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Summer Program Blog

July 31,
2019

Students in classroom discussion

Having discussed the pre-Socratic philosophers’ notions of nature on Tuesday, the Summer Program students turned their attention this morning to the Biblical account of Creation in the first 10 chapters of Genesis. They compared the two different Creation narratives, contemplated the perennial battle between good and evil, and asked how Adam and Eve’s free will could coexist with God’s foreknowledge of the Fall.

At the mid-day Mass, Chaplain Rev. Greg Markey began his homily with a quote from the suggested patron of the boys’ residence hall, St. John Bosco: “Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book.” Father then related that quote to the day’s saint, Ignatius of Loyola, whose own formation and life was heavily influenced by reading the lives of the saints. St. Ignatius, Father continued, was led to do great works by reading great books — and so, too, should the students on the Summer Program, who are getting a taste of the Great Books of Western civilization, readings which, when pursued under the light of faith, can prepare them, too, for lives of greatness.

Lunch in Gould Hall

The day’s lunch consisted of burgers and more conversation of Genesis, with students debating such questions as, “How do we know that what God created is actually good?” One answer was that, since God has the knowledge of good and evil, He knows whereof He speaks when he pronounces Creation “good.” Another was that Genesis’ depiction of nature points to a purpose and order in all things, which, if they function in accordance with that purpose and order, make them good.

There was still more discussion of Genesis in the afternoon class, which focused on chapters 11 to 25. This time students considered Abraham and Isaac, focusing on such questions as, “What is meant by the various blessings given to Abram?” “What does it mean to bless God?” “Was Abraham good, so God chose him to be father of faith, or was he good because God chose him?” “Can you have faith and still question God or be anxious?” Discussions also made reference to Plato’s treatment of filial piety in the Euthyphro, giving the students a sense of how the College’s curriculum is fully integrated. They will get an even greater appreciation of that integration tomorrow, when they discuss Kierkegaard’s various presentations of the Sacrifice of Isaac in Fear and Trembling.

Student with Dr. Froula and Mr. Jost

Two students

Three students


An evening rainbow over the New England campus! An evening rainbow over the New England campus

At this morning’s class, the students of the 2019 New England High School Great Books Program discussed Sophocles’ Antigone, considering the perennial conflict between individual conscience and obedience to civil laws. Then, before heading to lunch, they came to Palmer Hall to pose for a group photo as well as photos of their class sections:

Dr. Froula’s section Dr. Froula’s section

Dr. Hughes’ section Dr. Hughes’ section

Dr. Shivone’s section Dr. Shivone’s section

At a lunch of beef and noodles, students continued their discussion of Antigone, specifically the question: Is Antigone character rash? At one table, where students sat with tutors Dr. Margaret Hughes and Dr. Paul Shields, they also contemplated the nature of the Discussion Method. Dr. Shields described the method as a “three-dimensional” pedagogy involving the tutor, the student, and his peers — as distinct from the “two-dimensional” pedagogy of lecturing, wherein the student interacts only with the lecturer. One of the high school students reported that she found this three-dimensional learning more dynamic, that she is challenged, and forced to grow in her thinking, when peers put forth arguments that contradict her own.

After lunch the students moved on to their second class, a discussion of the pre-Socratic philosophers, particularly how Empedocles, Democritus, and Epicurus understood eternity and the origins of the natural world. Their conversation should make for some intriguing comparisons with the subject of tomorrow’s class, the Book of Genesis.

But first, students can look forward to tonight’s post-curfew dorm parties — come back Wednesday for details!


Water-balloon fight

Last we posted, students had just wrapped up their second class of the 2019 New England High School Program, an examination of Plato’s Euthyphro. From there it was the first afternoon recreation period of the program, highlighted by Section Wars — a series of relay races and other contests waged between the various sections, or classroom groupings, of students.

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The activities included racing while carrying an egg on a spoon in one’s mouth; sprinting while wearing a soaked, XXXL TAC sweatshirt; three-legged races; and a balloon toss that quickly devolved into an all-out water war complete with super-soakers! Afterward, the games continued with soccer and volleyball on the athletic fields.

Pleasantly exhausted, the group then made its way to a pizza dinner, followed by the first study hall of the program in Dolben Library. The prefects report that this is a studious, thoughtful group of students, who took on with gusto the night’s readings of Sophocles’ Antigone and texts from the pre-Socratic philosophers.

Then it was time for the nightly Rosary in the temporary chapel in Olivia Music Hall, led by prefects, followed by the first “Coffee Shop” of the program. Meeting up in Gould Hall, students enjoyed an evening of board games, ping pong, and Telephone. They were also treated to Shirley Temples and professional-grade mochas prepared by prefects Joe Guinee and Simone Kelly, who, in her part-time job back in California, was named “Barista of the Year” in Ventura County.

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At curfew the students returned to their residence halls for chips, salsa, and conversation. “The girls were all tired and went to bed early,” reports one of the female prefects. For the boys, however, the night was still young!

It is the College’s practice to name its buildings after saints, meaning that pretty much all of the newly acquired buildings on the New England campus need patrons. And so the boys staged a playful debate about for which saint their residence hall, Wilson, should be named. Andrew Rossi led the conversation and Joe Guinee played the role of “Devil’s Advocate,” arguing vehemently against any and all proposals. In total, some 40 saints were considered, but the clear crowd favorite was St. John Bosco. “Bosco! Bosco! Bosco!” the boys repeatedly chanted — drawing Joe’s feigned outrage.

At last they called it a night. At breakfast the seven-point scale question of the morning was: “How would you rate the character of Antigone, with 1 being a complete narcissist, and 7 being a saintly martyr?” Average ranking: 5.

Come back this afternoon for reports from today’s classes!


July 29,
2019

US and TAC flags flying over New England campus

Thomas Aquinas College, New England, is officially open for business!

Throughout the day Sunday, students and their families arrived for the campus’ first-ever High School Summer Program. They were greeted by prefects, who led students to their residence halls and offered a campus tour that afternoon:

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Nearly everyone arrived in time for a dinner that evening of tri-tip steak, corn on the cob, hot dogs, and beans in Gould Hall. Afterward Admissions Director Jon Daly and Dr. Stephen Shivone, a tutor at the College and the director of the New England Summer Program, welcomed students and gave them a sense of what they could expect for the next two weeks. Head men’s prefect Andrew Rossi urged the high schoolers to “live the life of the program to its fullest,” giving themselves completely to the experience. His fellow prefects — who report that this seems to be a very academically minded, thoughtful group — are confident that the students will take Rossi’s advice to heart!

Mr. Daly speaks at Orientation

Tired from what was, for most, a long day of travel, the students then retired for ice-cream sundaes in their residence halls, plus a visit from Chaplain Rev. Greg Markey, who spoke about the spiritual life of the College. The prefects discussed the rules of residence, after which the students played various ice-breakers, which — for the boys — included an “extreme” version of the card game “Spoons” and whiffle-ball dodgeball. A number of the young men stayed up all the way until lights out, engaged in in a profound conversation on grace, relics, and the Eucharist.

First night in girls' residence hall

After a breakfast of waffles, eggs, sausage, and blueberries this morning, there was an academic orientation, during which Dr. Shivone introduced his fellow tutors for the New England program, Dr. Josef Froula and Dr. Margaret Hughes. He also urged the students not to be too cautious about speaking up in class — they need not have formulated the perfect comment in order to move the conversation forward. With that in mind, the students then set off for the morning’s classes — the first classes ever offered at Thomas Aquinas  College, New England! — to discuss Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.

Come back later today for pictures and updates!


July 29,
2019

Student at Monday morning’s academic orientation Student at Monday morning’s academic orientation

The students at the 2019 New England High School Summer Program have completed their first day of classes!

At this morning’s session, they discussed Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Among the questions considered were “Did Oedipus deserve his fate?” “Should we morally condemn him for his actions?” “Ought we to pity Oedipus?”

At lunch, the conversation continued, and prefect Dan Selmeczy asked students to offer their analyses of the reading according to his much-beloved seven-point scales. Question one was, “With 1 being, ‘the gods control everything,’ and 7 being, ‘humans control everything,’ how would you rate the relative roles of the gods and men in shaping the course of human lives, according to Sophocles’ portrayal?” Question two: “How would you rank the morality of Oedipus, with Hitler at 1, and Mother Teresa at 7?” The average ranking to both questions, he said was around 4.

In the afternoon class on Plato’s Euthyphro, students discussed piety and its relationship to justice, concluding that piety is, in fact, justice in its most perfect form. Afterward, one student approached prefects Katie Ellefson and Seamus O’Brien and asked them what an apple is. When they asked him why he asked, he replied, “I came here thinking I know lots of things, and now I’m not sure I know anything anymore!”

This self-deprecating observation was the result, he said, of his class’ efforts to define piety — which then turned into an attempt to define “definition” — an experience that was at once both confusing and eye-opening. Being forced to reconsider set notions and define concepts that they may previously have taken for granted is, for most students, the first step toward contemplating and then understanding much larger ideas. This class already seems to be growing and expanding their intellectual horizons, which is exciting to see.

Come back tomorrow for posts — with photos — from tonight’s activities!


Students and prefects at BOS

It’s arrival day for the inaugural Thomas Aquinas College High School Summer Program in New England! Students from throughout the country started arriving at Boston’s Logan Airport this morning, where they met up with our prefects, dressed in easily spotted red t-shirts.

Temporary chapel in Olivia Music Hall

The prefects have been busy! Last night they helped set up the temporary chapel in Olivia Music Hall (the permanent chapel is still under renovation), after which they paid a visit to the street sign that will greet students as they drive onto campus:

Prefects point to TAC-NE sign

Then they got up early this morning to make their way to the airport — early enough to get this beauty shot of the morning mist that had settled over the campus:

Mist on the NE campus

Buses are now making their way from the airport to campus, and two great weeks of learning, faith, and friendship will soon be under way!

Students and prefects on bus


New England-bound prefects and Admissions officers Members of the California Summer Program team who will soon be heading to New England: Head Men’s Prefect Andrew Rossi (’13), Head Women’s Prefect Sarah Dufresne (’14), Admissions Director Jon Daly, Prefects Katie Ellefson (’16), Seamus O’Brien (’20), and Dean Selmeczy (’08)

Yesterday we began introducing the prefects for this year’s New England High School Summer Program. Below is part 2:

Daniel Selmeczy (’08) Daniel Selmeczy (’08)• If you have been following this year’s California Summer Program, you know the name Daniel Selmeczy (’08). Best known as the Summer Program’s dance instructor, Dan’s specialty is turning neophytes into skilled dancers in time for the end-of-the-program dance. This is his twelfth year as a prefect, and he’s fired up to bring the program to the East Coast. “We are excited to be part of bringing this same program to a different location,” he says. “This program will be smaller than it’s been in California, which I think will create a great sense of community. Students will get to know each other and the prefects well.” His favorite memories of past years’ programs are the conversations in the residence halls and, not surprisingly, the dance lessons.

Maggie Dillon (’21) Maggie Dillon (’21)• Maggie Dillon (’21) is uniquely well suited to bring the TAC Summer Program to New England. As the granddaughter of late TAC president Thomas Dillon and the daughter of two alumni, she has known and loved the California campus — where she will soon enter her junior year — all her life. But she grew up in Massachusetts and lives in Lunenburg, about one hour away from the new campus, so this program will be, for her, a homecoming of sorts. “I attended the Summer Program in high school, and those two weeks were so wonderful and so fun that I didn’t think life could get any better,” Maggie recalls. “I am thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of it again! I am so excited to make new friends and be with them as they experience two of the best weeks of their lives.”

Kevin Murphy (’22) Kevin Murphy (’22)•  “I have never worked the Summer Program, nor did I attend it,” admits Kevin Murphy (’22) of Des Peres, Missouri. “So I am really looking forward to being a part of an experience which so many of my classmates described as incredibly formative.” A rising sophomore, he is one of the students who, having spent their freshman year on the California campus, are now transferring to the New England campus to complete their studies there. He has some good advice to share with the Summer Program students. “Don’t be afraid to speak up in class,” he says. “It’s sometimes hard to be comfortable sharing ideas in a room full of strangers, but I assure you, participation in the discussion is the best way to really dive into the curriculum.”

Simone Kelly (’22) Simone Kelly (’22)•  Simone Kelly (’22) is a fellow New England transfer, eager to share the blessings of Thomas Aquinas College with the East Coast. Having attended the Summer Program when she was in high school, she knows well the important role that prefects play in the program. “The prefects really helped me and encouraged me during those two weeks,” which she likens to a TAC “boot camp.” She is “excited about getting other people excited,” she says, “showing the students what our academic program is all about and helping to spread the word about our new campus.” A lifelong resident of Santa Paula, California, she is specially looking forward to exploring the Northeast. “I can’t wait for our trip to Boston and to go kayaking on the Connecticut River!”

Seamus O’Brien (’20) Seamus O’Brien (’20)• As a boy Seamus O’Brien (’20), a rising junior from Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, wanted to be a priest — and Santa Claus. “But I also never got why more hotdog salesmen didn’t sell bratwurst,” he explains. “So I told my parents that when I grew up I was going to be a priest and Santa Claus who owned a hotdog cart which sold brats instead of hotdogs.” What more need be said about the man? When he is not contemplating a life of holiness, generosity, and German sausage, this third-time prefect delights in the Summer Program’s hikes, sports, and conversations. At the California program, it was said that he was “an animal” in the watermelon water polo match, so be sure to keep an eye on him during the upcoming athletic competitions!

Katie Ellefson (’16) Katie Ellefson (’16)• When she was just 8 years old, Katie Ellefson (’16) decided that she wanted to become a nurse — a conviction that has remained with her to this day. Yet rather than enter a nursing program directly out of high school, she chose to come to Thomas Aquinas College first. “I’m so happy I did,” she says, “because it helped prepare me in ways I never imagined for things that challenge me now.” In December she will graduate from an accelerated Bachelor of Science nursing program in Cleveland, Ohio. She is taking a break from her studies to serve as a prefect this summer because “I want to help give the high school students a sneak-peek experience of a program that I have witnessed transform many lives for the better — especially my own.”

 
 

We will now take a brief break from our reporting about the California Summer Program to turn our thoughts to the inaugural New England program, which begins on Sunday! So, let us begin by introducing the all-star team of alumni and TAC students who will be on hand for the upcoming, two-week foray into Catholic liberal education in Northfield, Massachusetts:

Andrew Rossi (’13) Andrew Rossi (’13)• Proving that he truly is a superhuman, Andrew Rossi (’13) — who served as the head men’s prefect in California — is flying across country to serve in the same capacity in New England. A native of Bakersfield, California, Rossi (as everyone calls him) is a seventh-year Summer Program veteran. When he’s not leading Summer Programs, he teaches logic, geometry, history, and chemistry at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California. “My favorite part of the Summer 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 program’s athletic competitions, a role he anticipates taking up in New England, too. If there’s ever a softball game, expect him to pitch!

Sarah Dufresne ('14) Sarah Dufresne (’14)• The women’s head prefect in New England Program will be Sarah Dufresne (’14), now serving her sixth program. 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 — an approach she exhibits every day with the high school students. “When I was a student at the College, 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,” she says. “What a gift! I want others to have this incredible gift as well.”

Jean Guerreiro (’22) Jean Guerreiro (’22)• “I attended the Summer Program in 2018, and I know it sounds crazy, but I applied right after and joined the Class of 2022 one month later,” says sophomore Jean Guerreiro of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Jean is one of the 34 students who, having spent their freshman year on the California campus, will transfer to the New England campus for their sophomore year. “The students who are coming to this, the first Summer Program in New England, are ready to make history, and that’s exciting,” he says. “I hope they all dive into the classes and activities, full of energy and enthusiasm. That will make a huge impact on their experience of the program.”

Meg Murphy (’22) Meg Murphy (’22)• A New England native, Meg Murphy (’22) of Cheshire, Connecticut, is a rising sophomore on the College’s California campus. “I’ve never attended a Summer Program, nor have I worked one,” she admits. “So this will be my first!” Grateful for all she experienced during her first year at the College, Meg is eager to share those blessings with the Summer Program students. “It is amazing how much I have grown and learned in just the few months I have been here,” she says. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the high schoolers and sharing what I love about my school. I’m also very excited and honored to be a part of the very first New England Summer Program and all the adventures that come with it!”

Joseph Guinee (’21) Joseph Guinee (’21)• A resident of North Andover, Massachusetts and a rising junior on the California campus, Joseph Guinee (’21) is thrilled to see the College — and the Summer Program — come to his home state. “I’m looking forward to meeting all of the programmers,” says this second-time prefect. “But I’m especially excited to see how everything unfolds on this new campus. What we do this year will define the New England Summer Program for years to come.” He offers the following advice to the students: “Get sleep. There is plenty of time to hang out with your friends during the day, and sleep is the only thing that will keep you running during classes and the endless activities we will be doing!”

Grace (Bueche) andJohn Jost (both ’17) Grace (Bueche) and John Jost (both ’17)• The picture on the right is of Grace (Bueche ’17) and her husband, classmate John Jost (’17), who were married earlier this summer! (John is a the associate director of Admissions on the New England campus, so you can expect to see him around quite a bit over these next two weeks, too.) Although new to the Summer Program, Grace has plenty of experience working with high school students. For the last two years she has taught math and science for the Mother of Divine Grace online school. This fall — now that the Josts will be living on the New England campus — she will be teaching math at a nearby Catholic school. “I am very excited to come back to TAC,” she says, “and help these young students experience the profound good to be found in terms of studies, friends, and Catholic formation.”


Dr. Carol Day and Andrea McCann (’13) on Mt. Monadnock

A beloved emerita member of the College’s California teaching faculty, Dr. Carol Day is currently visiting the New England campus, where she is helping its associate dean, Dr. Thomas Kaiser, prepare the biology, chemistry and physics labs for this fall. While in the area, Dr. Day — a renowned hiker, camper, backpacker, and trailblazer — couldn’t resist exploring nearby Mt. Monadnock, accompanied by Dr. Kaiser’s assistant, Andrea McCann (’13).

A Mt. Monadnock hike is one of many excursions planned for this year’s inaugural New England High School Summer Program — along with trips to Boston and a canoe trip along the Connecticut River  — and Dr. Day and Miss McCann offered a very encouraging scouting report. “The mountain peaks at around 3,210 ft. and is located about 50 minutes from campus,” writes Miss McCann. “The trail was a Level 3, which indicates a fairly challenging hike. It’s a fun adventure that I know students will enjoy!”

A few spots are still available for this year’s Summer Program, on both coasts. All rising high school seniors are encouraged to apply!