Summer Program Blog
On Sunday, 128 rising high school seniors — the largest group ever — flocked to Thomas Aquinas College for two weeks of lively discussion about some of the most influential authors of Western civilization. While some attendees drove to campus, about 60 others came by way of Los Angeles International Airport. There they were greeted by the Summer Program prefect team, which is composed of some of the College’s current students and recent graduates. This year’s summer students hail from as far away as France, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates.
Upon arriving on campus, the students settled into their residence halls (St. Monica Hall for the ladies, and Sts. Peter & Paul Hall for the gentlemen) and met their roommates.
After touring the grounds, they shared a BBQ dinner with their fellow students and with the members of the faculty with whom they will be studying for the next two weeks. Later in the evening Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem (’94), offered a travelers’ Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. An orientation session followed, after which the students headed to the residence halls before going to bed.
Already the group is proving to be thoughtful and lively. Our time together will undoubtedly be exciting and grace-filled!
The Admissions Office team looks forward to welcoming some 130 high school students from around the country and abroad to the campus this coming Sunday, July 22, for the Summer Great Books Program. Please check back here regularly for pictures and posts from the program; the blog will be constantly updated throughout the two weeks. We look forward to keeping siblings, friends, parents, and teachers updated about all the classes, activities, and events!
Student check-in for the program is on Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There will be a Parents’ Orientation for those who can make it at 4:00 p.m. in St. Bernardine of Siena Library, and a barbeque at 5:00 p.m. at the picnic area near the athletic field.
Please call the College at 800-634-9797 or e-mail Jon Daly, Admissions Director, for more information.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Monday the students discussed Macbeth, asking questions such as, “Should we pity Macbeth, or is Lady Macbeth really responsible for their downfall?” They were also introduced to Euclidean geometry, discussing the principles and propositions. For the next five days students will be constructing and demonstrating propositions on the chalkboard. While this may be daunting at first, many students come to love Euclid, and even find that this becomes their favorite class.
The students were also given the opportunity to join Admissions Director Jon Daly and Admissions Counselors Scott Benigar and Louis Conklin for a brief admissions meeting. The students were able to have any of their questions about the application process answered. Mass followed, and after afternoon classes, some students headed down to the athletic fields, while others relaxed in the Commons playing guitars, singing, and continuing their classroom conversations.
Study hall found the students busily reading The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius and preparing the propositions for the next day’s Euclid class, before quieting their minds by praying the rosary. Finally, to end the night, there was the much-anticipated students vs. prefects basketball games. The girls’ game was first, followed by the boys’ game. Both were well-matched, intense, and a lot of fun, and the prefects managed to pull away for the win in each.
Below are two new slideshows from this weekend’s hike and trip to Santa Barbara.
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.