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Summer Program Blog

Summer Program Blog

In conclusion of the three-part series we began and continued last week, we introduce part three of the 2020 Summer Program prefects for Thomas Aquinas College, California! (See parts one and two.)

Pauline Blain (’23) Pauline Blain (’23) Sealed into Summer Program legend by completing her own Quad Run in heels, Pauline Blain (’23) is about as spontaneous and fun-loving as they come. Along with her sister and fellow prefect Helen (see below), Pauline can’t wait to start making memories with the students at this year’s program! Thinking back to her own Summer Program experience in 2018, Pauline recalls how much she enjoyed the great company and conversations. “I remember sitting at a breakfast table with some prefects and having a great discussion about whether fear was a good thing or not,” she remembers. “It’s just so cool to experience an environment where there is a great mix of the hilarious and the philosophical.” During quarantine, Pauline has enjoyed spending as much time as possible outdoors with her family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Daniel Selmeczy (’08) Daniel Selmeczy (’08) For Daniel Selmeczy (’08), this will be his lucky thirteenth Summer Program as a prefect. Best-known for turning complete newbies into amazing swing dancers (or as close as they can get in just two weeks), Dan is always a yearly favorite for the students on the Summer Program — both on and off the dance floor. Now a teacher at St. Monica Academy in Pasadena, California, Dan marvels at how he originally came to attend Thomas Aquinas College. “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.” 

Claire Dragoo (’23) Claire Dragoo (’23) “This program can completely change your life. Be open to that!” says Claire Dragoo (’23).  Not to be confused with her twin sister and fellow prefect, Jo, Claire has spent her summer tending to the grounds and beautiful fountains on the College’s California campus. She is eager for the arrival of students to enjoy all of her hard work. “I cannot wait to see the high school students fall in love with the College over the course of these two weeks,” she comments, “and share in the excitement and beauty that this program has to offer.” As she begins her first Summer Program as a prefect, Claire looks forward to seeing new students experience the many blessings of the program, just as she did as a rising high school senior two years ago. 

William Warnisher (’17) William Warnisher (’17) Although he comes to us from Camarillo, California, William Warnisher (’17) is originally from Spain, and he will experience the Summer Program for the first time this year. “Every year I keep hearing how fun the program is, both from students and prefects,” William remarks. “I’m super excited to finally get in on all the fun!” William spent his summer remotely teaching history, latin, and philosophy for St. Michael’s Preparatory School in Silverado, California, and will attend Notre Dame Law School in the fall. “What I’m looking forward to the most about the Summer Program is giving back to the College, which has given so much to me,” William writes. “I don’t think there is a better way to honor the College and the gifts that I received from it than by sharing them and making them available to potential students.”

Helen Blain (’20) Helen Blain (’20) Six years ago, Helen Blain (’20), then a high school soccer standout, made the trip from her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Santa Paula for the Great Books High School Summer Program. Now a recent graduate of the College, Helen is coming for her fourth time as a Summer Program prefect. “While I sacrificed playing college soccer to attend TAC, I am so grateful I chose this education,” she says. “It has developed how I think in tremendous ways.” Helen’s best advice for Summer Program attendees is to truly devote themselves to the academics at the program — and also to bring plenty of sunscreen! Expect to see her often on the athletic field: She enjoys any and all sports, especially rock climbing and, of course, soccer.

Thomas Kelsey (’23) Thomas Kelsey (’23) Thomas Kelsey (’23) encourages all students to focus on getting the most out of their Summer Program experience before worrying about their final college decision. “My number-one piece of advice is to be open to whatever happens, even if you’re not sure you’re going to go to Thomas Aquinas College,” Thomas advises. “The Summer Program will be a great two weeks and should help you decide whether TAC is for you — so go in with an open mind.” After completing his freshman year with the College via Zoom classes, Thomas has since been spending this summer visiting with family and completing woodworking projects. He is excited to relive his own Summer Program experience from high school, and also to begin his first ever program as a prefect. 

Mikaela Heal (’21) Mikaela Heal (’21) “I’m honored to come back in Summer 2020 for my second year as a Summer Program prefect,” says Mikaela Heal (’21). “The Great Books Summer Program is 100 percent what convinced me to come to Thomas Aquinas College in the first place, and the friends I made there are still some of my best friends to this day.” Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Mikaela has spent her time in quarantine studying and growing her own embroidery business. Now, pandemic or no pandemic, she wants students to get just as excited as she is about their time on the Summer Program. “The prefects and administration are beyond thrilled to welcome you into our hearts and home,” she says. “Seriously, this is one of the top highlights of my year. Two weeks really isn’t long, and you’ll want to soak up every moment you are given with these people.” 


In continuation of the three-part series we began last week, here is part two of our introductions to the 2020 Summer Program prefects for Thomas Aquinas College, California! 

Bella Sanchez (’23) Bella Sanchez (’23) Although she’s already completed her first year of education on the College’s California campus, Bella Sanchez (’23) from San Diego is excited to “fall in love with the school all over again” as she approaches her first-ever Summer Program! Always ready with a warm smile herself, Bella encourages others to bring that same joy and positivity to their time at the Summer Program. “Of course there will be some people who you will meet during the program, and it will feel like you’ve known them your whole life,” she comments. “But even then don’t forget to flash a smile in a different direction every once in a while and meet someone new.” 

Orion Lacour (’22) Orion Lacour (’22) Orion Lacour (’22) from Lomita, California, does not mess around when it comes to having a good time. “Take these two weeks seriously to see if you want to come here, but also make sure you’re having a lot of fun,” he says. “If you’re not having fun, something’s wrong with you.” After attending his own Summer Program in 2016, Orion has since completed two years at the College’s California campus, as well as worked as a prefect on last year’s Summer Program. He admits that most of his quarantined summer has been spent on schoolwork, landscaping, and reading — clear indicators that he will strictly enforce as much fun as possible come July 12! 

Irene Collins (’23) Irene Collins (’23) The strong friendships that Irene Collins (’23) from Ojai, California, built at Thomas Aquinas College were what helped her through what has been a challenging spring and summer. “Especially after coming home early to finish the year online, I have become so aware of what a gift this community is,” Irene remarks, “and what good it can do to make solid, lasting friendships the way we do here.” As July 12 draws near, Irene encourages students not to worry about their college decision, but rather to focus their two weeks on forging those close friendships that are unique to Thomas Aquinas College. “God will give you the direction you need if you ask Him for it,” she advises. “Then the best you can do is enjoy the ride!” 

Lee Rea (’22) Lee Rea (’22) Rising junior Lee Rea (’22) from Ventura, California, encourages students to use their time at the Summer Program to “fully embrace the taste of college life at Thomas Aquinas.” On his own Summer Program, Lee remembers his favorite activity as visiting with new friends during the evenings, but he’s probably just too humble to admit that it was really winning the annual Quad Run (after which he was asked to make a celebrity appearance the next year). Following a busy summer of working on creative projects and training as a wildland firefighter, he is ready to begin his first experience as a Summer Program prefect. Lee asks students to “Hit me up if you want to go for a run, talk about what it’s like to be a local, or one of my favorites … talk about the curriculum!” 

Colette McCormack (’22) Colette McCormack (’22) Always seeing the bright side of things, Colette McCormack (’22) from Villa Park, Illinois, says that “quarantine has brought so many blessings to light, and I’ve been able to really take advantage of the things I missed while I was at school (e.g., hanging out with my siblings, reading, baking, singing, catching up on my favorite TV shows, running on the beach, and chasing sunsets)!” After enjoying her time off, Colette is now refreshed and ready for her first ever Summer Program as a prefect. “Colette loves being active and involved in the community during the school year in and outside the classroom,” says fellow prefect Orion Lacour. “She is very passionate about the education and is also a great leader and is very committed to whatever she puts her mind to.” 

Cory Turner (’22) Cory Turner (’22) Growing up, Cory Turner (’22) from Huntington Beach, California, hated reading. However, after coming to Thomas Aquinas College, Cory realized that he was simply reading the wrong things. “The difference now is what I’m reading, which are the Great Books,” he says. “The opportunity to read, discuss, and understand the greatest ideas ever is what makes reading here so enjoyable.” Nowadays, besides reading and discussing the Great Books (something he looks forward to doing with this year’s Summer Program attendees), Cory enjoys surfing, hiking, soccer, and camping. Excited to attend his second Summer Program as a prefect, Cory would like to remind students of the great opportunity they have been given, saying, “The program facilitates spiritual growth, the formation of lasting friendships, and the potential to enrich one’s mind with some of the greatest ideas in all of human history.” 

Kristina Turicchi (’23) Kristina Turicchi (’23) As Kristina Turicchi (’23) from Pasadena, California, learned during her own Summer Program and freshman year, the coursework at Thomas Aquinas College is designed to be challenging and thought-provoking, but never unduly stressful. “Once I stopped stressing, classes became more enjoyable,” Kristina comments. “I was able to really appreciate the Discussion Method of learning.” Fellow prefect Jo Dragoo remembers meeting Kristina for the first time in 2018. “Kristina and I were roommates at our Summer Program two years ago and continued to be roommates for our freshman year at the College,” Jo recalls. “She has such a contagious joy and laugh, and is one of the most welcoming people I have ever met.” Kristina can’t wait to meet and start making memories with each one of this year’s Summer Program students! 

Gabe Kopp (’22) Gabe Kopp (’22) As fellow prefect Lee Rea tells us, Gabe Kopp (’22) is a “fun-loving, philosophizing, short-film acting Minnesotan.” After spending his summer exercising, studying, designing card games, and even starting a podcast, Gabe is ready for the next activity on his incredibly diverse agenda. He can’t wait to travel to California from his home in Long Lake, Minnesota, for his first Summer Program as a prefect. He encourages students to make the most of every day during their two weeks at the College. “Don’t hesitate to dive right in!” he says, “Time flies on the Summer Program, so make sure you’re meeting lots of new people, being active in your section, and having lots of fun. Don’t let a second go to waste!” 


Against all odds, the 2020 High School Summer Program is just around the corner! The California program starts on July 12, and the prefects — all students and recent graduates of Thomas Aquinas College — cannot wait to get to meet this year’s attendees. Until then, you can now “meet” them, virtually, through the following profiles (part one of three):

Andrew Rossi (’13) Andrew Rossi (’13) It’s been some time since Andrew Rossi (’13) attended the Great Books Summer Program as a student in 2008. Twelve years and eight programs as a prefect later, Rossi (as everyone calls him) still looks forward to this rite of summer and encourages students to detach from electronics and social media in order to truly avail themselves of the opportunity. “Leave your cell phone in your room and don't touch it for the two weeks,” he recommends. “It will allow you to fully commit yourself to the program and get to know so many great people who could become friends for the rest of your life.” When he’s not serving as head men’s prefect, Rossi teaches logic, geometry, history, and chemistry at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California. 

Zoe Appleby (’18) Zoe Appleby (’18) This will be the sixth year that head women’s prefect Zoe Appleby (’18) of Santa Paula, California, has worked on the Great Books Summer Program, and she still vividly remembers her own “magical” experience of attending the program when she was in high school. Zoe recounts that she had never before “experienced anything like what I found at the Summer Program, a true retreat of beauty and learning, where the students both give themselves wholeheartedly to their studies and find so much joy in life.” Zoe has spent her summer finishing up a master’s degree in Medieval Art History (while simultaneously helping to teach a virtual history course) at the University of California, Riverside. She is also a great lover of fiction and literature, having participated in plays such as Much Ado About Nothing (director) and Othello (Desdemona) during her student days at the College.

Maggie Dillon (’21) Maggie Dillon (’21) After working four Summer Programs as a prefect, as well as attending one of her own, Maggie Dillon (’21) from Lunenburg, Massachusetts, says she could never pick just one favorite memory. However, she can tell us that her “favorite thing about working on the program is getting to know so many great people and having such good conversations with everyone, as well as just being crazy and having fun.” Head male prefect Andrew Rossi describes Maggie as “filled with faith and fire” and “one of the most competitive people you will meet.” Sporty, fun-loving Maggie is always ready for a little competition — whether it’s on the athletic field or in a friendly debate! 

Jean Guerreiro (’22) Jean Guerreiro (’22) Jean Guerreiro (’22), who hails from Brazil, is an expert at taking risks. Upon moving over 5,000 miles to begin his studies at Thomas Aquinas College, New England, Jean commented, “I’m just taking a risk, as I did when I left my country, my family, my friends, and came here. Every life worth living requires taking some risk.” Praise God, that risk paid off! Now, with two Summer Programs (one as an attendee and one as a prefect) and two years at the College under his belt, Jean heartily recommends that this year’s attendees take a risk of their own by fully committing to the program. “If you trust the order of the program, and live intensely every second of your time here,” he says, “you will see that the spiritual life, classes, and outdoor activities work together so neatly that it will be hard for these not to be the best two weeks of your life.” 

Josephine Dragoo (’23) Josephine Dragoo (’23) First-time prefect Josephine Dragoo (’23) of Santa Paula, California, is looking forward to the return of students on the very empty California campus, where she has spent her summer tending the grounds. In addition to the return of social life, though, Jo recommends that students consider the Summer Program as an opportunity to return to the spiritual life as well. “Most people have been without the sacraments during this scary time,” she comments, “and at the Summer Program you’re given an incredible experience to incorporate the sacraments into your daily life for two weeks.” Friendly and outgoing, Jo eagerly anticipates meeting all the students at this year’s Summer Program, recalling that her own favorite program memories involved spending time in the coffee shop with new friends after a long day of classes and activities. 

Tanner Sheffield (’23) Tanner Sheffield (’23) Like this year’s program attendees, Tanner Sheffield (’23) — a sophomore at Thomas Aquinas College, New England — will be experiencing the Great Books Summer Program for the first time this year! Hailing from Yuba City, California, Tanner has spent most of his summer volunteering at his local parish, reading, and playing the guitar. (Fellow prefect Irene Collins tells us he’s an amazing guitarist!) He advises programmers to bring this kind of balance into their two weeks at Thomas Aquinas College. “Come with an open mind,” Tanner recommends. “Study hard and play hard.” He looks forward to making new friends and new memories on the beautiful California campus. 

George Stypa (’21) George Stypa (’21) The promise of the Great Books Summer Program is what got George Stypa (’21) from Tucson, Arizona, through quarantine this year. Approaching his third summer as a program prefect, George remarks, “I greatly enjoy introducing the high school students to the Discussion Method used in the classrooms at TAC.” When not working, George has spent this summer mountain biking, climbing, fishing, and enjoying the great outdoors. Prefect Maggie Dillon assures us that “No, he does not bleach his hair — those locks are all natural,” but we’re not sure we believe her, and encourage Summer Program attendees to judge for themselves come July 12!

Abigail Cain (’23) Abigail Cain (’23) First-time prefect Abigail Cain (’23) is approaching this year’s Great Books Summer Program with the same vivacious joy she brings to everyday student life as a rising sophomore at Thomas Aquinas College, California. Not letting quarantine get her down, Abigail spent this summer running, baking, and enjoying time with her family in San Diego. Overjoyed that the Summer Program is still on, she can’t wait to see this year’s students have the same amazing experience she so fondly remembers as “two of the best weeks I have ever spent.” As the Summer Program approaches, she urges students to “allow yourself to be open to new experiences, friendships, knowledge, and a deeper relationship with God.”