Notre Dame is has been called one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States, and is nationally recognized for its academic programs, both graduate and undergraduate.
So when Daniel Shannon, son of Whitehall City Attorney Michael Shannon and longtime Etna Road Elementary School teacher Jayne Shannon, saw so many accomplished seniors at St. Charles Preparatory School graduating and heading off to Notre Dame, he knew as a freshman that he wanted to be a part of the Fighting Irish.
"I saw it as an achievable goal, and I set my mind to it," he said.
Over the next four years, Shannon worked hard in class and volunteered his time for community service. His efforts paid off.
He graduated second in his class at St. Charles with a grade-point average of 4.2 (separated from the No. 1 spot by just 1/100 of a point); scored in the 99th percentile on his ACT; and earned a 2000 on his SAT. He walked out of St. Charles with 30 undergraduate credits.
In recognition, Shannon, also an avid athlete, was awarded the Notre Dame Presidential Scholarship for outstanding academics, leadership and community service.
Last week, Shannon made the move to South Bend, Ind., and has begun classes toward a degree in chemical engineering with a minor in business. He said he's not yet sure what he wants to do after graduation.
One thing is for sure: He admits missing home -- and Whitehall.
Michael and Jayne Shannon are lifelong residents of Whitehall and have been married for 38 years. The two were neighbors growing up, Jayne often baby-sitting the young Michael when he was in fifth grade.
Whitehall remained their home where the Shannons raised five children, Daniel being the youngest. They are empty-nesters now and said they couldn't be more proud.
"To say I'm proud of Daniel is an understatement," said his father, just days after moving his youngest into his dorm room. "He's a gifted young man who really likes a challenge. It's a very humbling experience not to be able to help your son with his homework his freshman year in high school."
Aside from challenging himself academically, Shannon said he has always enjoyed giving back to his community. On any given weekend, Shannon could be found volunteering in an area soup kitchen, for Habitat for Humanity or around St. Charles. One of his more haunting experiences involved spending the night outside under a cardboard box in a mock "shack city" in an effort to understand what it was like to be homeless, he said.
"Sometimes you see people on the street and you don't really know or understand their struggle," said Shannon, "so I wanted to experience this type of poverty. It was an eye-opening experience."