Summer Program Blog
Note: We apologize for the delay in posting material to this blog. Due to technical difficulties beyond our control, we could not post content to the College’s website on Monday. The difficulties have been resolved and, by God’s grace, this blog will be regularly updated throughout the remainder of this year’s program. Please accept our apologies, and thank you for your patience!
The 2016 Summer Great Books Program for High School Students is under way!
On Sunday afternoon, students began arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, where they were met by the Summer Program prefects and boarded one of four buses to campus. “There was constant chatter on my bus; the students did not seem shy at all,” reports one prefect. “As we made the turn on Highway 150 and first saw the campus, a hush fell over the whole bus. They were super-excited!”
Over the course of the afternoon, more buses arrived, as did cars carrying students who live closer to campus. Upon settling in their residence halls, the students began visiting, playing sports, and touring the campus, while parents attended an orientation meeting at 4 p.m. At 5:00 there was the opening barbeque, followed by a travelers’ Mass at 6:30 p.m. in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Students then returned to their residence halls for an ice-cream social and a talk about the rules of residence, after which some played basketball right up until the 10:30 p.m. curfew.
Monday morning began with breakfast, followed by an academic orientation led by the director of this year’s summer program, Dr. Michael A. Augros, a member of the College’s teaching faculty. Students then headed over to the Chapel for this year’s opening Mass, offered by program chaplains Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem., and Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P.
After Mass, it was time for the first class of this year’s program! In a discussion of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, students contemplated such questions as, “Was Oedipus responsible for the horrors that befell him?” and “What role does fate play in our lives?” From there followed lunch, and then the second class — an examination of Plato’s Euthyphro.
Stay tuned for more updates!
The 2016 Summer Program Team
This year’s prefects have arrived on campus, and they are working with the Admissions staff on last-minute preparations for the 2016 Summer Great Books Program for High School Students. They are readying rooms in the residence halls, distributing books, and setting up for the opening picnic.
On Sunday they will welcome 131 students from 26 states and 7 foreign countries — Argentina, Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates! Starting in the morning, the prefects will be at Los Angeles International Airport, ready to greet arriving students and bring them to campus. They will be wearing their bright red T-shirts, so they should be easy to spot!
As you can see, the prefects are excited to get the program under way!
The 2016 High School Summer Program is just two days away! The prefects for this year’s program — all students and recent graduates of Thomas Aquinas College — cannot wait to get to meet this year’s attendees. But until then, you can now “meet” them, virtually, through the following, brief profiles:
Sarah Dufresne (’13)The women’s head prefect for this year’s High School Summer Program is Sarah Dufresne (’14), who has served as a prefect on three previous programs and is currently the College’s resident assistant. 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. In her roles as a Summer Program prefect and resident assistant, she has organized numerous student outings, including talks in the residence halls, early-morning runs, a pancake breakfast, hikes, a women’s campout, and trips to Ventura’s Grant Park Cross.
Chris Sebastian (’13)Returning for his seventh High School Summer Program as a prefect — and second as men’s head prefect — is Chris Sebastian (’13). A graduate of the College who attended the program as a high school student in 2008, Chris is the public relations and marketing coordinator for the Mother of Divine Grace distance-learning program. “I’m always gratified by the seriousness with which the students tackle the difficult subjects they discuss during the program, from questions of fate to the existence of God,” he says. “These students give us much hope for not only the future of Thomas Aquinas College, but also for the whole world.”
Zoe Appleby (’18)“I am currently enjoying time with my family and preparing myself for a wonderful High School Great Books Summer Program,” writes Zoe Appleby (’18). Zoe spent the first part of her summer interning at the Santa Paula Art Museum, where she curated her first exhibit, “The People of the West,” for which she chose the theme, title, and artwork, as well as hung, labeled, and wrote the accompanying descriptions for the artwork. She also taught a little girls’ water polo class, which was, she reports, “exhausting but a blast.” A rising junior, she looks forward to seeing “how the political writings will inform my readings of the many Shakespeare plays” in her upcoming seminar course.
Thomas Cain (’18)Having served a counselor at various Boy Scout camps, junior and second-year prefect Thomas Cain (’18), of Santa Paula, California, has much experience working with young people. He is also an avid cyclist and an accomplished triathlete who looks forward to the program’s various athletic contests as well as its excursions to Santa Barbara, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Getty Center. Nonetheless, he encourages the “programmers” to stay focused on what matters most. “Don’t get too caught up with the social stuff,” he advises. “And have fun with the studying, too!”
Tom Cavanaugh (’18) “I thought that I would go to college to swim or play water polo, but the Summer Program changed my path,” says Tom Cavanaugh (’18) of Larkspur, California. “It turned me more toward intellectual pursuits rather than athletic pursuits for college.” He particularly cites the influence of some of his prefects — including Christopher Sebastian and Andrew Rossi — as “making a big impact on my life,” adding that he hopes to “give Back” to the program for what it, and they, did for him. Tom is a fan of mountain biking, backpacking, water polo, and swimming — “anything having to do with the water,” he says.
Jonathan Chavez (’16)A member of the College’s most recent graduating class and a third-year prefect, Jonathan Chavez (’16) has already read the various works in the Summer Program curriculum, but he is eager to read them again. Citing Mortimer Adler, he notes that “a true sign of a great book is you can read it as many times as you want and always get something out of it.” Among the highlights of working on the Summer Program, he says, is “talking to students about the College and the intellectual life” and witnessing those “who have never seen the ocean as they experience it for the first time.” He also looks forward to Beethoven and Ravel at the Hollywood Bowl.
Maggie Conklin (’17)A rising senior from Mount Angel, Oregon, Maggie Conklin (’17) thinks she enjoys the Summer Program every bit as much as the high school students do. She served as prefect for the past two years, an experience she describes as “incredible” and “unforgettable.” Her favorite part, she says, was getting “to connect on an individual basis with so many students.” The discussions inside the classrooms spilled into the residence hall, the dining commons, and the athletic field. “I was always so delighted when talking to the students, knowing that we made a bond of friendship. There was a joy in simply being together, and drinking in the beauty and the goodness around us.”
Clara Diodati ('17)When Clara Diodati (’17) attended the High School Program in 2012, she found the experience so powerful that she wrote a song about it. “I don’t know that I would be at TAC if it weren’t for the Summer Program,” she says. “So it means a lot to me, and I’m very excited to give back and meet all the programmers this year!” Earlier in the summer, she served as an assistant third-grade teacher in her hometown of Ave Maria, Florida, and she recently returned from a family reunion in Lake Tahoe, California. She hopes, this fall, to writer her senior thesis about Aristotle’s Ethics.
Bridgette DeBates (’17)“I am very excited to be a part of this year’s Summer Program,” says Bridgette DeBates (’17), a senior from Chandler, Arizona. As a second-year prefect whose student-scholarship job, during the academic year, is to coordinate visitors’ trips to the College, Bridgette is well accustomed to welcoming newcomers to campus. “I am looking forward to getting to know the high school students and sharing with them what I love about TAC,” she says. Her passions include the great books, basketball, and volleyball — as well as guitar and piano — so expect to see her on the athletic fields, and maybe even on a stage, sometime during the next two weeks!
Matt Dugan (’18)Hailing from “Minnesota, the best state in the country,” is Matt Dugan (’18). A second-year prefect, Matt also attended the Summer Program as a rising high school junior in 2013. “It was my experience at the program that ultimately convinced me to come to TAC,” he recalls. “I love to read, and I love the curriculum here.” Describing himself as “very outgoing” and a “big people person,” Matt looks forward to making new friends and the various sporting events on the campus athletic fields.
Anna Goodwin (’19)Not all prefects are veterans of the High School Summer Program. First-time prefect Anna Goodwin (’19) of Alhambra, California, never attended the program when in high school, but “I have heard great things about it and am excited to be part of it,” she says. Her summer thus far has included a trip to Annapolis, Maryland, to see her brother’s commissioning in the U.S. Navy, and operating a small wedding-cake business. “I look forward to helping students make their college decision by realizing that there really is such a beautifully situated place with an excellent curriculum and outstanding community — no catch,” she says. “I hope they fall as in love with this place as I have.”
Cecilia Goyette (’17)The daughter of two Thomas Aquinas College alumni, one a tutor at the College, Cecilia Goyette (’17) grew up within the TAC community. She thus brings a lifelong familiarity with the College, its academic program, and its community of faith to this, her third summer as a prefect. Entering her Senior Year, she is strongly considering a career in medicine. She is ready, however, to put medicine on hold for the time being, and devote two weeks to the program. “I can’t wait to meet all the students,” she says. “I look forward to all the great discussions with them!”
Isabella Hsu (’18)Returning to the program for the second time as a prefect, Isabella Hsu (’18) is “looking forward to meeting the students,” she says. “I love that no matter how different they all may seem, they’re here because they see something true and good in what the program has to offer.” Isabella has spent most of the summer outdoors — backpacking and learning survival skills in the Appalachian mountains, camping around Big Sur with her family, and taking trips to the beach by her Southern California home. She is eager to get this year’s program under way: “It’s such a joy to share a place that means a lot to me.”
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 and his dad now lead a great books discussion group, modeled after the College’s classes, and he coaches 112 competitive swimmers in his home state of Illinois. A second-time prefect, he says, “I look forward to being on this program!”
Emily McAtee (’16)Emily McAtee (’16) credits the High School Program with her decision to come to the College. “I attended the 2011 Summer Program and that experience is the reason I decided to go to TAC,” she says. A lover of sports, who just graduated this spring, she served as one of the College’s athletic directors during the academic year, organizing the various intramural sporting events that are so popular among TAC students. She is also an avid musician, backpacker, road tripper, beachgoer, and surfer.
Martin McCann (’16)“I was always a quiet and shy person,” says Martin McCann (’16), but engaging in the Discussion Method at Thomas Aquinas College has helped him to overcome his shyness. Indeed, Martin has had to be quite outgoing and persuasive throughout this summer, as he has traveled “door to door” in his home state of Missouri, campaigning for his mother, Noreen (Barr ’79), who is running for the State House of Representatives. A first-time prefect, his advice to this summer’s students is, “Don’t be scared! Just get in there, have fun, and say what you think. Don’t let pride stop you!”
Patrick Nazeck (’19)“I wouldn’t have come here it if weren’t for the Summer Program,” says sophomore Patrick Nazeck (’19) of Ridgecrest, California. The highlight of that experience, he says, was the introduction to a “whole new style of learning” in the classroom, plus the trips to various destinations in Southern California. “Now I’m looking forward to seeing program from the other side, the prefect side,” he reflects. “I know I enjoyed interacting with the prefects; they were a big part of why I came back.” Patrick has spent most of the summer on an engineering internship at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake in the Mojave Desert.
Matthew Plaisted (’18)A second-time prefect crew, Matthew Plaisted (’18) was a student in the Summer Program when he was a rising high school senior in 2013. “I am very eager to attend this year’s program,” he says, remembering that time when the College, its classical curriculum, and its pedagogy were all still new to him — and perhaps even a little bit intimidating. Now having completed his Sophomore Year at the College, he is glad to share the gifts of his education with others. “I’m looking forward to discussing the curriculum with all the new faces,” he says.
Alexis Pomietlo (’18)When she attended the High School Summer Program three years ago, Alexis Pomietlo (’18) of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, was “really nervous,” she admits — especially about the classes. “I had no background in the seminar style,” she says, and the prospect of articulating and defending her positions before a class of strangers was intimidating. “But I was surprised at how much confidence you get as the weeks go on,” she says. By the time the program was over, she had no more fear — and she had decided to come to Thomas Aquinas College. Now entering her Junior Year, her anxiously awaits her first Summer Program as a prefect.
Andrew Rossi (’13)Returning for his fourth year is Andrew Rossi (’13). 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 High School Program’s athletic competitions, and this year, he says, he looks forward to “making a prefect team that will challenge any summer programmers to ultimate Frisbee.”
Emily Sanchez (’17)Since serving as a prefect in last year’s program, Emily Sanchez (’17) of San Diego completed her junior year; made a pilgrimage to Lisieux and Rome; coordinated TAC students’ annual trip to San Francisco for the Walk for Life West Coast; helped lead a local high school youth group; and sang with the student-directed choral group, Chrysostomos. This summer, she has taken a road trip to Nebraska to visit her sister, who just entered a Carmelite convent, and participated in the GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. She can’t wait for the Summer Program to get started, especially “spending time with the students at meals, recreation and in the dorms and getting to know them.”
Daniel Selmeczy (’08)Pardon the shadow obscuring this photo of Daniel Selmeczy (’08), which was taken at St. Vitus Cathedral during a family trip to Prague and Budapest earlier this summer. When not jet-setting, Dan is a teacher at St. Monica Academy in Pasadena, California. Famously, he is also the Summer Program’s dance instructor, turning neophytes into skilled swing dancers in time for the end-of-the-program dance. This summer, he plans once again to direct a student performance of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. “Last year’s production was very well received,” he says, “and I hope that this year’s will be even better!”
Katie Wall (’19)During her recently completed Sophomore Year at the College, Katie Wall (’18) much enjoyed reading Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. So she is excited to revisit that great book, along with the others, in this year’s Summer Program. “I want to share my experience with them, and show them the things I like most about this place, as well as what I’ve learned about truth, beauty, and goodness.” A resident of Mariposa, California, Katie has spent her summer thus far lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons at a local pool, and also working at a restaurant. Having never attended the program before, as either a prefect or a student, she is delighted to be part of this summer’s experience.
Nicholas Zwemke (’19)“I attended the High School Summer Program in 2014,” reports Nicholas Zwemke (’19) of Tempe, Arizona. “I was so impressed by the curriculum and the quality of people that I gave up several full ride scholarships to attend the College.” Given that his hobbies include hiking, playing sports, and reading, it only make sense that he would have felt at home here. Now, having just completed his Freshman Year, Nico is at the program once more, this time as a prefect, excited to “meet all the summer program attendees, because of the type of person the program attracts.”
Members of the Admissions Staff have spent the last two business days busily assembling packets of great books for attendees of the 2016 High School Summer Program! The mailings, which went out via the U.S. Postal Service on Friday and earlier today, contain the first three readings of this year’s program — Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Plato’s Euthyphro, and Sophocles’ Antigone, plus one of the readings for the second week of the program, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.
A note to rising high-school seniors: There are still a few openings for men in this year’s program. It’s not too late to apply. We promise we will get you the readings in plenty of time!
Fr. Nick distributes Holy Communion.
Many of the participants in this year’s Summer Program remember fondly the homily that Rev. Nick Blaha (’02) gave at the Sunday Mass on July 26, the program’s midpoint. Fr. Nick has made audio of the homily available via his website at Didde Catholic Campus Center at Emporia State University, where he is a chaplain.
“These things are good that we strive for — material comfort, security, fulfilling relationships. There’s nothing wrong with those, so far as they go,” Fr. Nick says. “The problem is that they don’t go far enough. It’s not that we want too much, it’s that we don’t want nearly enough! The scope of our moral and our spiritual vision is narrow. It’s constricted, truncated. … There is a love and goodness and a truth that awaits me if I can lift my eyes from what is fleeting and set my heart on the desires of the spirit.”
Fr. Nick concludes by telling the students, “To you, the young men and women who joined us for this brief visit, this brief time here, to experience a little taste of what this college is all about, our hope for you is that in this experience you’ve come to recognize it as a community of white-hot desire for the satisfaction of the spirit. And I hope, all of us hope, that no matter where you choose to go that you will attach yourself to a community that stirs you into flame.”
Amen, Fr. Nick!
“There is no word to describe the joy I had in discovering TAC and your summer program, and the sorrow I felt while leaving,” writes Nicolas, a high school student from Nantes, France, who attended this year’s program. “It was such a great opportunity, and these two weeks will stay to my mind as the best I ever experienced.”
In an attempt “to celebrate this forever,” Nicolas has put together the following video of his two weeks on campus. Enjoy!
After the last class yesterday, most of the men, joined by Fr. Sebastian, the prefects, and even some of the College’s student workers, played in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament on the campus courts. Other students took to the volleyball and tennis courts, spent time socializing with their many new friends, or picked up mementos from their time on campus at the College bookstore.
In the evening was the farewell banquet in St. Joseph Commons, at which several of the program’s young musicians entertained the crowd, and prefects performed some highly amusing skits. At the conclusion of dinner, all moved to the Chapel, where Fr. Sebastian exposed the Blessed Sacrament, and the group prayed the Rosary in Adoration.
Students then gathered in the plaza of St. Gladys Hall, where they danced until nearly midnight, at which time prefects played a lengthy video slideshow of pictures from the last two weeks. Before saying goodbye, students penned yearbook-style notes to one another — oftentimes inside their copies of Euclid’s Elements! 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 4:45 a.m., and the last scheduled to depart just after noon.
Thanks be to God for two amazing weeks!
A little weary from last night’s festivities, Summer Program attendees are on their way home.
Thank you for a great program!
On Thursday afternoon, students concluded their last class on Boethius and then took to the athletic fields for their second-to-last recreation period. All gathered for a soccer tournament versus the prefects— a fierce match with multiple lead changes that ultimately went into overtime. Ten minutes into the extra section, John Jost (’17) delivered victory to the prefects with a dramatic game-winning goal.
The competition, however had only just begun. The group quickly moved from the soccer field to the campus ponds for what has been dubbed “watermelon rugby,” in which teams of women, and then men, attempted to bring a greased watermelon across the pond and to the opposing team’s goal. This exhausting and hilarious activity was followed by a hearty dinner, then a final study period in the library and classrooms. Students once more practiced their Euclidean propositions with the help of the prefects, and they also delighted in a new addition to the program curriculum, Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything that Rises Must Converge.”
At the end of study hall, all gathered in front of the Chapel for a candlelight Rosary procession to the Lourdes Grotto, led by Fr. Sebastian. Upon arriving at the grotto, which prefects had surrounded with candles beforehand, students finished praying the Luminous Mysteries, then fell silent, deep in prayer. The silence only broke several minutes later, when the group headed back toward the upper campus, singing hymns along the way.
In the short time before curfew there was one last dance class, followed by some spontaneous dancing in St. Joseph Commons and cool drinks in the campus coffee shop. At 10:30 p.m., all returned to their residence halls — but the night was not over just yet.
Soon after curfew, the ladies of St. Monica’s Residence Hall were startled to hear music coming from outside their courtyard. When they looked out their windows, they saw the men of the Summer Program — dressed in their Sunday best — singing “Stand by Me,” “Love Story,” and “Red is the Rose.” The serenade, which was sung from the heart, even if somewhat off-key, made such an impression that it was the subject of conversation at breakfast this morning.
Prefects pray for the high school students in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.
Every day for the last two weeks, while the high school students were at their morning class, the Summer Program prefects came together to pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy for the students and their intentions. This morning’s was the last such gathering, as the program — hard though it may be to believe — is coming to an end.
While the prefects were at prayer, the students were at their final Euclid class, where they got to show how far they have come in just a few short days by demonstrating Propositions 16, 29, and 32 of Book I. At the afternoon’s class, the last one of this year’s program, they discussed the short story “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” by Flannery O’Connor, questioning whether the mother and son portrayed in the story truly possess self-knowledge.
The goodbye giftsAt the afternoon class the students received some goodbye presents — a Thomas Aquinas College messenger bag, a framed picture of this year’s students (a downloadable, high-resolution version of which is available here), a photo of their class section, and a wrapped copy of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. After class, out in St. Joseph Commons, they collected one more keepsake: a Thomas Aquinas College t-shirt.
There are now just a few more events on this year’s Summer Program agenda: the 3-on-3 basketball tournament, tonight’s banquet, Rosary and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the farewell dance. Check this blog Saturday for last-night pictures!