Chasing Shadows


Michael Jaeger

“Would the following students please report to the admissions office…”

Each morning, Mr. Daily announces the students that will host a “shadow,” a prospective student spending the day at Chaminade to decide if he wants to come here next year.  To be a shadow is frightening, but it’s also a rite of passage: almost every student to graduate from Chaminade began as a shadow, first walking up the steps as a wide-eyed and innocent middle-schooler with hopes that they might be admitted into one of the most prestigious high schools in St. Louis. However, once you go beyond those doors into Chaminade Hall, there’s no going back.

For every student it’s a different experience. For those of us coming in from a strict Parochial school, that first step into the atrium is enough to put a shadow into a state of permanent shock. Not only are kids on laptops, eating food from vending machines and screaming like maniacs, but it also seems like none of the adults really seems to care. What is this madness?

For me, I left my shadow visit from Chaminade in a daze.  I most certainly did not tell my mom how impressed I was with their academic rigor or the politeness of their students, but rather I spent the whole day laughing my butt off at the antics pulled by the freshmen and other students I observed. My most memorable moment was in Mrs. Sontheimer’s freshman technology class, where students brought in a bag of Skittles for an exercise involving Microsoft Excel. Of course, one thing led to another, and by the time I had left the class, I was in tears laughing and 6 kids had their names on the board to stay after class.

I have spoken to several Chaminade students—both those who shadowed a 9th grade student and those who shadowed in the middle school—and I collected some of their funniest and most memorable shadow experiences.  More than anything, I wanted to learn: What made you want to come to Chaminade?

Josh Heidenry: “I remember they were watching a sex-ed video in health science. They didn’t allow me to watch it so I had to step outside and take a tour. I also remember factoring in math class and I raised my hand and answered a question correctly after no one knew how to answer it and Shanu (Sakara) said, “’Oooooo…you’re a smart shadow.’  Honestly, it was better than SLUH.  They wouldn’t even let me shadow.”

Matt Mika: “I shadowed Jimmy Mullen. We were in Mr. Bennett’s class, and math is not my thing. Coach Bennet threw a marker or something at a kid and that was sleeping, and he was so surprised, and I just remember being so scared in that moment. After I shadowed here, I was set on going to DeSmet. I actually switched to Chaminade the day before the decision with Matthew Botta.”

Josh Walsh: “I was in 6th grade and I shadowed [Matt] Ostremueller and [Blake] Chrismer. I was in science class and we were watching a documentary about dinosaurs and mating and stuff. It was so funny to see the kids in that class look at each other and giggle.  Then at the end of the class we were all asked to evaluate the Café Moe lunch food. On a scale of 1-10, I drew a new box for “Infinity” and circled that. I’m not as impressed with Café Moe food today.”

Vincent Laury: “This wasn’t me, but I was a freshman in Honors World History with Mr. Chris Gebauer, and one of my classmates had a shadow with an interesting haircut.  Mr. Gebauer said to the kid, “’How does your mom let you walk out of the house looking like that?’  I’m pretty sure that kid didn’t come to Chaminade.

Sam Scorintino:  “I remember Nick White getting suspended for pushing a shadow into some bushes.”

Blake Smith: “Terrell Powell stole someone’s shoe when he was shadowing Louis Aquino.  It was the only time I’ve ever heard of a shadow getting sent to the office.”

While these are some of the goofier stories, I also heard a lot of more serious stories about how impressed people were by the buildings, the teachers, the academics and the sports.  It’s easy to see why an innocent 5th or 8th grader coming from a co-ed Parochial school might experience a bit of a culture shock the first time through these hallways, and why shadows are more likely to remember the crazy stories rather than the more serious academic work. But beyond all of the foolery and the antics that do go on here, I have found that Chaminade really is one of the best high school experiences in the area. Although I’ve never spent a significant amount of time at any other school, I can tell that a student really has everything they need.