Amherst College experience enriches summer for three Red Cloud students

posted on September 6, 2012

Samantha Pittman, Peppermint Twiss, and Tanya Twiss know that the joy of reading books is not an activity solely confined to the school year!

The three sophomores spent two weeks of their summer at Amherst College in Massachusetts participating in the Great Books Summer Program. The program, whose slogan is “an exceptional summer experience for bright minds” exists to gather superlative middle and high school students from across the world to read selections from the greatest works of literature, experience college-level discussions and seminars, and enjoy summer fun with other literary-minded students.

This year, the program’s eleventh summer, a carefully selected group of outstanding students from 47 states and 28 countries participated in the experience. There, according to program literature, they were exhorted to “take up the Great Conversation of classic literature, with a broad range of texts and an emphasis on the timeless questions: What is the good life? What do I owe my neighbors? What must I do in the face of injustice?”

The program uses the Socratic method to stimulate discussion and engage students’ minds. Thus, participants “come away from the Great Books Summer Program with sharper critical thinking skills and a deep connection to other outstanding young people preparing to lead lives of distinction.”

The Great Books Summer Program is led by distinguished college professors and experienced teachers from the finest educational institutions in the country. In addition to possessing exceptional academic credentials and intellectual depth, each member of the faculty is dedicated to sharing his or her passion for literature and ideas with the bright young students. Program attendees also meet with college professors and students from top universities to discuss college choices and experiences.

Peppermint Twiss, whose preliminary post-graduation plan is to attend college in New York or Hawaii, said that the program “was a great opportunity to go out and see the world outside the reservation.” A lifelong reader, Twiss was a natural fit for the program. She said, “Whenever [I’m] reading, [my] imagination is set free!”

Samantha Pittman also had a positive experience in the program, and now lists Amherst as one of the colleges she would like to attend (Harvard is her other top choice). Her field of choice at this point is either law or forensic science. Pittman recounted that the social aspect of the program was as beneficial as the academic component, saying, “I learned how to interact with new people.”

The students were not the only ones who had glowing reviews of the program. Kurt Anderson, an award-winning author, and editor and co-creator of the Studio 360 radio show, was one of the program’s special guests.

Anderson said, “I give a lot of talks to a lot of groups all over the country and world, but I've never had a more engaged, interested and interesting audience than the students at the Great Books Summer Program. They were clearly primed to learn and think. I hope I gave them some useful ideas about writing and the writing life; I know they inspired me.”

The Red Cloud students were sponsored to attend the program by the Lion Trust Corporation of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.