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UST Grads Launch Summer Program for High School Students

Inspired by their University of St. Thomas honors education, 2009 graduates Joseph Morton and Thomas Mendez have launched the Paideia Institute, a nonprofit organization to prepare promising high school students for success in college as academic and social leaders. The organization’s inaugural program, the Paideia Summer Academy, will take place July 5-22 on the UST campus.

Replicating the teaching style of the UST Honors Program, the Summer Academy will be a three-week program with seminar-style courses introducing the students to rigorous academic texts. Each day, students will attend four classes in subjects such as history, philosophy, rhetoric, logic, and international studies. An emphasis will be placed on relating classic texts to modern issues with the intent to prepare students for college-level rigor.

“My time as a Teach for America Corps Member has shown me that high school students often have a disparity between their ability for comprehension and their analytical skills,” Morton said. “Our program seeks to teach students to analyze and synthesize college-level texts, and to polish those skills through student discussion and presentation.”

Each class will be team-taught by at least two instructors including both a university professor and a high school teacher. Several UST professors have committed to teach at the summer academy including Dr. Terry Hall, associate professor of philosophy and director of the UST Honors Program, Dr. Randall Smith, associate professor of theology, Dr. Hans Stockton, associate professor of International Studies, Prof. H. R. Sindelar, adjunct professor of International Studies, and Dr. R. Houser, professor of philosophy.

The Paideia Institute’s administrative staff is composed largely of recent UST graduates and current students including Morton, Mendez, Geoffrey Garza, Brian Husband and Clinton Kuykendall. During their time at UST, they all served as resident assistants and active student leaders. Morton, Mendez and Garza were part of the 2009 Honors Class.

“After graduation, Joe and Geoff and I started talking about issues that arise in high school classrooms and how important it is to have a passion for learning,” said Mendez. “We realize there’s a growing need for high school students to be prepared for college and we want to instill that passion in academically talented kids. The idea for this type of program is definitely a product of our UST education.”

The word “Paideia” (pronounced pie-DAY-uh) is Greek for the system of education found in Ancient Athens which embraced cultural well-roundedness through the study of rhetoric, grammar, mathematics, music, philosophy, geography, natural history and gymnastics. Mendez said they chose the term for their organization because it reflected the holistic method of education they want to achieve, encompassing their commitment to the classics and to preparing future citizens and leaders.

Mendez is currently visiting Houston high schools and recruiting students for the program. Twenty high school juniors and seniors will be accepted to the Summer Academy after completing a written application and personal interview.
Students will be selected based on their academic and extra-curricular achievements, aptitude for written and verbal expression and ability to think creatively. Full or partial scholarships will be available based on financial need.

The Paideia Institute is entirely volunteer-driven. UST students, faculty or alumni interested in volunteering their time or resources for marketing, accounting, fundraising, chaperoning during the Summer Academy or in any other capacity should contact for more information.

The cost for the Summer Academy is $785 per student. Interested parents or students should visit for more information.

Shown above left to right: Tom Mendez and Joe Morton

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