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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)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)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)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) 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 (’18Tom 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) 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)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)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)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)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)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)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)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)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)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 (’17)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)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)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)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)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)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)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 (’193)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)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.”