In the spirit of the New Evangelization called for by Pope John Paul II, Thomas More College recently had the opportunity to offer a month-long pilot program—The American College Preparatory Program—for eleven high school students from Changchun in northeastern China. This program is a development of the College’s traditional High School Collegiate Summer Program, now in its 36th year.
These young men and women are the sons and daughters of China’s elite. They are destined for international careers; in order to achieve such they desire to attend American universities and come to understand great characteristics of the West such as creativity and service. The goal is to introduce the strengths of a Catholic liberal arts education while addressing the language needs of the Chinese participants. Through The American College Preparatory Program, the Chinese students gain recognized community service experience, conversational English practice, and classes in essay writing.
The Program was taught by alumni of the College: Britni Donaghue, Class of ’10, and Brendan Monaghan, class of ’04. Britni holds a Masters in Education from Rivier University in New Hampshire, and Brendan, after serving actively in the U.S. Army from 2005-2009, received a Master’s in Eastern Classics from the Graduate Institute at St. John’s College in New Mexico.
“President Fahey invited me to sit in on a class and it was really nice to see him begin and end with a prayer,” said Brendan when asked what it was like to be back at Thomas More College. “It gave the sense, ‘We are doing something that is about much more than personal development. We are searching for the Truth wherever it may be hiding.’ I’ve been at Saint John’s most recently and while it’s a serious academic community, the approach is quite different.”
Aimed at preparing the students for SAT and TOEFL testing, the Program’s plan of studies included fostering English comprehension skills, as well as introducing American and Western culture by assigning important works of prose. Speeches such as the Gettysburg Address and stories such as Aesop’s Fables were included among the students’ readings.
“I thought it was important to introduce them to works like John Steinbeck’s The Pearl,” said Britni, “works that every high school student in the States is familiar with, but that were completely foreign to them.”
While visiting Thomas More College, the students observed classes, participated in a question-and-answer panel with current students and alumni, and received a personal tour from President Fahey. While they gathered in the library, he pointed out a large portrait of Saint Thomas More, explaining the saint’s story. During the tour, they also made a visit to the College’s Marian Grotto.
The College’s dedication to the spiritual and intellectual heritage of Catholic and Western Civilization provided a unique witness of the Gospel for the students. Some of the students expressed interest in possibly attending the College, and after a second visit, one young man proceeded to Barnes & Noble, where he promptly purchased two Bibles: one for himself, the other as a gift for a family back home in China.
Along with extensive English comprehension skill practice, the students were introduced to American community service work. They spent several days a week volunteering at a local soup kitchen, as well as helping out around their current residence.
After a long day of volunteer work in downtown Nashua, the students came to the College to join in with the traditional Mardi Gras festivities. A delicious meal of distinctly American recipes such as gumbo and cornbread was followed by a ridiculous—and hilarious—pancake race and fight, in which all took part. The fun, fellowship, and festive side of Thomas More’s Catholic culture made the students’ visit a truly memorable one.