Yesterday we began a three-part series introducing the prefects for this year’s California High School Summer Program. Below is part 2:

Joe Daly (’19)
Joe Daly (’19)• At summer’s end, Joe Daly (’19), a member of this year’s graduating class from Berwyn, Illinois, will be heading off to Washington, D.C., to enroll in a master’s program at The Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business. But before then, he is sticking around to serve, for a second time, as a Summer Program prefect. “I love that the Summer Program makes the Discussion Method and the Great Books so accessible to high school students who are trying to figure out their next big step in life,” he says. “I almost didn’t enroll at TAC. I was ready to sign on the dotted line at another university to study music until I visited for the first time. The classes blew me away then, and continue to do so now.”

Katie Ellefson (’16)
Katie Ellefson (’16)• When she was just 8 years old, Katie Ellefson (’16) decided that she wanted to become a nurse — a conviction that has remained with her to this day. Yet rather than enter a nursing program directly out of high school, she chose to come to Thomas Aquinas College first. “I’m so happy I did,” she says, “because it helped prepare me in ways I never imagined for things that challenge me now.” In December she will graduate from an accelerated Bachelor of Science nursing program in Cleveland, Ohio. She is taking a break from her studies to serve as a prefect this summer because “I want to help give the high school students a sneak-peek experience of a program that I have witnessed transform many lives for the better — especially my own.”

Stephen Cyr (’21)
Stephen Cyr (’21)• A Summer Program rookie, Stephen Cyr (’21) of Grand Prairie, Texas, reports that he is “thrilled to meet new friends, help show them what TAC has in store for them, and share about my experience and growth that I’ve had during my first two years here.” He encourages students to make the most of their two weeks on campus. “Soak in the small taste of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that you will read and talk about during these short two weeks,” he says. “Be excited to meet great new people who may be your friends for the rest of your life!” A few more details about Stephen: “I love riding dirt bikes, playing football, and playing saxophone. I passionately want to end abortion. And I bet I can vibrate my eyes faster than you can.”

Mikaela Heal (’21)
Mikaela Heal (’21)• Four years ago Mikaela Heal (’21) of Tucson, Arizona, attended the Thomas Aquinas College High School Summer Program. “It was my first real encounter with liberal arts education and Catholic colleges, and the prefects were incredible role models for me,” she recalls. “The friendships I made with them and other students were by far some of the biggest reasons I ended up choosing TAC.” A prolific reader, Mikaela also enjoys watercolor painting, hiking, and embroidering. “I’m thrilled to meet the high schoolers and share the same joy that I was shown at my own program four years ago,” she says. “For me, the Summer Program offered perhaps some of the strongest formation I underwent in high school and my only regret was not taking advantage of it all as much as I could have.”

Cory Turner (’22)
Cory Turner (’22)• Here’s an interesting fact about Cory Turner (’22), a rising sophomore from Huntington Beach, California: Growing up, he hated reading. Yet now he is an avid reader. “The difference now is what I’m reading, which are the Great Books,” he says. “The opportunity to read, discuss, and understand the greatest ideas ever is what makes reading here so enjoyable.” Cory also loves to surf, play soccer, hike, and camp. “The best advice I can give to those attending the Summer Program is to use this time to pray and ask God where and what He is calling you to be,” he says. “Whether you are unsure of what college to attend, or even if you are unsure of going to college at all, ask the Lord to reveal His will for you, and then trust in whatever that may be.”

Veronica Jost (’17)
Veronica Jost (’20)• Veronica Jost (’20), a rising senior from Algonquin, Illinois, has spent much of her summer planning for post-college life by shadowing a physical therapist. “It’s been a great experience,” she says, “and I think I have more questions about physical therapy than my PT can answer!” At this point, she’s ready to take a break from PT by returning to campus to “meet more great people” and “share the beauty and fun that I experienced at my own  Summer Program.” Veronica is especially eager to take students to the Painter’s Shack Loop — “a challenging hiking or running path,” on the College’s property adjacent to campus, “with a beautiful view of the valley below.”

Daniel Selmeczy (’08)
Daniel Selmeczy (’08)• A teacher at St. Monica Academy in Pasadena, California, Daniel Selmeczy (’08) is best known as the Summer Program’s dance instructor, turning neophytes into skilled dancers in time for the end-of-the-program dance. Now returning for his twelfth year as a prefect, he marvels at how he came to attend the College at all. “I was an atheist and was accepted to study marine biology at UC Santa Barbara when I first visited TAC,” he recalls. “During that visit, I fell in love with the program and was accepted to attend as a freshman that same year. Within a year I had converted to Catholicism, which to this day has been the single greatest blessing of my entire life.” His favorite memories of past years’ programs are the conversations in the residence halls and, not surprisingly, the dance lessons.

 Rebecca Montanaro (’19)
Rebecca Montanaro (’19)• A member of the College’s newest graduating class, Rebecca Montanaro (’19) of Fillmore, California, is a teacher with the Mother of Divine Grace distance-learning program. She is a  self-proclaimed “philosophy geek” with a passion for art and all things aeronautic. She is also a Summer Program alumna (2014). “It was a fantastic experience, outside the class as well as in,” she says. “I ended up learning some things which actually helped me write my Senior Thesis this past year. My favorite part, though, was probably going to the Getty Center and bringing that experience back to the classroom.” She is eager to reread some of her favorite Great Books and share them with the students. “Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy,” for example, “was pivotal in my thesis, and I’m always interested to see what other people think of it and what they got out of it.”

Stay tuned for Part 3!