Summer Program Blog
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!
During this morning’s classes, the 2016 Summer Program students continued their study of Genesis, focusing on chapters 11-25. Today’s discussions focused largely on the question of covenants, and the different kinds of covenants that God makes with His people. Students also compared the Bible’s account of Creation with that envisioned by Empedocles, one of the ancient Greek, pre-Socratic philosophers they studied earlier in the week.
Today’s Genesis reading also covers the Sacrifice of Isaac, the perfect prelude to this afternoon’s class, in which students took up the four different accounts of that story that Søren Kierkegaard put forth in his Fear and Trembling.
“It is difficult to read this short work without glimpsing something of the greatness of Abraham and being drawn to at least a spark of desire for the Faith he exemplifies,” reflects Dean Brian T. Kelly, in a 2013 talk about why the College includes this work in its curriculum. Kierkegaard, he continues, draws the reader into a “sense of wonder and admiration.”
Their sense of wonder and admiration bestirred, the students can now look forward to afternoon recreation and an evening of more prayer, study, and fun.
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.
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:
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!
We mentioned in this morning’s post how hard the high school students worked at last night’s study hall. Now we present the photographic evidence:
No doubt they were working hard, in part, to prepare for this afternoon’s class on the pre-Socratic philosophers. These ancient, fragmentary texts reflect some of man’s earliest attempts to comprehend nature and the physical world. “The students seemed to find the works both fascinating and mind-boggling,” says one prefect. “They had never read anything like that before!”
As a reward for their efforts, there will be the usual recreation period this afternoon and parties in the residence halls tonight. Check in tomorrow for updates and photos!
This post begins where the last one left off, at the conclusion of Monday’s second class, in which students considered the meaning of piety as it relates to Plato’s Euthyphro. Afterward it was recreation time, during which some played soccer, others took to the sand volleyball courts, and others still cooled off in the campus’ three spring-fed ponds. Over on the basketball courts, Fr. Sebastian and several of the men’s prefects engaged in fierce pickup tournament with a number of students.
Following dinner, the students gathered in St. Bernardine of Siena Library for their first study hall. “They were amazing,” reports on prefect. “It was impressive to see what a studious group we have!” At the end of study hall, the prefects led the nightly Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Trinity Chapel, after which some students returned to the volleyball courts, while others met up in the Dumb Ox Coffee Shop for Italian sodas, iced mochas, and card games.
At curfew the men and women found their way back to their respective residence halls. In St. Monica’s, the ladies listened to talks from their prefects, who shared their stories of how and why they came to Thomas Aquinas College. In Sts. Peter and Paul, the men enjoyed a light snack of chips and salsa. Then, the chaplains arrived — Fr. Paul in the women’s residence hall, and Fr. Sebastian in the men’s — and answered questions about the Mass before leading students in the nightly consecration, followed by lights out.
At this morning’s opening class, students moved on from Oedipus Rex to Sophocles’ Antigone, questioning of the title character’s decisions, and whether they make her more heroine … or villain.
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.”