"I read great books when I was in elementary school. I loved Johnny Tremain."
"So did I. Did you ever read one with the Spanish explorers and the Indian boy?"
"Walk the World's Rim? It was sad, but good. Like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry."
"Or Moccasin Trail. That was one of my favorites."
"Mine, too. Wait--did you do Sonlight?"
These are snatches from a conversation I had a few months ago with a fellow Samford University student (and, it turned out, a former Sonlighter) while sprawling in spring sunshine on the grassy carpet of the quad. I enjoy moments of sudden connection with people I have only just met. When the connection is Sonlight, it's even better.
On the campus of an academically rigorous and respected liberal arts college, the quality of students' primary and high school education matters. This is especially true when it comes to a liberal arts education and its requirements for studies in the humanities. Solid understanding of how to approach literature does not appear like a fairy godmother (poof!) to get you on the dean's list as soon as you stroll into the University Library. Many college students discover this too late and with much chagrin. Thankfully, my experience with Sonlight curriculum throughout much of my elementary and high school career provided a strong foundation for the critical thinking and, more importantly, love of learning that is crucial for success in higher education.
As a student in Samford's University Fellows Program, I have needed every ounce of that critical thinking and love of learning. Our liberal arts "core" includes a series of classes in Western Intellectual Tradition, which means that we read everything from Homer to Sartre over the course of four semesters. Class sizes are small and class discussions vast. Papers are intricate. It's a good thing that I learned how to read thoughtfully. I believe most of this learning happened while I curled up on quiet afternoons with a good "Sonlight book" in my favorite green reading chair in the den--even before I started high school.
When I did start high school learning, Sonlight cores, as well as some online AP classes, provided an excellent training ground to read and explore deep ideas. Despite the fact that I had not specifically read Aristotle, Plato, Livy, or Dante before this past year, I was just as well prepared to interact with their historical and philosophical concepts (and to enjoy doing it) as my friend who attended a rigorous classical high school. I find it hard to believe we've already read up through the Renaissance. My freshman year went by faster than I could say "Virgil!"
This June, I worked at Samford as a student assistant with a program for high school students imitating the environment found in the Fellows Program. The students read selections from Classical texts and the constructors of the American Constitution. While I talked with one rising senior, I discovered one of my favorite immediate connections. She has also used Sonlight. When she asked me about college admissions and if I thought that I had been well prepared for my college classes, I had one answer, in short:
Sonlight Scholarship Winner 2011