Shannon Egan was part of the second class of Clapham's Upper School. After attending Clapham School for five years, she moved to St. Louis where she completed high school. She is currently attending Wheaton College and will graduate in May . We caught up with Shannon to find out how her time at Clapham School helped shape her for her future.
What are some ways that your time at Clapham School helped prepare you for college?
In many ways, Clapham and Wheaton College are very similar. They both value the arts and giving every student a rounded education. They both connect every subject and topic to the work and person of Christ, and use every lesson to teach us more about God. One thing that has especially helped me in college is the idea of learning as a practice of curiosity and exploration. College classes are difficult, especially because there are more students per class which leads to less personal learning environments. But because I have a background in learning through building curiosity, I have managed to find areas of interest in even the most difficult classes.
What’s one thing you really enjoyed from the unique educational experience at Clapham School?
I loved having smaller classes. After spending time in large college classes—and hearing from other people who had a different experience from mine—I’ve realized just how precious those small classes were. I got to build and maintain close relationships with my fellow classmates and with my teachers, relationships that allowed me to learn and grow not just through the lessons, but through the experiences of the people around me and through their unique insights. Learning from a single all-knowing authority figure will only teach children how to fear mistakes and see knowledge in black-and-white terms; but learning from a small, tight-knit group of peers will teach children how to listen, empathize, and remain open-minded to all kinds of knowledge.
Do you have a favorite memory of a moment of learning, or connection with a teacher, book, or subject that you can share?
Oddly enough, my favorite moment of learning came not from a lesson, but from a moment shared during a lunch period. My teacher at the time was Cheryl Ward, who spent several years in China, and she decided to teach us how to properly hold and use chopsticks. Not only did it teach me a useful and practical skill, but it also taught me how other cultures have valuable things to offer, and how other people’s experiences can help to inform and enrich my own. It was also just fun to have something that wasn’t class material to learn and experiment with in the company of my classmates; we really enjoyed having some fun in the midst of our schoolwork.
Can you share some plans or ideas on how you hope to serve Christ with your life and work?
I am an artist at heart and writer in practice. Most people would probably tell me that those sorts of things aren’t going to get me very far—there aren’t many jobs in the arts, they don’t pay well, they don’t get you much influence unless you get famous, and the list goes on. But, especially thanks to the events of 2020, I believe the world is really starting to understand the power and necessity of art. I’ve seen so many people this year get torn down, their humanity and their rights denied, their lives turned over, and their faith in God and humanity tested. But art can lift the spirits, reveal and assert humanity, cry out for help and for change, and tell the stories that may otherwise have been buried. I hope my art can meet people in their moments of need and provide them with light and joy. (Shannon's artwork can be viewed at https://www.instagram.com/sce_sketch/.)
What advice would you give to your high school self?
I would tell my past self that school really does only get harder, as does life. But I need to stick with it; in fact, I deserve to stick with it. There are lessons I must learn, people I must meet, and lives I must encounter that I will only find if I continue in school. I would also tell myself that my mind and my body are just as important, if not more so, as my classes. Many of my peers I have watched sacrifice their own wellbeing on the altar of good grades and commendation. But the point of school is not perfection or performance, it is education, and that will come at all times and in all places. You will learn the lessons you are meant to learn one way or another, so if you find yourself struggling in school, don’t just keep hammering away until your brain is numb and your hand is cramped. Ask for help; it is one of the bravest things you will ever do, and one of the smartest. But even when things are hardest, never give up. God is with you; you will make it.
What advice would you give to current high school students at Clapham?
Cherish it! Cherish every moment of your education. Take every opportunity to learn new things, even outside of class. Even if you only take two nuggets of wisdom out of an entire semester, that’s still two nuggets more than you had, and you should treasure them. And take care of yourself; you are the vessel that’s taking in all that knowledge, and if you don’t take care of it, mind, body, and soul, it’ll only get more and more difficult to learn. Drink your water, bring a hefty and healthy lunch, and for heaven’s sake, get enough sleep. And trust in God. No matter how far away or hard to hear He might seem, He is always close to you, always protecting you, and always full of love for you. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Shannon has made a lasting impression on her fellow students and the teachers at Clapham School. We are thrilled to see her complete her college degree and pursue the path God has set before her.