TRIO’s Talent Search program hosted Shadow for a Day, an annual event through which students in ninth through 12th grade are paired up with a current Notre Dame student to shadow them on campus for a day.
Sonya Watkins is the associate director of Talent Search and believes the event aligns with the program’s goal to provide programming for local youth, saying, “The mission of the Talent Search program is to provide college and career information as well as exposure to primarily first-generation, low-income students and their families in an effort to educate and assist the student with completing middle school, high school, and a post-secondary institution. By doing this, we aim to increase the number of students in our community who earn a postsecondary degree and therefore change the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families.”
This year, Notre Dame hosted 50 Talent Search students from South Bend high schools, pairing them with a mentor based on their academic and personal interests.
“We hope students will take the opportunity to be adventurous, be curious, ask questions, and embrace this shadowing event to help shape their future secondary educational goals,” says Talent Search Advisor Asma Musleh.
Notre Dame students were excited to connect with students from the community while sharing their love of the University. Sam Marchand ’27 explains, “I volunteered to be a mentor because I know the public school background these kids are coming from extremely well, and how helpful it would've been to me to have someone like a Notre Dame student explain what daily life is like in college.”
Students spent a day living the life of a college student, including going to class, eating in the dining hall, and gaining a sense of how to balance community life and academics in a higher education setting.
Marchand was paired with Muri, a local South Bend student. “Our day started with a tour of campus. We walked through the Mendoza College of Business, visited the weightroom in Duncan Student Center, saw classrooms in DeBartolo, looked at the exhibits in the FitzPatrick Hall of Engineering, [and] got to briefly experience dorm section culture in Keough Hall,” he says. “We were able to catch the 11:30 a.m. Mass in the Basilica and enjoyed lunch in South Dining Hall. After a quick trip through the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, we went to theology class in O'Shaughnessey Hall.”
Adavion Perkins is a ninth-grade student at the Career Academy in South Bend and has been involved in the Talent Search program for the last six months. This was his first time taking part in Shadow for a Day and he doesn’t hesitate when asked what he was most excited about that day: “The dining hall,” Perkins says. “I’ve heard you can get any type of food in the cafeteria [here].”
Perkins is also interested in the college classroom experience, especially in exploring chemistry coursework. Before Shadow for a Day, he says, “I can’t wait to see all of the classes and learn about new experiments.”
Musleh has seen the broad impact this day of engagement with Notre Dame has on both the Notre Dame mentors and high school participants.
“The experience Talent Search students will receive is unique as many students do not get the opportunity to preview how it would be for them to attend college,” she says.”It is also a great opportunity to help students understand the process of applying and what they need to do in high school to prepare for college.”
TRIO staff and the Notre Dame mentors know the incredible impact this event has on local high school students as they are looking ahead into their future.
“Many of the students had no prior exposure to higher academia and now they have,” Marchand says. “The students have a clear vision of what's possible in college life if they decide to commit to academic excellence and the rewards that come with it. If there had been an academic titan like Notre Dame in my hometown, getting to see life there firsthand would have changed my life.”