The summer 2022 student participants pose for a group picture in St. Thomas of Villanova church.



Civitas through Caritas: Cultivating Love, Cultivating Citizens is a summer program for rising high school seniors in the greater Philadelphia area. The program is committed to recruiting students who are from under-served and under-represented groups, with significant financial need and/or other barriers to higher education. 

The program includes:

  • a free, three-week summer program for 16 rising high school seniors from greater Philadelphia area schools to engage in civic conversation through a foundation in the liberal arts
  • an opportunity to continue those conversations with peers and faculty mentors once a month throughout the academic year
  • a jumpstart on the college application process, including one-on-one mentoring and guidance for navigating the Common App and for drafting college essays

Hear from past participants!

“We really be in there participating, and it’s not like it’s forced. It’s like we really want to—we’re enjoying the conversations we’re having.”
“One thing I learned about myself is that I don’t have to be afraid to be me.”
“We’re here and we’re cheering for each other. We’re cheering that we reach all our dreams and all our successes.”


About the Program

Civitas through Caritas is hosted by Villanova University's Augustine and Culture Seminar, the University's signature academic program for all first-year students, and is made possible by a generous grant from the Teagle Foundation as part of their Education for American Civic Life initiative.

Civitas means "civil society; caritas means "love." Civitas through Caritas explores the possibility that a civil society requires a sense of love, justice, and the common good in order for all of its members to truly flourish.

Civitas through Caritas asks rising high school seniors to explore what it means to be a citizen, allowing a rich conversation to occur across perceived cultural differences, and reflection on the Augustinian values of love and community. This program invites young people to read and reflect on important books from across the centuries, introducing them to the timeless questions raised by these enduring works of human culture.

Civitas through Caritas also provides a practical method of access to higher education and encourages students to pursue the liberal arts by supporting them through their senior year of high school and college application process.

  • Help motivated young people develop into reflective and responsible citizens who are committed to the common good, community formation and responsibility towards others.
  • Impact how students engage in the college experience.
  • Provide a clear understanding of how why the liberal arts is important to the human experience.
  • Encourage students not only to attend college, but to consider majoring in the liberal arts. 

Summer Seminar

  • Three-week residential academic summer program 
  • Daily academic seminars 
  • Field trips
  • Evening activities

School Year Institute

  • One year commitment
  • Monthly sessions throughout the academic year
  • Jumpstart our college application process
  • One-on-one mentoring and guidance
  • Common app navigation
  • Assistance with college essays

During the three-week summer session, students will meet in daily seminars to engage in conversation about the readings with two faculty, along with undergraduate co-facilitators. The co-facilitators will also serve as peer mentors and tutors. There will be short writing assignments as part of the preparation for class discussions. 

Throughout the program, we will look to Augustine, a North African and Roman citizen, as a role model. Framed by St. Augustine's definition of civil society, we invite students to consider what love is, what people have said they loved, what they have actually loved, and what they ought to have loved and, most importantly, to ask the same questions of ourselves.

Syllabus: The syllabus for Civitas through Caritas includes books that ACS explores with first-year college students.

  • Works of political philosophy, including Plato, Aristotle and other ancient political philosophers along with writings from the American founding that continue to impact modern citizenship
  • Philosophical and literary works that address the ongoing challenges of justice, equity and inclusion: Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Dorothy Day, among others.      

Field Trips: There will be weekly field trips to a variety of cultural and historical sites in the Philadelphia area, including the Constitution Center, Independence Hall, Old St. Augustine's Church, Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, the African American Museum, and the Museum of the American Revolution. 

Summer Schedule

Sunday, June 30: Students arrive late afternoon; welcome reception for students and families

July 1 – July 6: Week one summer session (session ends at 4 p.m. on Friday; field trip on Saturday)

Thursday, July 4: No Classes (activities TBD)

Sunday, July 7: Ice cream social in residence hall

July 8 – July 13: Week two summer session (session ends at 4 p.m. on Friday; field trip on Saturday)

Sunday, July 14: Pizza social in residence hall

July 15 – July 19: Week three summer session (session ends on Friday at 4 p.m.)

Saturday, July 20: Student move out with luncheon for families

Saturday, Aug. 10: College Application Workshop Day, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Our goal is to have the basic application filled out by the end of the day, except for essays.)

School Year Institute

School year weekend sessions will include one to two hours of college application prep (one-on-one time with writing tutors) and one hour of project guidance with faculty advisors for team projects.



Interested applicants who are passionate about civic engagement, ready to work hard and interested in the liberal arts, should also:

  • Be in the 11th grade
  • Be in good academic standing:
    • Academics: A's and B's with an exception allowed of one C
    • Conduct: No more than 1 rating of 2
  • Have no excessive lateness or absences
  • Make a 1-year year commitment


Our partner high schools in the greater Philadelphia area include:
  • Academy At Palumbo High School
  • Bishop McDevitt High School
  • Bodine High School for International Affairs High School
  • Boys Latin High School
  • Camden Prep
  • Central High School
  • Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School
  • George Washington Carver High School of Engineering & Science
  • Girard College
  • Mastery Charter High School
  • Lankenau Environmental Magnet High School
  • Little Flower High School
  • Malvern Prep High School
  • Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast High School
  • Northeast Magnet High School
  • Philadelphia High School for Girls 
  • Radnor High School 
  • Roman Catholic High School
  • Upper Darby High School
  • West Catholic Prep High School


Application Process

Applicants who demonstrate financial need, are under-represented and first-generation college students will be given preference.

  • Fill out the on-line application (including short essays)
  • Provide a letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor or teacher
  • Submit your high school transcript 

Applications for 2024 are currently open!



Civitas is a Civil Society. Caritas is Love

  • Room and board in campus residence hall
  • Introduction to the college experience
  • Strengthened skills in writing, discussion and college level reading
  • Jumpstart on the college application process
  • One-on-one mentoring
  • Assistance with the Common App
  • Guidance drafting college essays
  • Workshops, continued mentoring and support during your senior year of high school
Two student participants smile during a meal.



Program Director: Gregory Hoskins, PhD

Program Administrator: Kimberly Coleman

Summer Seminar Leaders: Ian Clausen, PhD, and John Karas, PhD

Phone: 610-519-8100 | Phone: 610-519-7325 |