Summer Program Blog
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:
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:
Finally Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), led nightly consecration in the women’s residence hall …
… and in the men’s:
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!
Wednesday was a full day! The students worked through their second morning of Euclidean propositions, then moved on to a discussion of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy in the afternoon. Tutors Dr. David Appleby and Dr. Phillip Wodzinski opened their section’s discussion by noting that Boethius presents Lady Philosophy as a physician or a doctor. So what, the tutors asked, is Lady Philosophy’s diagnosis of the patient?
From that starting point, the conversation progressed into an inquiry into what kind of treatment Lady Philosophy has to offer. Dr. Appleby noted that the class discussion went “very well indeed!”
After class all joined in St. Joseph Commons for one last afternoon practice for Friday’s post-banquet dance. Then, during study period, there was practice of a different sort: Students and prefects left the library and headed for the classrooms, where they worked their way through the next day’s Euclidean propositions on the chalkboards.
Later on, after evening Rosary, the group met up in the Commons for Open-Mic night. Students performed some 20 songs in all — many of them original — in English, Spanish and French. One of the more extraordinary numbers was “Ars Poetica,” a stunning 32.4-second recital of the periodic table of elements! At the end of the performances, students returned to their residence halls, where prefects cooked up hot dogs to stave off pangs of hunger before bedtime.
Thus concluded Day 11 of the 2013 Thomas Aquinas College High School Summer Program, which, alas, is quickly drawing to a close …
On Tuesday morning, the High School Summer Program students got to demonstrate their knowledge of Euclidean geometry for the first time, taking to the classroom blackboards to work their way — step by step — through several propositions. Then, after the jubilation of clearing what, to many, may have once seemed like an insurmountable obstacle, the students readied themselves for a journey into the big city. Following Mass and lunch, they loaded into three 55-passenger buses and headed to Los Angeles.
The first stop was the J. Paul Getty Museum in the Santa Monica Mountains, with its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the vast expanse of metropolitan L.A. The students wandered the campus, gazing upon paintings, illuminated manuscripts, statues, photographs, and beautiful gardens. The sights spurred discussions about beauty and whether it can be objectively defined.
Next, all piled back into the buses to go the Hollywood Bowl, stopping briefly in the parking lot to consume a dinner of 55 pizzas. Upon entering the storied amphitheater, the students settled in for a concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which performed several classical pieces, including the overture from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Mendelssohn’s Overture in E for Two Pianos, and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5.
At the end of the concert, the group returned to the buses, where they prayed a Rosary for their classmate Philip, and caught up on reading for the next day’s classes. The next morning, they were up bright and early to demonstrate more propositions in their first class, and then to discuss Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy in the afternoon.
Next up: dance practice and open-mic night in the coffee shop …
After a night of deep sleep following the weekend’s adventures, students began Monday with Mass, breakfast, and a morning class on Euclid’s definitions, common notions, and postulates. They then made their way to the campus coffee shop, where Director of Admissions Jon Daly led a question-and-answer session for students interested in applying to the College.
The topic of conversation at lunch was Euclid, with students preparing to present his first three propositions for demonstration on Tuesday. Students also discussed who was most at fault for the tragedy that occurs in Macbeth — the subject of their Monday-afternoon class. During recreation time, tutor Dr. John Nieto hosted an overflow crowd in the campus coffee shop, where he delivered a talk entitled “Art and Beauty.” The talk, which discussed the need art for art and man’s desire to gaze upon what is beautiful, will serve the students well when they visit the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Then, following dinner, study hall, and Rosary, the students challenge the prefects to an evening basketball game.
In the women’s game, the prefects won 21-18. In the men’s match, it was the students who emerged triumphant, 33-28. After their victory, the men hoisted their coach — a fellow student, Dominic Scaglione, who was celebrating his birthday — above their shoulders. As they carried him across the court, some friends approached with a cake, capping off the celebration.
Students on one of the three 55-passenger buses on their way to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles
Friday’s classes focused on works by Fabre and St. Thomas Aquinas, with students discussing the connection between the natural order and God’s divine plan. They also analyzed Pascal’s Wager, and how a person not inclined to faith might be persuaded to believe. Classes were followed by a restful period and then a dramatic — and oftentimes, hilarious — reading of Macbeth in St. Bernardine of Siena Library. The students shone in their chosen roles, and prefects provided some comedic entertainment at the end of each act with a brief summary and skits from their own play, How Macbeth got his Groove Back:
After the show came the evening Rosary, followed by a trip to one of the campus ponds for a bonfire, sing-along, and ice-cream sandwiches:
Said student Gabby Douglass of Stillwater, Minn.: “Thomas Aquinas College is a place where you make friends you never want to say goodbye to.” Or, as her classmate Jorge O. Moncada Hernandez, of Oxnard, Calif., put it: “The Summer Program is a life-changing experience and it makes you feel at home.”
The next morning, many students gathered early for a 2.5-mile hike to the “Punch Bowls” in the adjacent Los Padres National forest:
Meanwhile, others stayed closer to campus and painted with watercolors in the nearby “painter’s shack.” Afterward, all enjoyed a tri-tip barbeque prepared by Admissions Director Jon Daly. The evening ended with some sports, the Rosary, and then a movie and popcorn on the St. Joseph Commons patio.
Sunday morning began with Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, accompanied by the Thomas Aquinas College Choir. Students then prepared for Monday’s classes by reading Euclid and Macbeth before heading off for a day of adventure …
First stop: Rincon Beach, which is about a 45-minute bus drive from campus and surrounded by cliffs with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The weather was slightly cloudy, but the sun broke through soon enough. Highlights of the trip included volleyball, Frisbee, football, swimming, and snorkeling:
Second stop: Santa Barbara, where students enjoyed dinner at various spots of their choosing: family-style Italian at Palazzio’s, burgers at The Habit, a local Lebanese restaurant, and others. Prefects then led students down State Street for shopping and ice cream:
At the end of the trip, students and prefects gathered at Stearns Wharf for a group photo, after which Prefect Andrea Florez (’14) surprised one student who was celebrating his birthday with cupcakes lit by candles. The entire group launched into singing “Happy Birthday,” and some passersby joined in the chorus. In the buses on the way back to campus, the group prayed the Rosary, and upon returning to the campus, all were grateful to call it a night after a delightful — but full! — day.
After working their way through Kierkegaard on Thursday afternoon, some 18 students joined prefects for a run/hike in the foothills surrounding campus. The outing was highlighted by great conversation and an encounter with a friendly cow, who attempted to follow the group for as long as she could. After the hike, all (save the cow) cooled off with a swim in the campus ponds. Others used the afternoon recreation period for yet more volleyball and Frisbee.
Then it was off to dinner, study hall, and the nightly Rosary with Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. During this prayerful time, Chaplains Rev. Joseph Illo and Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), generously heard confessions; and outside of the Chapel’s mahogany confessionals formed two beautifully long lines of students seeking to avail themselves of the sacrament.
Following the Rosary, Prefect Dan Selmeczy — who is widely recognized in these parts as The Greatest Dance Teacher in the World — began preparing students for the end-of-the-program dance, instructing them in the rumba, foxtrot, and swing. “As I walked around, I didn’t have to stop to help the couples as much I was expecting,” says prefect Annalisa Tombelli. “They all picked up the steps really well, and there were smiles on every face.”
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 singing “Stand by Me,” followed by “Happy Birthday,” after which they presented a cake to one young woman who was celebrating her birthday. In gratitude, the ladies gave the gentlemen a batch of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies. The serenade made such an impression that it was the subject of conversation at breakfast on Friday.
Friday’s classes consisted of stimulating conversations about Fabre and Pascal. The prefects report being very impressed with the thoughtfulness of students’ classroom comments. Meanwhile, all look forward to tonight’s dramatic reading of Macbeth. The photo below shows some students eagerly signing up for the parts in the performance!