Summer Program Blog
The Summer Program students are in Los Angeles today, with visits to the Getty Center (above) and the Hollywood Bowl. We will post more photos from those outings as soon as they become available, but in the meantime, we have some new pictures from yesterday’s events. Below is a short slideshow from the hike that some students took to the “painter’s shack” while the rest of the group was at the Punch Bowls. The group dabbled with watercolors under the leadership of head women’s prefect Kathleen Sullivan (’06):
And here are some photos from Saturday night’s barbeque dinner, presented by Mr. Daly and the Admissions staff:
After dinner on Friday night, students met up in St. Bernardine of Siena Library for a dramatic — and, at times, hilarious — reading of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. To allow as many students to participate as possible, some of the major roles were divvied up among several actors. And delighting all with his performance of Algernon “Algy” Moncrieff was none other than the Summer Program’s director, Dr. Christopher Decaen.
Afterward, students headed down to the lower part of the campus, where they prayed along the College’s new outdoor Stations of the Cross. From there, they walked over to the three spring-fed ponds for sing-along by the campfire.
In the first of Friday’s two classes, the Summer Program students looked at Pascal’s “wager” over the existence of God. Then, in the second session, using St. Thomas’s fifth way, they looked at a proof for God’s existence which relies on seeing that natural bodies act for an end. In support of part of St. Thomas’s argument, students also read Jean Henri Fabre’s detailed descriptions of the grey cricket. Together these readings, contrary to the claims of Pascal, provide evidence for the existence of God.
For afternoon recreation there were many options: Auditions for open-mic night, games on the athletic fields, a hike to the “painter’s shack,” practice for The Importance of Being Earnest, resting, reading, or visiting in the residence halls. Some students, though, decided to have a tea party with breakfast bread, a lunch cake, and a variety of teas:
The evening promises to be fun, with the much-anticipated dramatic reading of The Importance of Being Earnest, followed by prayers along the College’s new Stations of the Cross and a campfire and sing-a-long. Next, an exciting weekend is in store, with a wilderness hike on Saturday and trips to the Getty Museum and the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday.
There were no afternoon classes on Wednesday, so students and prefects used the time for a program-wide volleyball tournament. There were 10 teams in all, each with six to eight players of varying skill and experience levels. It was a double-elimination tourney, and the winning squad then moved on to challenge a team of the College’s tutors plus one “ringer” — Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94). It was hard-fought, best-of-three match, but the tutors eked out a close win in the first game, and then pulled away for a decisive victory in the second.
Afterward the tutors and their families joined with the students for a barbeque dinner on the lawn between Sts. Peter and Paul Hall and St. Bernardine of Siena Library. Next, it was on to study hall, where the students finished passages from Genesis and Kierkegaard, and looked ahead to upcoming readings by Tolstoy, Fabre, and Pascal.
Wednesday night’s Rosary included a special blessing — Eucharistic adoration in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Prior to exposition, Fr. Sebastian gave a beautiful talk about how Jesus left us not merely a photograph by which to remember Him, but his real, physical presence in the form of the Blessed Sacrament. Throughout the adoration period, Fr. Sebastian and Chaplain Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P., manned the Chapel’s two confessionals, hearing students’ confessions and offering God’s absolution. It was a time of great peace and grace!
The evening then concluded with a dance lesson in preparation for the upcoming, end-of-the-program soiree. Prefect Dan Selmeczy (’08) taught some basic merengue and swing steps to the students, whom he called “some of the best” he’s ever seen. It seemed that everyone attended the class — and stayed to continue dancing afterward.
At curfew the men and women returned to their residence halls for pretzels, mustard, and good conversation. Then it was off to bed!
At the end of Thursday’s classes, students filled the campus coffee shop to capacity for a lecture by College tutor Dr. John Nieto, “On Art and Beauty.” Dr. Nieto supplemented his remarks with a PowerPoint slideshow depicting many famous sculptures and paintings, several of which are at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which the group will visit on Sunday
In his lecture, Dr. Nieto explained St. Thomas Aquinas’s definition of beauty, advising students that, when they tour the Getty’s exhibits, they should examine every work for beauty’s three characteristics — integrity or unity, proportionality, and clarity. The talk was well received, giving the students a better understanding of how to approach various kinds of art.
Discussion of Dr. Nieto’s talk continued through the dinner hour, during which prefects announced the cast of Friday night’s dramatic reading of The Importance of Being Earnest. Among the show’s performers will be the Summer Program’s director, Dr. Christopher Decaen, who will play the part of Algernon Moncrieff. Prefects also announced auditions for Saturday’s Open Mic night, which promises to include music, comedy, and possibly even some juggling from this year’s talented students.
After dinner was study hall, and students read passages from Pascal, Fabre, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Some even got a head start on next week’s lessons by beginning Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich. Then came the nightly Rosary which, for the first time, was led by the students themselves, and not the prefects.
During the evening recreation time there were was another dance class — swing and rhumba — in St. Joseph Commons. “The girls are eager to dance,” says prefect Patrick Cross (’14). “And the boys, well, they’re getting much better!” The class was only half an hour long but, once again, most of the participants continued practicing until curfew. When they arrived back in their respective residence halls, the men and women enjoyed cheese and crackers, recapping the day’s lessons and experiences before tucking in for the night.
Soon after the conclusion of afternoon sports yesterday, the high school students found their way over to St. Joseph Commons for dinner, where they debated the extent of Oedipus’s culpability for his tragic fate. Study hall followed, and was “very quiet,” according to the prefects — save for the dramatic reading of Sophocles’ Antigone led by prefect Chris Sebastian (’13).
Afterward came the evening Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Trinity Chapel, and then social time back in the Commons. Most students played board games — Apples to Apples being the favorite — while others played the guitar or piano, and others still continued on with the Antigone reading from study hall. In the campus coffee shop, prefect-baristas served iced mochas and Italian ices, gratis, to their appreciative customers. The festivities concluded at 10:30 p.m., followed by consecrations back in the residence halls.
The night, however, was still young. Over in Sts. Peter and Paul Hall, the men took their turns clobbering a piñata — only to discover, much to their dismay, that the prefects had filled it not with candy, but carrots! The students’ disappointment soon subsided, however, as the prefects tendered boxes of fresh donuts. Then the women arrived en masse on the front lawn to serenade and give a birthday cake to prefect Rocky Brittain (’15), who turned 22.
Afterward, the women enjoyed a party of their own in St. Monica Hall, complete with singing, dancing, and a conga line. “The friendships are already forming,” says women’s head prefect Kathleen Sullivan (’06). “It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
The 136 students and 20 prefects for the 2014 High School Summer Program have arrived! Nearly all of the students — who hail from across the United States, as well as Italy, Argentina, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Mexico — made it to campus by late Sunday, with the last arrival coming in this morning. Last night the students, their families and members of the teaching faculty enjoyed a tri-tip and chicken barbeque, followed by volleyball on the campus’s sand courts:
Next was an orientation session in St. Bernardine of Siena Library:
… and in the men’s:
The first day of the 2014 High School Summer Program began with breakfast in St. Joseph Commons, followed by a student orientation session in the library. There, the director of the summer program, Dr. Christopher A. Decaen, introduced the students to the program’s tutors — all members of the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty. The group then posed for a photo by the Guadalupe Fountain before heading across the quadrangle for a morning Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.
For the first day’s classes, students studied Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Plato’s Euthyphro. Then came an afternoon of sports and fun on the campus athletic fields:
Friday evening went very well. After a hearty dinner, dessert, and coffee, Dean Brian T. Kelly greeted the students and thanked them for coming and for enlivening the campus during a quiet summer. Tutor Michael Letteney followed with a brief address, wrapping up the program and explaining some of the connections to be found throughout the curriculum.
At the conclusion of dinner, all moved to the Chapel, where Fr. Sebastian exposed the Blessed Sacrament and the group prayed the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Students then returned to the Commons, where they danced until nearly midnight, at which time prefects Chris Sebastian and Andrea Florez played an 18-minute slideshow of pictures from the last two weeks. After much hugging and bidding adieu, all turned in to the residence halls and prepared for their journeys back home — with the first van leaving at 5:30 a.m., and the last scheduled to depart just after noon.
After classes ended on Thursday afternoon, a group of the men took to the ponds on the lower campus for a greased-watermelon battle, in which teams attempted to bring said watermelon across the pond and to the opposing team’s goal:
Meanwhile, several of the women took a trip into Santa Paula with their prefects, enjoying coffee at a local beanery and browsing a local thrift store:
That evening, after the last study period on Thursday evening, 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, some students held an informal dance practice, while others visited in the coffee shop or the recreation room. At 10:30 p.m., all returned to their residence halls, where they enjoyed pretzels with mustard.
The night was not quite over, though. About 15 minutes later, the ladies of St. Monica’s and their prefects arrived outside the men’s residence hall, bearing cakes and singing happy birthday to Summer Program student David Sherwood. Mr. Sherwood gladly accepted the cakes, and then shared them with some of his very pleased friends.
Friday marked the last day of classes, with Euclid in the morning and Boethius in the afternoon. There was a certain exuberance in the air as students departed their classrooms and moved across the quadrangle to gather several gifts from their prefects — Summer Program t-shirts, a book bag, a book, and pictures of their sections and the entire group.
For the remainder of the afternoon, some headed down to the basketball courts for a 3-on-3 tournament. A small group took a trail run with Admissions Director Jon Daly, who found the students to be in far better shape than he! Mr. Daly reports, however, that the run was exhilarating and a wonderful way to round out a great two weeks.
As of this writing, students and prefects are readying for tonight’s banquet and dance. A slideshow with pictures from the dance and entertainment will come soon!