Summer Program Blog
Note: Kathleen Sullivan (‘06) served as the head prefect for women for the 2011 High School Summer Program. Below is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, which she wrote in the form of a thank-you letter to the Christianform, which generously provided the grant that paid for the prefects’ stipends.
For this program especially, one day stands out in my mind: the hike to the Punch Bowls in the Los Padres National Forest just behind the campus. Nick, a student in a wheelchair, wanted to go on the hike despite being unable to walk, and since he had a pole-chair contraption that he used during Boy Scout trips, he joined the group.
At first, it was rough going, with some of the guys struggling to carry the heavy load, and with other guys impatient at the delay caused by the slow progress. But then, about 10 minutes into the hike, a prefect stepped up, called all the guys back together and said, “Okay, men, I’m going to need each and every one of you. The girls are going ahead, but we’re all going to stay back and form shifts to carry Nick. We’ll switch every two minutes so we don’t get tired. We’ll pace ourselves and work as a team. We’re going to do this together and we’re going to bring Nick to the top. Alright, let’s make Shift 1...”
I stayed back to take some pictures, and seeing the boys group together in forming their teams to carry Nick was beautiful. My heart simply overflowed with the nobility those young men displayed that day. And they did it!
Every two or three minutes a call went out, “OK, Shift 2, carry! Shift 3, get ready!” They carried Nick over rocky river beds, trudging through the cold water; they carried him through narrow tree-lined paths, successfully avoiding poison oak, and they carried him up a steep sandy ravine, which is somewhat risky even on two feet. It was beautiful. It was inspiring. It made me so proud to be a witness of selfless teamwork. They made it all the way up to the Punch Bowls, and back down again, without a single mishap, and with constant cheers of encouragement and camaraderie.
An amazing brotherhood was formed that day. At the end of the two weeks, as I said goodbye to Nick, I asked him what his favorite part of the program was, and with a big smile emerging, he answered without hesitance, “the Punch Bowls hike.”
Yes, Nick, that was my favorite part, too.
So thank you, to those of The Christianform, Inc., for allowing me the honor of working for two weeks in a very special place with a very special group of people. You’ve given me the opportunity to share and receive much joy and happiness while developing my own abilities to guide and lead these young people to an appreciation of the good achieved by Thomas Aquinas College. It is so rewarding to have been a prefect for these past seven years, and even more rewarding to receive thanks from current students for something I said or did that caused them to think more seriously about attending the College.
So, in return, the thanks go to you. I will be keeping you all in my prayers.
Note: Kathleen Sullivan (‘06) served as the head prefect for women for the 2011 High School Summer Program. Below are some of her reflections on this year’s program, which she wrote in the form of a thank-you letter to the Christianform, which generously provided the grant that paid for the prefects’ stipends.
Whenever I’m asked how it feels to be working as a prefect for the Thomas Aquinas College Summer Program, I always respond “truly blessed.” And those words ring deep, for being able to immerse myself in the rich spiritual and intellectual community of the College during those two weeks has been a wonderful rejuvenation for my body, mind, and soul.
I’ve been working in the program since the summer of 2005, and have always, always given deep thanks for the blessings I receive in those two short weeks of the summer over the past seven years. It never fails that after every program, I have the same thought: “I wish I could sign up and begin as a freshman all over again.” The program never grows stale; every year is fresh and fun; every re-reading of the texts yields new insights; every students offers his or her own delight and energy. It’s a privilege indeed to be a guiding part of it.
I love every aspect of the summer program, and this year was no different.Read more
There was a joyful, celebratory sort of feeling in the air on Friday morning. After two weeks of intense consideration and discussion of some of the most perennial questions of Western civilization, the students are excited to celebrate their achievement and time together.
After their last two classes, a final volleyball tournament on the athletic field, and a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament, the day will end with a formal banquet and dance. All those evening swing classes will really pay off, and there will be plenty of time to say goodbye, to take pictures, and to exchange addresses.
In addition to the wonderful memories the students will bring home, they will also take with them a few surprise gifts, including a copy of C.S. Lewis’ “Complete Signature Classics”(Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and others), a Summer Program T-shirt, a Thomas Aquinas College messenger bag, and a framed picture of the group photo above (a downloadable, high-resolution version of which is available here) and one of their class section. We hope that these mementos of their two weeks at the College will serve them well in all their endeavors and remind them of their time here with us.
This was a truly excellent group of students, and we certainly enjoyed having them here!
With the week drawing rapidly to a close, there is a sense of eagerness in the classroom to get to the heart of the concepts being discussed. There is so little time left to spend with Euclid, Boethius, and all the questions these works inspire.
Any student who has gone through the four-year Thomas Aquinas College curriculum recognizes this sense of yearning for knowledge that begins to pervade the class. Whether you’re drawing close to finishing a great work that you’ve spent a lot of time studying, or whether you’re drawing your four years to a close, you become keenly aware that time is short; there is a certain anxiety to “learn everything” before your opportunity with this book, or at this college, is over.
But it also fills you with a wonderful sense of expectancy and excitement for all the amazing things left to study — and the humbling realization that you are just beginning a lifelong journey towards wisdom. Many of the students will leave here with questions still unanswered, but that’s a great thing. It whets your appetite for more study and compels you toward satiating that hunger for knowledge of the true, good, and beautiful.
The day drew to a close with a beautiful rosary procession from the front of the Chapel down to the Lourdes Grotto on the lower campus, with Fr. Sebastian leading the students in Our Lady’s prayer before her statue.
On Wednesday the students enjoyed a class-free afternoon after studying Euclid in the morning. Some took the opportunity to enjoy a light hike to the top of a hill near campus where, through some haze, they could make out the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands in the distance. Others relaxed on campus, and all then joined on the athletic field for an exciting volleyball tourney. The teams had creative names: the Jesuits, the Norbertines, and the Ladies Philosophy. The Norbertines won the tournament and faced a team of tutors and Fr. Sebastian in the tournament finale. After an in intense three-game match, the experienced tutor squad prevailed.
A tri-tip barbeque was served on the athletic field after recreation. Then, following a two-hour study period, students gathered for the rosary in the Chapel. About 45 minutes later, College President Michael F. McLean greeted them in the Coffee Shop and spoke briefly about the College and his interest in the Summer Program, of which he is one of the original founders.
Fr. Sebastian then hosted a discussion of theology in the Coffee Shop over root beer floats. Students submitted their own questions for Father to answer, such as why hell exists, how evolution can be seen as greater proof for God’s existence, and how purity makes for healthy relationships. The discussions on these and other topics carried over into the residence halls, where students talked around fires in the courtyards before retiring for the night.
In addition to starting Euclid this week, on Tuesday students began studying The Consolation of Philosophy, which Boethius wrote in 524 A.D. while in prison awaiting his martyrdom. The book is presented in the form of a dialogue between Boethius and Lady Philosophy, in which they discuss evil, happiness, suffering, fate, God, and free will. In short, it’s the perfect work to tie up the big questions that the students have been pondering for the last week and a half! During the Middle Ages, it was the second most popular work after the Bible; at the College, students read it during sophomore seminar.
When classes let out, there was another dance practice, during which students practiced their waltz and swing steps, attempting to master the nuances of ballroom dance. The bookstore/gift shop was also open so the students could browse and purchase College apparel and other items. Later, after recreation, study hall, and rosary, everyone gathered in St. Joseph Commons for Open Mic Night, which gave the group’s performers an opportunity to share their talents. It was an evening full of the melodious sounds of the violin, piano, and guitar, as well as several comedic skits, and, of course, singing. Everyone had a great time with all the laughter, music, and camaraderie.
High School Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem., sets the ball during a game of volleyball on Carpinteria State Beach.
Sunday morning the students rose to celebrate a High Mass, complete with the College choir and incense. Brunch followed, and the students were even able to get some study time in before heading to the beautiful California coast.
The students, prefects, and chaplains all boarded buses and went first to the Carpintaria State Beach. After an afternoon of volleyball, swimming, and sandcastles, they then headed to nearby Santa Barbara for the rest of the evening.
After disembarking from the buses, the students split up into groups, each headed by a prefect, and set out to find a place to eat. There are a wide variety of dining options available on State Street, so some groups chose American burgers, some sushi, some Italian pasta, and some authentic Mexican cuisine. After a bit of shopping, picture-taking, and ice-cream eating, the groups headed down to Stearns Wharf just in time to catch a beautiful sunset overlooking the pier. After a group picture of the entire program in front of a dolphin fountain, the students boarded the buses to go back to campus.
Rising early on a Saturday morning, over 100 of the students joined the prefects on a hike through the Los Padres National Forest. The trail, which borders the campus, leads to the refreshing (cold, according to some!) Punch Bowls — naturally formed pools of spring water. The students enjoyed the three-mile canyon hike, climbing over boulders, crossing the creek beds, and finally enjoying a dip in the cool water at the top. Even a student in a wheelchair was able to come on this hike, thanks to the combined efforts of the summer program guys, who formed groups to carry him over the rocky terrain.
The hikers returned to a delicious barbeque, grilled by our Admissions Director Jon Daly. Displaying the non-stop energy of this lively program, the students soon started playing games of Frisbee and volleyball, despite having just returned from a 5-hour hike.
Following the barbeque, many students took the opportunity to pray during a Holy Hour of Adoration, which included a Rosary and Benediction. Both chaplains, Fr. Buckley and Fr. Sebastian, were available during this time for those who wished to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
As the night darkened, the students gathered on an outside patio to watch Russell Crowe portray the truly inspirational real-life story of boxer James J. Braddock in Cinderella Man. It was a great day of fun and camaraderie, and the students certainly rested well that night!
Friday began with the study of the College’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas. The students delved into one of St. Thomas’ five proofs for the existence of God, commonly known as “The Five Ways.” These five arguments are not made from Scripture, but from the natural philosophy of Aristotle, which is one of the reasons so much time is devoted to Aristotle’s work here at the College. In this text, St. Thomas does not make an argument from faith, rather from reason. He shows how faith and reason are not competitors, but actually complement one another.
That afternoon, the students returned to the question of God’s existence with Blaise Pascal’s famous “Wager.” Pascal, unlike Thomas, does not here explicitly argue for God’s existence, but rather shows that every man bets his life, in a sense, upon God’s existence or nonexistence and lives accordingly. He further explores what the consequences of this choice are — if God does actually exist or if he does not.
Following a recreation time of Frisbee, volleyball, and even a short hike to the Painter’s Shack, the students gathered in the library for a dramatic reading of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Students assumed the roles of the various characters in the play and really got into their parts, adopting Scottish accents and cackling like witches, while also fake sword fighting for the battle scenes. After every act, the prefects summed up what had been read with a quick skit, offering a lighthearted but dramatic rendition of the act. It was rewarding to see the students put their dramatic talents to use, and those students who made up the audience enjoyed seeing their classmates bring one of the “Great Books” to life.
The students finished the night at the third pond with a campfire, ice-cream sandwiches, music, and singing. They put their musical talents to use, incorporating guitars and bongo drums to the vocalizations of favorites such as “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
Thursday morning found the students discussing a reading from Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. The work offers several scenarios of the story of Abraham in an attempt to determine whether or not his faith seems rational. Conversations were spirited, and the students were intrigued by the question of what faith is and what it entails, especially as modeled by our father in faith.
After Mass, study hall, and lunch, the students, prefects, chaplains, and a few tutors boarded three coach buses for Los Angeles and the Getty Museum. There they viewed world-renowned paintings, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and other works of art, including some by Monet, Van Gogh, and Renoir, as well as sketches by Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Students also found time to take plenty of pictures around the museum’s beautiful gardens, fountains, and outdoor patios.
After dinner at the Getty, the group went to the Hollywood Bowl — the L.A. Philharmonic’s outdoor concert hall — to enjoy a performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.” Listening to the beautiful classical music in the Hollywood Bowl’s outdoor amphitheater was a perfect way to end a day experiencing some of the culture offered in the greater Los Angeles area..