For the twenty-first straight summer, Christendom welcomed high school students to campus for the Experience Christendom Summer Program (ECSP), a week-long program that immerses participants in the academics, spiritual life, and Catholic culture of Christendom. Drawing 280 participants from across the US, and even from France and Argentina, the five ECSP sessions held this summer proved to be a huge success, coming in as the second largest attendance in its history.

“This week has been the highlight of my summer,” said Audrey Altmonshofer, who attended Session 2 of the program. Peter Williams, who attended Session 4, agreed. “When Saturday rolled around, I didn’t want to leave. This week was truly the best week of my life.”

The ECSP is designed to serve as a “highlight reel” of the Christendom experience, allowing participants to experience the most essential and exciting aspects of life at Christendom.

“ECSP is an ideal opportunity for high school students to grow in their faith, meet friendly and like-minded people, and catch a glimpse of the academic excellence and authentic Catholic culture Christendom College has to offer,” said Maria Forrester, who attended Session 1.

As an introduction to the vigorous liberal arts curriculum Christendom offers, participants attended classes taught by some of Christendom’s own faculty. In general, students attended a history, literature, philosophy, and theology class each day, with students having the privilege of having college president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell teach theology for three of the five sessions. According to attendees, these abbreviated courses really ignited an interest in the liberal arts.

“The classes were engaging, and the professors challenged you to think deeply on matters of faith, morals, and intellectual knowledge,” said Samia Clerico, who attended Session 5.

The ECSP is not just an opportunity for students to grow intellectually, but also spiritually. Each day participants attended Mass in the college’s Christ the King Chapel, a fixture of the spiritual life at Christendom. In addition, participants attended adoration daily, and had the chance to say Morning Prayer with the counselors. Each session concluded with a candlelight rosary procession and bonfire. Despite the packed itinerary for each session, prayer and the sacraments were made a priority and animated the entire experience.

Throughout each week, participants are led by nine counselors, who are all current students at the college and who are eager to show the visiting students what life is like at Christendom.  They help immerse the participants in the vibrant culture and community life that characterizes the college. In just a few short days, participants had the chance to canoe in the Shenandoah River, attend a barn dance and Irish sing along, perform in a talent show, argue in a parliamentary-style debate, compete in the highly anticipated dodge-ball games, hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains, learn how to swing dance, and attend a semi-formal dance. These activities gave participants a taste of the enriching and community-oriented events that Christendom offers, leaving participants excited to return.

“Christendom has stolen the top spot on my enrollment list, and I can’t wait to visit the campus again,” shared Samuel Kristine, who attended Session 1.

After attending this most-popular, highly-ranked, and well-attended pre-college summer program of its kind, many of the students are now deeply considering Christendom for their college choice, with an expectation that close to 40% of them will enroll in the fall of 2020. When asked to rank their satisfaction level with the program, the average for the summer was a resounding 4.75/5.0 — the best summer ever.

With contributions from Johanna Burke (’19).

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