“I’m bored!” What parent hasn’t heard that—from little ones to high-schoolers—during summer vacation? Summers are notorious for students losing academic ground while sleeping into the afternoon and spending long hours bonding with their game systems. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Many Catholic colleges around the country offer opportunities to expand horizons, keep up academic skills, and sharpen teens’ focus on their future as they prepare for the challenges of higher education.
Some colleges also cater to the younger set, helping to dispel the boredom of a long summer by maintaining academic skills and helping younger students get acquainted with the college environment.
Testing the waters for rising high-school seniors
The high-school graduating class of 2014 will make important decisions soon about where they will continue their education. Catholic colleges are ready to help by offering summer programs designed to introduce high-school students to the tantalizing intellectual feats that await them in college.
Immersion in a college’s culture can help a student make the critical choice of where to further their education. College programs like those at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, Thomas Aquinas College in California, and others give high-school students an opportunity to check out campus life, experience the educational culture of the college, and meet other young people grappling with similar decisions.
Attending a college’s summer program gives a student a more in-depth experience of college life than a short campus visit during the regular semester. Even if the student doesn’t choose that particular college, the experience can be rewarding and fulfilling.
High-school Great Books program
Thomas Aquinas College introduces high-school students to its Santa Paula campus and its liberal arts curriculum through a two-week summer program at its campus.
“The goal of [the high-school Great Books program] is to introduce students to a way of learning that deepens them intellectually and spiritually and awakens in them a sense of wonder about reality,” said the college’s admissions director, Jonathan Daly.
Students report that the two-week program is the best part of the summer. “I believe they feel this way for a number of reasons, all of which are grounded in their honest pursuit of the truth in a genuinely Catholic community,” Daly said.
“Not surprisingly, they all enjoy the sports and activities that are scheduled throughout the program, but a welcome surprise for many of them is how interested they are in the classes, which are unlike anything most have ever experienced,” Daly said.
Program participants meet in small groups to discuss works by Plato, Euclid, and other classical masters. “As a group, they find themselves as eager to engage in animated conversation with their peers about law and justice in Plato’s Crito as they are willing to commit themselves to a brief and highly illuminating study of the principles of math through Euclidean geometry,” Daly said.
“This isn’t perhaps what you would expect from a group of high-school students, but it is what we find time and time again. It is this experience of earnestly searching after the truth in a Catholic setting with real friends that make it the best two weeks of their life.”
The program at Thomas Aquinas also provides time for exploration of the natural and cultural offerings of the area, with a hike into the Los Padres National Forest, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl for an evening of music, a tour of the Getty Center art museum, and a trip to Santa Barbara. Masses are offered twice daily, and there are other opportunities for community prayer—making for an experience that addresses all aspects of the students’ lives.
Jim McCafferty, parent of a previous year’s participant, said his daughter Sadie fully intended to attend a university in her home state of Mississippi to study theater, but he hoped she would consider Thomas Aquinas and its Great Books course of study.
McCafferty had read about Thomas Aquinas College many years before and remembered being impressed. He was glad when Sadie agreed to try the summer program. “It was a sacrifice for us to send her, but we felt it was worthwhile,” McCafferty said. “She called us on the second night, saying, ‘This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life!’”
His daughter also met a lot of kindred spirits, McCafferty said, and she decided to make Thomas Aquinas College her college destination.
Experience Christendom summer program
Christendom College, in Front Royal, Virginia, will be offering five one-week sessions of their Experience Christendom Summer Program. Open to current high-school juniors, the program also allows for some sophomores to attend. Tom McFadden, director of admissions, expects to have about 225 students attend this summer, an increase from 2012 when there was a long waiting list for the four sessions scheduled.
“[The program] seamlessly blends all the great things that Christendom College provides—academic life, social activities, liturgical life, athletics, etc.—so that the students can truly experience what Christendom offers: a Catholic cultural educational experience where Catholicism is ‘the air that they breathe,’” McFadden said.
One Experience Christendom Summer Program participant was nervous about leaving home to live among strangers but was pleasantly surprised once he arrived.
“I had mixed feelings about going to the Christendom summer program,” John M., a 2012 participant, said. “At first I was really excited about it, but as the days got closer, I became more and more aware that I would know absolutely no one there.
“The day I arrived, I could tell immediately it was going to be a great week. To anyone considering this program, go for it—and stay open, even if this isn’t your thing. I know that advice worked for me.”
Participants can expect to attend classes in theology, philosophy, history, and English literature. Other activities include swing dancing, canoeing, hiking, bowling, debate, an Irish barn dance, and a talent show.
A trio of programs at UD
The University of Dallas has a trio of programs for high-school students; Arete I and II, Shakespeare in Italy, and Latin in Rome. All three allow students to earn college credit.
The Arete program, held on the Irving, Texas, campus, is a college preparatory program that allows high-school students to study great works of literature. Shakespeare in Italy exposes students not just to Shakespearean works, but also to the culture of Italy. The Latin in Rome program brings students to the origins of the language with visits to archeological and historical sites in Rome and Naples combined with relevant Latin studies.
“We have had students from a vast variety of schools and places—from far northwestern Ontario to south Texas, from New York all the way to American Samoa,” said Greg Roper, chair and associate professor of English at UD. “We love to have a mix of students in the program, and it’s wonderful to see the friendships that form over the span of this intense, exhilarating, and, frankly, fun two-and-a-half weeks on our beautiful campus just outside of Rome.”
While students can study Shakespeare in many places, studying in Italy is very appropriate, Roper said. “Shakespeare set more than a quarter—almost a third—of his plays in Italy, so clearly he was fascinated by the place,” Roper said. “We’re fascinated by his fascination. We lead students into this fascination by showing them the very places that inspired Shakespeare’s greatest works.”
Andrew Moran, assistant director of Shakespeare in Italy and associate professor of English, added that the goal of the program goes beyond academic and intellectual development. “We seek to create an environment in which friendships are made and in which our students grow as a person,” Moran said. “Time spent in Rome and time spent dwelling on the perennial questions about our humanity that are at the heart of Shakespeare’s plays almost invariably lead students to take more seriously religious questions, and specifically the Catholic faith.”
Catholic culture, music, and faith
Benedictine College summer programs for high-school students address a variety of interests while offering a glimpse into college life and the Benedictine spirituality at its campus located on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River.
Cassie Goodman, director of youth outreach at the college, enjoys working with the students who attend the program. “Our goal is to provide students with an opportunity to grow in faith, develop leadership skills, and form real relationships with other students who share similar passions,” Goodman said. “Regardless of their future college choices, our goal is to empower the students to return to their home parishes and schools as leaders for Christ, recognizing their gifts and talents as a means to greater evangelization.”
One of the programs BC provides for high-school students is CathEdRal (Catholic Education Rally), a weeklong experience focused on what it means to build a Catholic culture.
Edward Mulholland, assistant professor of classical and modern languages, helped put together the college’s CathEdRal program. “We were aiming for a summer camp experience that gave high-schoolers an experience of BC as a community of faith and scholarship, which is central to who we are at Benedictine College,” Mulholland said. “There were already programs that focused on the faith aspect, but not on academics. So CathEdRal has as its goal to build a community around an experience of faith lived in the pursuit of truth.”
Students are introduced to some of the disciplines taught at the college: literature, philosophy, theology, and engineering. The value of the program, said Mulholland, is that at a time in their lives when both faith and schoolwork often seem purposeless to them, this program helps cement both with a lifelong project of glorifying God by living to the full who we are: men and women called to holiness through building a better world for all around us.
One of the high points for Mulholland was watching the students tackle an engineering project. “The kids had to build certain things—a Romanesque arch and a gothic arch,” Mulholland said. “It was a timed competition, but it was also hands-on learning at its best. One can learn concepts in a book—keystone, flying buttresses, etc.—but these students were able to live firsthand that, if they wanted to support a high ceiling (to symbolize the majestic glory of God) and follow the laws of nature, things like buttresses were discoveries, even necessities. Our teenage Gothic architects had to problem-solve and even steal glances at what was working for the other team, just like the historical cathedral builders.”
Jasmin Robles, a 2012 participant, fondly remembers her week at BC CathEdRal. “I learned so much,” Robles said. “How Catholicism is universal—how it reaches into all aspects of our lives. Our identity as Catholics should remain, even in the fields of science, math, literature, architecture, media, and more.”
The college also offers a music program for high-school students. VOICE draws rising high-school freshmen to graduating seniors from all over the country; it is geared to the student with a desire to grow in fellowship and technical skill while combining musical talent with love for the Lord, according to the college’s website.
Rounding out the college’s high-school summer programs is its Catholic Youth Conference. Father Stan Fortuna, CFR, is one of the featured speakers at this year’s conference. Father Fortuna is a musician and author. His most recent book is U Got 2 Love, which discusses love in modern culture.
Banishing summer boredom for the younger set
Intellectual stimulation and just plain fun are available at many university campuses, creating an environment attractive to younger children and their parents.
Ethan Sweet’s parents preempted summer stagnation with a summer program at their local Catholic college, Holy Cross, in Lisle, Indiana. Ethan, 14, has enjoyed a variety of activities at the camp. “Cooking was my favorite,” Ethan said. “We made good food, some good snacks, and learned how to measure and cook. Some of my friends took classes about photography, computers, and babysitting.”
Ethan has attended the camp for five summers; he has enjoyed learning new things, as well as developing many different skills. “You can play sports, learn about animals and bugs and reptiles in the nature class, and make cool things in the art class,” Ethan said.
“I met lots of other kids and saw some kids every summer when we’d all go back to camp,” Ethan said.
Joe Raymond, a professional photographer and a digital photography instructor at the summer camp, enjoys the time he spends with budding photographers. “One of the things that’s useful for kids is to get them actually involved,” Raymond said. “That’s how they learn.”
Raymond teaches his students that the tools of digital photography can include anything from cell phones, point-and-shoot cameras, and sophisticated camera equipment. Even he is amazed by what his students produce.
“One of the exercises was to take a picture of a flower and bring a print to class,” Raymond said. “One of the kids came in with an absolutely gorgeous photo. I thought it had been taken with a camera, but she waved her phone at me. I asked her how she got it printed and she said she had emailed it to herself. I was surprised.”
“Pat Adams, director of community engagement, has set a nice tone for this camp,” Raymond said. “This is not just an hour of babysitting. This is a chance to help broaden their horizons, and it’s a gift to come in each day and see them so enthusiastic.”
Holy Cross College’s program reflects the mission shared by other colleges offering summer programs: providing a service to the community, helping children form friendships, and preventing summer slide.
In that spirit, Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, offers a wide variety of activities, sports camps, and summer camps. University-sponsored sports camps include volleyball, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Lacrosse, football, and other sports camps are also offered by outside organizations on the campus.
The university also offers several sessions of Summer Fun Day Camp from June 3 to August 9. We do everything from fishing to computers to sports,” said Marita Hyde, director of the camp for ages 5 to 13. “We also have certified teachers that come on as counselors to help the children with academics.”
Another program offered at the university is Summer Sleuths for children entering grades five to nine. Offered free of charge, the program gives children a different perspective on science and problem solving than they receive in school, Hyde said.
Sports camps also have a place on the Holy Cross campus in Notre Dame, Indiana. The college hosts a basketball camp that operates in the mornings and offers an enrichment program in the afternoons. The enrichment program is in its 10th year and is designed for children from ages 8 to 14.
Opportunities for fun, friendship, and learning await students at any number of Catholic college campuses—environments that nurture and challenge children and teens to see the world and faith with new eyes.
Summer learning across the country
Ave Maria University
5050 Ave Maria Blvd.
Ave Maria, FL 34142
Ave Maria University offers three summer sessions for high-school students entering their junior or senior year and high-school graduates. Each weeklong session offers a different focus. The first session begins July 10th.
Cost: $500 (covers room and board, tuition, and all activities)
1020 N. 2nd Street
Atchison, KS 66002
Benedictine College Youth Conference
June 21–23, 2013
Speaker: Father Stan Fortuna, CFR
Benedictine College Cathedral
CATHolic Education RALly examines the question of what it means to build a Catholic culture by exploring Catholic intellectual tradition in theology, philosophy, the sciences, and literature.
June 16–21, 2013
Benedictine College Voice
Explores tradition in praise in Catholic history while improving leadership skills through small group ensembles
June 16–21, 2013
Programs for rising freshmen to high-school graduates, offered by the Benedictine College campus ministry office. Fees include event, lodging, and meals.
Benedictine College also hosts a number of sports camps through its athletic department. Call the college at (913) 360-5340.
5700 College Road
Lisle, IL 60532
Summer Sleuth for students entering 5th-9th grades; no fee.
Summer Fun Day Camp for ages 5–13
Registration for day camp begins April 1, 2013.
$185 per session; 10 summer sessions to choose from. First session begins June 3rd.
- OPUS music camp for ages 8–18 (not sponsored by the university but held on campus) For information about the camp, call (630) 983-3902, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Opus.org.
134 Christendom Drive
Front Royal, VA 22630
Experience Christendom College Summer Program introduces high-school students to Christendom College life and is open to rising seniors. If space allows, students entering their junior year of high school will be admitted.
Five weeklong sessions beginning June 16, 2013.
Cost: $400 per session (includes tuition, lodging, meals, activity fees, and books)
Holy Cross College
54515 State Road 933 North
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Youth Enrichment Summer Camp for ages 8-14; June 17-21, 2013
One-hour classes in nature, digital photography, sign language, and other topics
One class fee $45, or full afternoon for $100
Basketball Camp June 17-21; $100 per camper
Register on the website beginning in April
For more information, contact Aimee Niespodziany at (574) 239-8331.
Mount St. Mary’s University
16300 Old Emmitsburg Rd.
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
The university offers numerous sports camps for basketball, soccer, lacrosse and more.
Sacred Heart University
5151 Park Avenue
Fairfield, CT 06825
With Sacred Heart University’s summer pre-college program, high-school students can explore college majors while earning college credit. For more information, contact Angela Pitcher, director of Summer/Winter Sessions and special programs.
Thomas Aquinas College
10,000 Ojai Road
Santa Paula, CA 93060
The college’s Great Books High-School Program gives students a taste of what they can expect if they choose to attend Thomas Aquinas College. The two-week program includes small class discussions and excursions off-campus as well as other planned activities.
Cost: $975 (includes tuition, housing, meals, books, and organized activities off campus).
University of Dallas
1845 East Northgate Drive
Irving, TX 75062
The university offers three separate programs, two of which are held in Italy. The programs require that students be rising juniors or seniors or have just graduated from high school.
Arete I or II
Cost $1500 (includes tuition, room, and board)
Latin in Rome
Cost $6000 (all-inclusive, including travel to Italy)
Shakespeare in Rome
Cost $6500 (all-inclusive including travel to Italy)
Wyoming Catholic College
1400 City Park Drive
Wyoming Catholic College offers a two-week camp (July 6–20) for college-bound Catholic youth. P.E.A.K. (Powerful Experience of Adventure and Knowledge) gives students entering their junior or senior of high school an opportunity to experience the college’s unique approach to liberal arts education: seeking wisdom in study, nature, and prayer.
Cost $895 (covers lodging, food, equipment, recreational fees, and excursions)