad
  • Students get their ID photos and submit t-shirt sizes (High School Summer Program 2018)
    Slideshow: IDs and Photos on the Quad

We then move on, after the day’s second class, to the afternoon recreation period, which included most every sport imaginable — basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis and Spikeball!

  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Afternoon Sports
    Slideshow: Monday afternoon recreation

After recreation the group had dinner, at which it sang “Happy Birthday” to fellow student Paloma, who kindly shared her cake with all at her table. The students then came to St. Bernardine of Siena Library for their first study hall of the program. There they read up on Sophocles’ Antigone and three pre-Socratic philosophers (Empedocles, Democritus, and Epicurus) in preparation for today’s classes. Some even got a head start on Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy for Wednesday. “They were very studious!” one prefect reports.

  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Study Hall
    Slideshow: First study hall

From there it was time for the nightly Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel (see photo, above) followed by a busy coffee shop in St. Cecilia Hall. Students played foosball, pool, ping-pong, and cards, while enjoying Italian sodas prepared by the prefects.

  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night
  • HSSP18 -- 1st Monday -- Night
    Slideshow: First night

After more socializing in the residence halls, everyone called it a night. Stay tuned for a report on today’s classes in the next post!


Students playing volleyball

As of this writing, the first day of classes is now complete, and the High School Summer Program students are making use of their first recreation period by playing various sports on the campus athletic fields.

At this morning’s classes, students discussed Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, and the conversation carried over into lunch. As students munched on their grilled chicken and French fries, they pondered such questions as whether we should pity Oedipus, and whether virtue ought to be a precondition of receiving pity. Then, in the afternoon class, they moved from pity to piety — specifically, what constitutes piety within the context of Plato’s Euthyphro.

With classes under way, the students seem to have begun settling in to the life of the College. “When they arrived, you could tell that a lot of them seemed to be amazed just by the beauty of the  campus,” says Head Women’s Prefect Kathleen Sullivan (’06). “There was much excitement. Friendships started forming right away.” And those friendships are already deepening, as students together learn from the great books — and compete on the athletic fields!

Come back to the Summer Blog tomorrow for more photos!

 

 


July 16,
2018

Students after the barbeque

This blog last left off after Sunday night’s Travelers’ Mass, which was followed by an orientation meeting in St. Cecilia Hall. The day’s hectic pace at last seemed to slow down, as prefects and students introduced themselves to one another, amid much laughter. After the meeting, the men and women retired to their respective residence halls for yet another meeting — this one on the finer points of dorm living — and then chaplains came by (Fr. Paul in the women’s residence hall and Fr. Sebastian in the men’s) for the nightly consecration. The night concluded with ice cream and socializing in anticipation of a big day on Monday.

  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning
  • HSSP18 -- First Monday Morning
    Slideshow: Monday Morning

Monday began with breakfast in St. Joseph Commons, after which students made their way over to St. Cecilia Hall for the Academic Orientation. Summer Program Director Brian Dragoo discussed what students could expect in their classes — including the dress code and addressing each other formally — and how to best prepare for class (approach the text with no expectations and a willingness to learn). He also gave students a foretaste of some of the profound questions they would consider over the next two weeks, including questions of justice, conscience, and responsibility for our actions. Then it was time for morning Mass  and the day’s first class — Plato’s Euthyphro!


July 15,
2018

After students arrived and settled in on Monday afternoon, parents attended an orientation meeting and campus tour, followed by the family barbeque …

  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ
  • Summer Program Opening Barbeque 2018
    Slideshow: Opening BBQ

… and then a travelers’ Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel:

Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Check the Summer Blog tomorrow for more photos!


July 15,
2018

The 2018 Summer Great Books Program for High School Students is under way!

  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus
  • Students arrive for the 2018 High School Summer Program
    Slideshow: Students arrive on campus

Students began arriving at Los Angeles International Airport this morning — the earliest came in from New Zealand at 6:30! —  where they were met by the Summer Program prefects, who took them on one of several buses back to campus. Over the course of the afternoon, more buses arrived, as did cars carrying students who live closer to the College. Upon settling in their residence halls, the students began visiting, playing sports, and touring the grounds.

Let the adventure begin!


July 14,
2018

The 2018 Summer Program prefects with Summer Program Director Brian Dragoo and Admissions Director Jon Daly The 2018 Summer Program prefects with Summer Program Director Brian Dragoo and Admissions Director Jon Daly

Dear parents,

Greetings from Thomas Aquinas College! I hope you are well and enjoying your summer.

Thank you for sending your children tomorrow! We very much look forward to welcoming some 140 students from 32 states as well as Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Lithuania, and New Zealand!

As we make our final preparations to welcome everyone here, I wanted to let you know that students who are flying in will be met at their baggage claim by members of our Summer Program staff, wearing the red TAC t-shirts you see in the above photo. For those who will be arriving by car, we ask to please arrive on campus between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. 

Throughout the program, the Summer Program Blog will feature regular updates, usually twice a day, including photos, slideshows, and stories about what’s going on, both inside the classroom and out. Please feel free to share the link with any friends and/or family who may be interested in knowing what your children are up to. You can also receive notifications of updates to the blog by following us on Facebook or Twitter.

I hope you will not hesitate to be in touch with any questions anytime — you can reach me by email or by phone (805-421-5901). Should you need to contact us for any travel-related reason tomorrow, the College’s phone line will be open from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. (805-525-4417).

We look forward to keeping in touch. God bless you and your family.

Sincerely,

Jon Daly
Director of Admissions


Now that readers have had a chance to meet the tutors and prefects for the 2018 High School Summer Program (see parts one, two, and three), Thomas Aquinas College would like to introduce the program’s counselors. These are the regular members of the Admissions Office who, for 50 weeks of the year, focus on putting together the College’s next freshman class, but for two weeks each summer pour out their hearts and souls into creating a program that showcases the goodness, joy, and fun of the Thomas Aquinas College experience. In the upcoming weeks, we may also introduce you to some of the behind-the-scenes folks who help to make the program possible.

Jon Daly (’99) Jon Daly (’99)Jon Daly (’99)

First on the list is Jon Daly, who grew up in South Dakota but has been in Southern California more or less since he came to the College as a freshman in 1995. He graduated in 1999 and began working in the Admissions Office in 2000, becoming its director in 2004. Mr. Daly has been part of every Summer Program since 2000. “It’s been a joy to see it grow from about 40 students to 140 students over the years!” he says.

Mr. Daly and his wife, Marie (Sale ’00), live in Santa Paula with their five sons and two daughters. The family occasionally makes it up to campus for barbeques and other Summer Program events, so students will likely get a chance to meet some of the crew before the two weeks are up.

“Meeting the Summer Program students has always been the high point of the year for me,” says Mr. Daly. “What I most appreciate, though, is seeing the students come together as one from so many different places and backgrounds, with their varied interests, and become a true community. I also deeply appreciate working with the prefects — some of them are students here themselves, others are graduates from around the country. Seeing how they give themselves into this program so intensely and fully for love of the students is inspiring and edifying.”

Scott Benigar Scott BenigarScott Benigar

Part of the magic of the Summer Program is the logistics: buses shuttling students to destinations throughout Southern California; mountains of food materializing, as though out of thin air, whenever they are needed; the endless stream of intellectually, spiritually, and physically rewarding activities. Much of the credit for this marvel belongs to Scott Benigar, who — with lots of help from the Admissions counselors, prefects, and numerous others — works diligently behind the scenes to make it all look easy.

Returning for his eighth program, Mr. Benigar is an Orange County native who now lives in Santa Paula with his wife, Mary (Conklin ’01), and their four boys. He is a regular presence on the basketball courts, both as a player and as a referee, and a known card shark. (Look for him at lunch, playing games with others on the program.) His friends in the Admissions Office often call him a “rock star” for his ability to help prospective students learn about the College’s program of Catholic liberal education.

“A big part of my role in the Summer Program is to try to ensure that our activities, dorm life, BBQs, and trips to the Hollywood Bowl, Getty Museum, and Santa Barbara, are well planned and run smoothly,” he says. Some of his favorite events include the “Theology on Float” question-and-answer session over root-beer floats with Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), the students vs. prefects basketball game, and Mr. Daly’s world-famous roll calls. “Most of all, though, I enjoy meeting students from all over the country and the world,” he says, “and watching them build relationships with one another.”

Sadly this will be Mr. Benigar’s last year on the program. After seven years as an Admissions counselor, he is moving on to become the College’s director of student services. He is pleased to be taking on the new position, but heavy-hearted about leaving the program behind!

Patrick Cross (’14) Patrick Cross (’14)Patrick Cross (’14)

A native of Western Massachusetts, Patrick Cross came to Southern California for Thomas Aquinas College. Last fall he returned to Western Massachusetts … for Thomas Aquinas College.

Back in 2010 Mr. Cross entered the College as a freshman. When he graduated in 2014, he joined the Admissions crew as a counselor. And shortly after the conclusion of last year’s Summer Program, he headed back to the Bay State to become the Admissions Office’s point man at the New England property on which the College hopes to establish an East Coast campus — contingent upon the approval of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education — in the fall of 2019. He looks forward to talking with students at this year’s program about what the College’s aspirations are for the region and answering any questions they may have.

In his spare time — “pretty much all I do with my free time,” he says — Mr. Cross draws political cartoons. His work, which has appeared in the National Catholic Register, is regularly published on various political and Catholic websites.

This year marks Mr. Cross’ fifth working on the Summer Program. “I love the fact that the program gives students a chance to experience the intellectual traditions of the West, if only for two weeks,” he says. “Many students have never experienced that before. Some might not have a chance to experience it again. They are immersed in a genuine Catholic culture on campus. It’s really wonderful to see students experience the beauty of that culture.”

Sarah Dufresne (’14) Sarah Dufresne (’14)“Sarah Dufresne (’14)

“During the Summer Program, the students have a real encounter with the true, the good and the beautiful,” says Sarah Dufresne. “It is a joy to witness how this encounter transforms them into young people with hope and zeal for their futures.”

Miss Dufresne began working on the Summer Program while she was still a student at the College, and has continued ever since. For the first three years after her graduation in 2014 she worked in student life at the College, after which transitioned into a job as an Admissions counselor. “It is a great blessing to work for a college whose mission is that of an intellectual apostolate,” she says. “Our founders believed that a renewal of Catholic liberal education was necessary, and we carry on this mission in our intellectual life here. The formation of the mind and heart is so essential for our Church and our culture, and here we strive to do this joyfully, with the hope that our graduates will be part of the renewal and strengthening of our Church.”

As an Admissions counselor, she considers it her privilege to help pass along the blessings of a Catholic liberal education. “I have the opportunity to invite young people into our community,” she explains. “As a student here myself I began to understand the meaning of true freedom as I was given the opportunity to learn the timeless truths that, when understood under the light of faith, truly set us free. What a gift! I want others to have this incredible gift as well.”

Matthew Plaisted (’18) Matthew Plaisted (’18)Matthew Plaisted (’18)

Matthew Plaisted (’18) attended the Summer Program as a student in 2013 and worked as a prefect in 2015 and 2016. This year the recent graduate returns as the newest member of the College’s Admissions staff.

“I am excited to be back on the program as an Admissions counselor and in a position to be of even more assistance to the students in their discernment process,” he says. “I am especially excited for the Santa Barbara trip! It is always one of the most memorable days!”

It was his experience as a student on the program that convinced him to apply to, and then later enroll as a freshman, at Thomas Aquinas College. But one of his fondest memories of the program came as a prefect. “A group of guys woke up early in the morning, well before breakfast,” he recalls. “We went on a hike to watch the sunrise from a spot around the campus. We discussed the program, classes, and manhood.”

The High School Summer Program, he finds, is full of such profound moments. “I encourage all of the students, whether they are interested in attending the College or not, to immerse themselves in the program,” he says. “Read the assignments and avail yourself of the sacraments. This program can truly be a life-changing experience for the good … if you let it be!”

If you need to find him during recreation time, try the game room. “I have been honing my ping-pong skills this summer,” he says, “should anyone want to challenge me!”


July 13,
2018

Meg Downes (’20)

College Governor R. James Wensley has sent in the above photo of 2018 Summer Prefect Meg Downes (’20), taken earlier this summer, when Meg and her parents visited the Wensleys at their longtime summer home in Michigan. Clearly Meg will be ready for beach day, watermelon water polo in the campus ponds, and any other aquatic activities that may occur at this year’s High School Summer Program!

It’s worth noting that Mr. Wensley and his wife, Germaine, provided the funds for the design and development of the College’s current website, which hosts this Summer Blog — where updates and photos from the program will appear constantly throughout the next two weeks. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Wensley!


Below is the final installment in our three-part series introducing the prefects for this year’s High School Summer Program. (See Part 1 and Part 2.)

Veronica Jost (’17) Veronica Jost (’17)Yesterday’s prefect introductions concluded with John Jost (’17), and today’s begins with his sister, Veronica (’20), a rising junior from Algonquin, Illinois. In 2015 Veronica attended the program as a student and she made dear friends with whom she remains in regular contact. “My favorite thing about my Summer Program was how many wonderful and inspiring people I got to meet, from my fellow attendees to the staff and prefects themselves,” she says. “The feeling of the complete greatness of a real Catholic culture overwhelmed me.” At this year’s program, she looks forward to “meeting more great people” and “sharing the beauty and fun that I experienced at my own Summer Program.”

Joe Daly (’19) Joe Daly (’19)If you have spent any time on the Thomas Aquinas College website over the last three years, you have likely seen Joe Daly (’19 ), a rising senior from Berwyn, Illinois. He’s the tall fellow who appears in most plays, directs others, and helps lead the annual trip to the Walk for Life West Coast (along with fellow prefect Meg Downes). “I love that the Summer Program makes the discussion method and the great books so accessible to high school students who are trying to figure out their next big step in life,” he says. “I almost didn’t enroll at TAC. I was ready to sign on the dotted line at another university to study music until I visited for the first time. The classes blew me away then, and continue to do so now.”

Rachel Rivera (’19) Rachel Rivera (’19)When she attended the Summer Program as a student in 2014, Rachel Rivera (’19) of Kendall Park, New Jersey, “fell in love with the school, especially the spiritual life and the study of Euclid.” She even used to joke — whenever asked why she was choosing Thomas Aquinas College — that it was “60 percent Jesus and 40 percent proving the square!” Now, as a second-time prefect, she aims to share what she has learned with the high school students. “Working the Summer Program is really wonderful because I get to see so many new people come and take the first few steps of this journey,” she says. “I love watching students get excited about the great books and the Discussion Method, and knowing that their lives — whether they know it or not — are going to be changed forever!”

George Stypa (’21) George Stypa (’21)Attending the High School Summer Program as a student in 2016 made such an impression on George Stypa (’21) of Tucson, Arizona, that he actually passed up a scholarship from another school in order to attend Thomas Aquinas College. “It was one of the highlights of my life,” he says. “It not only allowed me to delve deeper into some of the greatest minds of Western civilization, but also allowed me to meet some very exceptional people.” Among his favorite memories was the student-prefect basketball game. “I am very excited now that I have been ‘drafted’ to the prefect team!” he jokes, adding that he’s looking forward to experiencing the Summer Program from the “other side” as a first-time prefect.

Zoe Appleby (’18) Zoe Appleby (’18)A member of the College’s newest graduating class, Zoe Appleby (’18) of Santa Paula, California, “can’t wait to return” for this, her fourth year as a Summer Program prefect. She attended the program while in high school and “fell in love” with the College’s unique curriculum and teaching method. Her favorite program authors are Euclid, Fabre, Flannery O’Connor, and Søren Kierkegaard. She has always been passionate about museums, art, and beauty, and she wrote her Senior Thesis on “The Beauty of the Crucifixion.” This fall she will continue her studies in a medieval art history master’s program. When not studying the great books or art history, Zoe enjoys rock climbing, swimming at the beach, oil painting, and reading poetry. She reports that she is “extremely looking forward” to the Summer Program’s trip to the Getty Center.

Andrew Rossi (’13) Andrew Rossi (’13)Returning for his sixth year is Andrew Rossi (’13), a native of Bakersfield, California. A graduate of the College, Andrew works at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California, where he teaches logic, geometry, history, and chemistry. “My favorite part of the program,” he says, “is interacting with the students and listening to their first thoughts on the great books.” In past years he has overseen the Summer Program’s athletic competitions, a role he looks forward to taking up once again. “I am very excited for the sports,” he notes, “especially the basketball game between the prefects and the students.”

Shelby Heaton (’21) Shelby Heaton (’21)This past fall, Shelby Heaton (’21) of Kalispell, Montana, enrolled at Thomas Aquinas College as the age of 26, making her the senior member of the Freshman Class. She had intended to apply when she was 19 but was, she admits, “complacent and intimidated.” Seven years of working as a waitress and as her parish’s director of religious education, however, led her to realize that the fruits of a Catholic liberal education would outweigh the sacrifices. “I’m loving being here,” she says. “It’s really hard, but I’m not scared. I have a peace of mind because, for all that it took to get me here, this must be where God wants me.” Her advice to Summer Program students: “Be packed 24 hours before you travel, and sleep as much as you can beforehand!”

Dillon Raum (’21) Dillon Raum (’21)It’s been a great summer for Dillon Raum (’21) of Anthem, Arizona. First he went to Rome as part of a singing tour with a men’s choir, The Floriani, composed of Thomas Aquinas College students and alumni (including Joe Daly). And now he’s coming to Santa Paula for his first-ever Summer Program! “I hope to make lots of great memories this summer,” he says. As a rising sophomore, he has some practical experience to share with the high school students. “Try not to split the program into two parts: the classes, and the ‘fun stuff,’” he advises. “Keep thinking and talking about the ideas and conversations from class while you’re having fun, and have some fun in class!” He’s looking forward to sharing the “TAC culture” with the summer visitors, and “can’t wait to see all the high-schoolers learn to swing dance!”

Maggie Dillon (’21) Maggie Dillon (’21)“I attended the Summer Program two years ago, and it was life-changing,” says Maggie Dillon (’21), a rising sophomore from Lunenburg, Massachusetts. “I met some of the best people I have ever met and had some of the best times. In just two weeks my intellectual life, my spiritual life, and my social life took a turn for the better.” Returning for the first time as a prefect, she is now eager to pass along that experience to this year’s students. “I am really looking forward to being a part of it again,” she says. “I am very excited to make new friends and to be with them through this incredible experience. These upcoming two weeks are going to be so much fun, and I cannot wait!”

 
 

Yesterday we began a three-part series introducing the prefects for this year’s High School Summer Program. Below is part 2:

Thomas Cain (’18) Thomas Cain (’18)A member of the College’s newest graduating class, Thomas Cain (’18) of Santa Paula, California, is returning for his fourth Summer Program. “I cannot wait,” he says, “because each year seems to get better.” He is most looking forward to reading and discussing the texts, as well as playing in the volleyball tournament. “Give all of yourself to the program,” he advises students. “Even if you don’t end up becoming a freshman here, these two weeks will change your life.” At summer’s end, Thomas plans to backpack in Europe for three months, and then hopes to begin studying for the priesthood. “Keep me in your prayers,” he says. “You all are in mine.”

Micaela McCall (’20) Micaela McCall (’20)Like fellow prefect Graham Crawley (’20), rising junior Micaela McCall (’20) of Denver, Colorado, was a “second-time freshman” who enrolled at the College after first studying elsewhere. “I spent a year at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati before converting to Catholicism and ‘transferring’ to TAC,” she explains. “My heart longed for a bigger conversation, one about the leading philosophies of Western civilization, the relationship between God and man, and the works of literature that stand out as the best for giving such a vibrant depiction of humanity.” The Summer Program, she finds, offers students a wonderful opportunity to enter that bigger conversation. “See the classes as simply an extension of your life,” she says, “where you get to seek answers for questions that matter to you.”

Joseph Guinee (’21) Joseph Guinee (’21)Although a first-time prefect, rising sophomore Joseph Guinee (’21) of North Andover, Massachusetts, is a Summer Program veteran, having attended as a high school student in 2016. “My favorite memory was sitting outside the Hollywood Bowl, eating pizza with the great friends I had met,” he recalls. “I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s students read the great books, and to see how that experience will spark in them a desire to seek truth and read yet more great books!” In his spare time, Joseph enjoys cooking, photography, and dancing. His advice for the Summer Program students: “Get plenty of sleep, and talk with everybody you can.”

Siena Hsu (’18) Siena Hsu (’18)After graduating from the College this spring, Siena Hsu (’18) spent the beginning of the summer with the family of fellow prefect Seamus O’Brien (’20) in Wisconsin, “planting seeds, fishing, milking cows, sausage-making, and generally getting a very un-Californian experience.”  She has also been hard at work on her design portfolio, and she hopes to soon land a job as an in-house designer for a publishing company. This year marks her second as a Summer Program prefect and her first as a Catholic, having entered the Church at this spring’s Easter Vigil. “I love running and hiking,” she says. “And would love to do both with any students who are interested!”

Helen Blain (’20) Helen Blain (’20)Four years ago, Helen Blain (’20), then a rising high school junior, made the trip from her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Santa Paula for the Thomas Aquinas College High School Summer Program. Four years later — and now a rising junior at the College — she is serving for the second time as a program prefect. Expect to see her often on the athletic field: She enjoys any and all sports, especially rock climbing and soccer. She greatly looks forward “to getting to know all the students,” adding that she is “super excited” because her sister will be one of them. “Wear sunscreen,” she recommends. “And if you truly dedicate yourselves to the readings, the classes will be even more enjoyable and engaging!”

Daniel Selmeczy (’08) Daniel Selmeczy (’08)A teacher at St. Monica Academy in Pasadena, California, Daniel Selmeczy (’08) is best known as the Summer Program’s dance instructor, turning neophytes into skilled dancers in time for the end-of-the-program dance. Now returning for his eleventh year as a prefect, he marvels at how he came to attend the College at all. “I was an atheist and was accepted to study marine biology at UC Santa Barbara when I first visited TAC,” he recalls. “During that visit, I fell in love with the program and was accepted to attend as a freshman that same year. Within a year I had converted to Catholicism, which to this day has been the single greatest blessing of my entire life.” His favorite memories of past years’ programs are the conversations in the dorms and, not surprisingly, the dance lessons.

Meg Downes (’20) Meg Downes (’20)“I’m very extroverted and love getting to meet new people, and then really getting to know them,” reports Meg Downes (’20), a rising junior from Hickory Corners, Michigan. As one might guess, she is eager to meet the students on this year’s Summer Program. Indeed, this second-year prefect’s favorite memory of last year’s Summer Program was the opening-night ice-breakers, from which sprung countless new friendships. “This is the last group of high schoolers who, if they come to the College as students, will be here at the same time as my class,” she observes, noting that she would be a senior during this group’s freshman year. Meg loves volleyball and anticipates some intense matches on the College’s courts during afternoon recreation time.

John Jost (’17) John Jost (’17)When he was in high school, John Jost (’17) strongly considered going to college on a swimming or baseball scholarship — until he attended the High School Summer Program. “It changed my life,” he says. “And it’s the greatest decision I have made thus far.” During the program, he discovered that “there was something bigger in life than sports,” and that he “actually liked reading.” He is returning for his fourth year as a prefect while on vacation from his work as an account executive for a Fortune 1000 technology company. “I have learned so much from this job,” he says, “but the foundation and habits I developed at TAC gave me the opportunity and ability to succeed in the business world, right out of college.”

Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow!