Summer Program Blog
When we left off yesterday, the 2016 High School Summer Program students had just boarded three buses for a trip to Los Angeles. Traffic was heavy, as it often is in L.A., but the ride passed quickly. Students made good use of the time by practicing their Euclidean demonstrations, thanks to some prescient prefects who brought along paper and pencils for the whole group.
The first stop was the J. Paul Getty Museum in the Santa Monica Mountains, with its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the vast expanse of metropolitan Los Angeles. Students wandered the grounds, gazing upon world-renowned paintings, illuminated manuscripts, Greek and Roman sculptures, photographs, and other works of art, including some by Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Bernini. They delighted to see a portrait of Boethius; to search for the hallmarks of excellent art that Dr. Nieto had identified in his Tuesday talk; and to admire one of the museum’s temporary exhibits, Unruly Nature: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau. They also found time to take plenty of pictures around the beautiful gardens, fountains, and outdoor patios.
At about 5:00 p.m. the group re-boarded the buses for a trip to the Hollywood Bowl, where students feasted on some 53 pizzas at the picnic grounds before settling in for the performance. The night’s concert was Mirga Conducts Beethoven and Ravel, billed as a meeting of “exhilarating power and sensuous grace,” conducted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “charismatic associate conductor.” Students enjoyed the spirited performance, relaxing under the stars on a hot summer night in the Hollywood Hills.
The concert ended fairly late (about 10:30 or so), at which time students returned to the buses back to campus. Then it was off to bed for some much-needed rest before Wednesday’s classes on Euclid’s Elements and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.
Following Monday’s classes and an abbreviated recreation period, students took to the campus coffee shop, where Dr. John Nieto, a member of the College’s teaching faculty, presented his annual talk, “Art and Beauty.” As part of his discussion, Mr. Nieto spoke about many of the works that students would see during their Tuesday-afternoon trip to the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Then came dinner, followed by an Admissions meeting, at which Admissions counselors and Director Jon Daly took questions from students about the College and its application process.
During study hall students met with prefects and fellow members of their sections to prepare for Tuesday morning’s class, at which they would be called upon to demonstrate Euclidean propositions on the chalkboard. “They seem very well prepared,” one prefect observed. “Mostly I was only helping them put a little polish their presentation.”
After study hall and Rosary, the group gathered on the basketball courts for two highly anticipated match-ups of students vs. prefects. The women’s game was a nail-biter, with the prefects scoring the winning basket with only 10 seconds left on the clock. The men’s game was not as close, but was nonetheless hard-fought, with the prefects emerging triumphant.
Back in the residence halls after curfew, students recapped the basketball game and feasted on soft pretzels. Then it was time for consecration and lights out so that all would be fresh and alert for the next morning’s presentations!
Sunday began with two Masses in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, the first in the extraordinary form, and the second in the ordinary form, accompanied by the Thomas Aquinas College Choir. Students then quickly ate some breakfast burritos and changed their clothes before gathering in the Commons and boarding three passenger buses for a day of adventure …
First stop: Ventura State Beach, about a 25-minute drive from campus, where students delighted in volleyball, swimming, and bountiful natural beauty. In shifts, groups took breaks for lunch at a nearby In-n-Out Burger, the iconic California burger chain. The highlight of the day, however, came when pods of dolphins delighted the group by swimming, playing, and diving close to the shoreline.
Next, students re-boarded the buses and made their way up the coast to Santa Barbara. There they enjoyed dinner at various spots of their choosing: family-style Italian at Palazzio’s, burgers at The Habit, a local Lebanese restaurant, and others. Prefects then led students down State Street for shopping and ice cream.
At the end of the trip, all met up at Stearns Wharf for a group photo. Students prayed the Rosary in the buses on the way back to campus, where many then gathered for a voluntary study hall in St. Bernardine of Siena Library. “They were excited, but also a little nervous,” reports a prefect, about Monday morning’s class — the first of five devoted to Euclid!
Following Saturday night’s barbeque dinner was Open-Mic Night, a dazzling display of the great talent to be found among this year’s students! Each performance was beautiful, but for comedic value alone, prefects Martin McCann (’16) and Patrick Nazeck (’19) stole the show with their re-enactment of the Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye “Sisters” scene from White Christmas.
Afterward students gathered in front of the Chapel for a Rosary procession to the Lourdes Grotto, which prefects had prepared ahead of time with candles. Upon arriving at the grotto and completing the Rosary, the group fell silent, deep in prayer. The silence only broke several minutes later, when the students headed back toward the upper campus, singing hymns along the way.
In the remaining time before curfew, students returned to St. Joseph Commons for a movie, Cinderella Man.
Check in Monday for photos from Sunday’s trips to the beach and Santa Barbara!
After a hard week of work — and yes, plenty of play, too — the students on this year’s High School Summer Program happily welcomed the weekend at the conclusion of Friday’s classes. Recreation period consisted of the usual volleyball, basketball, trips to the ponds, and dance practice. But all of that was merely a precursor to the highly anticipated staged reading of Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors, which followed dinner:
As the show came to an end, the prefects set up candles along the edge of the fountain in St. Thomas Plaza, from which Fr. Sebastian led a procession to the Colleges’ Stations of the Cross. There students walked and prayed together, meditating on Christ’s passion and death as the sun set and the day’s heat finally began to break:
The night concluded with singing and ice cream by the fire pit on the campus fairway:
Then it was back to the residence halls for consecration and lights out. This morning, students are taking a hike to the “Punch Bowls” in the Los Padres National Forest, which abuts campus. Photos from the hike should be available on this blog by early this evening.
After rising early on Saturday morning, over 100 Summer Program students joined the prefects on a hike through the Los Padres National Forest. The trail, which borders the campus, leads to the refreshing (but cold!) Punch Bowls — two naturally formed pools of spring water. Accompanying the summer crew was the College’s head chaplain, Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P., who offered Mass en route — a beautiful way to celebrate both Creation and Creation’s God. The students greatly enjoyed the three-mile canyon hike, climbing over boulders, crossing the creek beds, and finally lunch and a dip in the cool water at the top.
It was a quiet afternoon back on campus afterward, leading up to an amazing barbeque tri-tip barbeque dinner, prepared by master chef Patrick Nazeck (’19) and his fellow prefects!
Thursday afternoon’s recreation began with a brief scare — a minor accident involving a golf cart on the College’s main drive. As a precaution, Ventura County EMTs, who routinely use the College’s athletic fields as a landing site for their helicopters, asked the College to clear the fields. And so, for the first 30 minutes of the recreation period, most students took to the Chapel to pray for the driver — who, by God’s grace, was not seriously injured and is recovering well.
Once county officials determined that they did not need a helicopter, afternoon recreation resumed, with students engaging a wide range of activities: With the athletic fields reopened. some played Frisbee, and others practiced for Monday’s basketball tournament. In St. Gladys Hall, some built upon Wednesday’s dance class with an impromptu swing-dancing session in St. Gladys Hall. Musicians, meanwhile, auditioned for the upcoming open-mic night, while in St. Joseph’s Commons, Director Daniel Selmeczy (’08) held a rehearsal for this evening’s staged reading of A Comedy of Errors.
At dinner students resumed their discussions of Fear and Trembling from their afternoon class. Conversation centered around why Kierkegaard chose to present his ruminations on the Sacrifice of Isaac not in his own voice, but in that of a fictional character. Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem, who teaches philosophy to seminarians at St. Michael’s Abbey, enlivened the conversation by adding his insights.
The rest of the evening was pretty relaxed — study hall, Rosary, and iced drinks in the Commons before curfew. Students are resting up before a big weekend that will include the Punch Bowls hike and a trip to the beach and Santa Barbara!
Adoration in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel
Following their morning class on Genesis, then midday Mass and lunch, the high school students enjoyed a brief respite on Wednesday afternoon — which they filled with a volleyball tournament. The competition consisted of several teams, each including two prefects, that battled against one another until only two remained for a championship round. In the end, the team captained by Thomas Cain and Anna Goodwin won the title. But that victory, alas, proved short-lived, as the champions then lost a hard-fought bonus match to a team of talented (and well-rested) tutors.
Immediately after the tournament, there was a barbeque dinner on the lawn in front of Sts. Peter and Paul Hall. “The students seem more comfortable with each other,” reflects one prefect. “You can definitely see the friendships beginning to form.”
From there it was on to study hall, where students prepared for Thursday’s classes on Genesis and Kierkegaard, and then the nightly Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem., gave a talk about the Parable of the Prodigal Son and its application to our lives. He then exposed the Blessed Sacrament for half an hour of Adoration, during which time he and two of the College’s chaplains heard confessions. This time of prayer — amid the studies, the recreation, and the fun — allowed students to turn to the “source and summit” of Christian life, our Eucharistic Lord.
Leaving the Chapel spiritually refreshed and reinvigorated, the group then made its way to St. Joseph Commons for dance class. On the final night of the Summer Program, there is a farewell dance, and the students want to be prepared! Prefect Daniel Selmeczy (’08) led the way, instructing the group in the basics of swing. “The students were all really good about practicing,” one prefect remarked. “For a lot of them, it was their first time swing dancing, but they didn’t seem nervous at all.” The session lasted only an hour, but many remained afterward, all the way up until curfew, to keep practicing.
Meanwhile, students who volunteered for Friday’s staged reading of Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors received their assignments. They then watched a film production of the show, so as to inspire their own performances.
After curfew, back in the residence halls, it was a tamer night than Tuesday’s had been. “There was no whiffle-ball dodgeball,” laments one of the men’s prefects, “but a lot of guys were asking for it!” Instead, the men and women alike enjoyed cheese and crackers, plus some good conversation, before retiring for the night.
After students wrapped up their discussion of the pre-Socratic philosophers on Tuesday afternoon, most descended onto the athletic fields to prepare for this afternoon’s highly anticipated volleyball tournament. Others played basketball or tennis, and several cooled off in the campus ponds:
At dinner, head women’s prefect Sarah Dufresne (’14) led the entire group in singing “Happy Birthday” to student Connor P., whom she presented with a chocolate cake. Then the students were off to study hall, where they read the first 10 chapters of Genesis in preparation for this morning’s class, or got a head start on some of next week’s readings, particularly those by Boethius and Kierkegaard. Afterward was the nightly Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, after which Head Chaplain Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P., gave a blessing to all present.
For evening recreation, the volleyball diehards returned to the courts for nighttime play, while other students found their way to the Coffee Shop for iced drinks. At curfew, all returned to their residence hall, where the prefects hosted parties. In Sts. Peter and Paul Hall, the men feasted on donuts and engaged in a fierce whiffle-dodgeball tournament, from which Team Rossi emerged triumphant. They then stormed the campus flagpole and sang a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. Meanwhile, in St. Monica’s, the women enjoyed hummus and pitas, plus music and dancing, as well as some ice-breakers.
At last, the fun came to an end, and it was time for consecration and lights out.
Next post: a recap of Wednesday morning’s class on Genesis, plus photos of the class sections!
At this morning’s class, the High School Summer Program students examined the first 10 chapters of the Book of Genesis, including Creation, the Fall, Cain and Abel, and Noah and the Ark. The conversation covered such questions as “What is man, according to Genesis” and “What is meant by ‘knowledge of good and evil?’” By all reports, the students are gradually becoming accustomed to the Discussion Method, learning how to work together to achieve a better understanding of a text and derive the truths it contains.
At Thomas Aquinas College, the Discussion Method works via sections, groups of about 17 students who, for the duration of the academic year, take all their daytime classes together. Because the method depends on open discourse — which, in turn, relies on trust — it is important for students to come to know each other well. By taking nearly all of their classes together, the members of each section achieve a sense of intimacy and come to rely on one another in their shared pursuit of the truth.
Classes in the Summer Program are also arranged by sections, and the slideshow below features photos of each of the sections — all eight of them! — in this year’s program: