What is the Xavier Shadow Program?


Sophomores Meghan Shouten, Sharon Cardenas, and Nina McFarland wait in the library until their shadows get dropped off. Photo credit: Caroline Hink ’20.

Did you attend 8th Grade Day? Are you a prospective student who wants to attend a full day of classes at Xavier? Or are you wondering how the Shadow Program works?

Every October, hundreds of middle-schoolers visit the Xavier campus for the first time on 8th Grade Day. Eighth Grade Day is busy, exciting, and a little different than an actual school day. Future Xavier students experience a shortened class schedule, an informative assembly, and the exciting Lights Out Rally. However, some middle-schoolers also choose to sign up to shadow on a more normal day at Xavier.

The Xavier Shadow Program began more than a decade ago as a way to get 8th graders interested in coming to Xavier. During shadow days, eighth-graders attend a full day of classes, get introduced to teachers, and spend both break and lunch with a student ambassador and their friends. Eighth graders can sign up to shadow ambassadors Monday through Thursday from October through January.

As moderator of Student Ambassadors, Ms. Running is in charge of planning, organizing, and matching shadow requests. When an 8th grader and parent register to shadow, they select a specific date that works best with the potential student’s schedule. During this registration, 8th graders also make a shortlist of their academic interests and extracurriculars. Ms. Running says she “match[es] both academic interests and clubs, sports, and performing arts interests. If a student is interested in Great Books and volunteering, I do my best to match an 8th grader with a Xavier student who has two or three things in common. Often times, shadows might even be paired with students from their same middle school.”

Members of Student Ambassadors are responsible for hosting shadows and escorting them around campus for a whole day. This responsibility primarily falls to Freshman and Sophomore Student Ambassadors. Shadows are paired with underclassmen for a few reasons. Ms. Running shared some of these reasons, adding that “socially, it’s more appropriate to pair an 8th grader with a Freshman or Sophomore because they are closer in age and have more in common. Also, due to Xavier’s high academic standards, it can be intimidating for a prospective student to spend a full day in the more rigorous classes that Juniors and Seniors take.”

For Xavier Senior Olivia Petrine, the Shadow Program helped her make the decision to come to Xavier. After attending 8th Grade, Petrine still wasn’t sure if Xavier was the right high school for her. As a result, she decided to register to shadow a Xavier Student a few weeks later. During shadow day, Petrine realized that “I loved the relationships my shadow had with her teachers and how fun the learning environment was at Xavier.”

In addition, Petrine adds that “I didn’t know my shadow at all and she was a sophomore at the time, which made me a little nervous, but she was so welcoming that I forget about the age gap and felt comfortable at Xavier.”

Looking back to when she was an 8th grader, Petrine is glad she got the chance to shadow a Xavier student and encourages other potential students to do the same. In addition, Petrine’s shadow day not only helped her decide to attend Xavier, but she was also able to envision herself getting involved on campus. Petrine emphasizes that “my shadow experience made me want to be a Student Ambassador when I came to Xavier. I didn’t know what activities I wanted to join, but I knew that I definitely wanted to be apart of the Student Ambassador Club.”

Wouldn’t it be fun to show a shadow what Xavier is like? If you are a freshman and want to have shadows during your Sophomore year, consider studying the Student Ambassador packet and taking the exam next August.