An in-person interview to determine whether or not you receive a life-changing full academic scholarship to college would intimidate most people.
Not Charlie Minerd '20.
Just like so many tests and lacrosse games at Saint Ignatius, the senior aced that interview with his trademark confidence and poise. And now, Minerd is bound for Saint Louis University on its Presidential Scholarship, a four-year, full-tuition award.
The life-changing news came on St. Patrick's Day, but is just now sinking in with Minerd.
Minerd was hanging out with a couple of friends when a call came in from St. Louis. In his mind, he braced himself for the worst. Only 30 students out of 1,000 applicants get the scholarship, so Minerd figured his chances were slim.
And then, the person on the other end of the phone said, 'You got it!'
Minerd sat shocked. He confirmed with the caller, 'This is Charlie Minerd you're calling, right? Did I just get a full ride for college?' The adminstrator replied, 'Yes and yes,' and the Saint Ignatius senior's life changed in an instant.
"I called my parents right away, and we celebrated as a family. Best St. Patrick's Day ever," Minerd said.
Minerd has enjoyed an exceptional career as a student-athlete at Saint Ignatius. With a cumulative GPA of 4.08 and two years under his belt as a starting goalie for the Lax Cats, Minerd's resume is pretty nice. But he never figured on a full ride to college.
The application process began six months ago with a 500-word essay on leadership and how the applicant would bring leadership to Saint Louis University (SLU). Without hesitation, Minerd penned his essay about lacrosse. His position on the field provides him with a unique opportunity to lead the team towards a common goal. And from where he's standing on the field – at goalie – he's leading from behind.
The next step was a follow-up interview. One of the questions asked was, 'What did you mean by leading from behind?' Minerd talked about his preference from leading from ahead, but his position mandates that he lead from behind, at least physically. That presents certain challenges, in how to lead beyond simply barking orders from behind.
"I don't like leading from behind, I would prefer to lead from ahead. But with lacrosse, that's impossible," Minerd said. "In terms of leadership, you need to bring together a team with different mindsets. You need to work with the differences and use to them to your advantage. Our end goal is a state championship, which might be out of reach this year, but the other goal was growing as a family together, which we've achieved."
In February, Minerd accepted an invitation to interview in-person in St. Louis.
Minerd hopped on a plane and headed west, destined for the prominent Jesuit university, joining a herd of applicants with the same destination. But, critically, before departing, he did plenty of prep with his teacher and SLU alum, Joe Popelka '84.
Minerd entered the weekend with a calm, cool, and collected attitude. Armed with Jesuit vocabulary and a 'let it fly' attitude, Minerd prepared for his opportunity.
The weekend began with a campus and city tour. Minerd had toured the campus previously, and was planning on attending SLU regardless of the scholarship. His dad, Brian '91, attended Saint Ignatius and then became a Billiken. But the visit alone helped to seal the deal.
"Everyone there is accepting and friendly," Minerd said. "I didn't meet one person I didn't like. I loved meeting people with different cultures and religions – learning about their backgrounds was great."
After attending a couple of lectures and then staying overnight in a dorm with a current student, Minerd readied for two Saturday interviews.
Minerd entered the interviews as he would an important lacrosse game, with a clear and focused mind. And plenty of humility.
"I was not expecting anything. I was with these uber-qualified people who have been doing research since they were 6 years old. I'm just here, I went to high school," Minerd chuckled. "My mental state helped me stay calm. I came in with nothing to lose, because no one expected me to get this."
Minerd stayed loose in the interviews, and even cracked a couple of jokes.
"I made them laugh a couple of times and answered their questions normally. I wasn't trying to flex. I'm just a normal kid from Saint Ignatius. I talked about Jesuit principles and my Jesuit education."
The approach paid off. Just over a month later, Minerd got the call that changed his life.
For Minerd, the news may have come as a huge surprise. But not to his teachers and coaches.
"Charlie is clearly an intelligent and already wise young man by first attending Saint Ignatius, and then following that smart choice with his decision to become a Billiken, joining of course his father in both choices," Popelka said. "I am happy that my alma mater SLU recognized Charlie's academic and social strengths in awarding him the well-deserved scholarship."
His goalies coach, Jim Smith '94, whole-heartedly agrees.
"It doesn't surprise me that he got the scholarship," Smith said. "He's laser-focused on being the best he can be, working hard and pushing himself to improve. Even when he doesn't he need to, he keeps working. I've seen it on the lacrosse field, and I know that translates into academics. He's a really smart kid. When I have conversations with him, he's incredibly thoughtful and in-depth. I can have high-level intellectual conversations with him. His approach to the game is analytical, in where people should be, how he positions himself, and what steps he takes. He's so mature, nice, and thoughtful. I'm really fired up that he got it, I'm very proud of him. In life, he's going to be successful."
Minerd may have been a star for the lacrosse squad, but his feats in the classroom have not gone unnoticed.
The Rocky River native has thrown himself wholeheartedly into his coursework. Minerd has dived into the pre-med track at Saint Ignatius, becoming deeply involved in the Pre-Med Society while taking honors science classes early on so he could take honors anatomy and physiology with Popelka as a senior.
"Charlie has proved to be a top notch student in honors anatomy and physiology this year as demonstrated by: his obvious passion for the health sciences, his insightful questions, and consistent professional approach to the challenging subject matter," Popelka said. "Charlie has long acted as a student-leader in the Pre-Med Society, helping to actively organize and guide the group through a wide-ranging set of speakers and opportunities to explore health science careers."
Tara Henderson, the moderator of the Pre-Med Society, has also taken notice.
"Charlie has been a standout member of the Pre-Med Society and Health Sciences Program. As a matter of fact he has been one of the club's officers since his sophomore year," Henderson said. "The leadership and dedication he has demonstrated all four years has been admirable. Aside from being an excellent role model for his peers, he is a remarkable young man."
From his perspective, Minerd said that the exposure helped lead him to his pre-med path, which will start with a major in health sciences at SLU. As an accepted medical scholar, he'll have the chance to apply to med school a year early.
Minerd has always liked caring for people. But without the program and the classes at Saint Ignatius, he may not have discovered his passion for it.
"Ms. Henderson was very influential in bringing in so many people and specialties. It's cool to have that kind of exposure so young," Minerd said. "Mr. Popelka was critical, too. His class helped me to learn how the body works. Mr. Popelka has been great throughout the whole year and this process."
Another factor for Minerd dates back to sophomore year.
For his sophomore service, Minerd helped and shadowed doctors, nurses, and workers in the food court at Lutheran Hospital. That experience helped him see the inner workings of the hospital and the industry. He even saw a knee replacement surgery.
"I knew right away that I wanted to do something like that for the rest of my life," he said.
Before he graduates, Minerd hopes to finish out his lacrosse career. He's holding out hope for his senior season.
His sophomore and junior campaigns were exceptional. Minerd starred in net as a sophomore and helped to take the Wildcats to the state championship game. He'll never forget that tournament run, particularly Merick Hartley's game-winning goal in the State Semifinal and the leadup to the title bout. Several members of the Wildcats took part in his pregame goalie drill, helping to loosen him up.
Minerd improved more last season, becoming a bonafide star. For his efforts on the field, Minerd snagged second-team All-Midwest honors from the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association after a stellar season with 168 saves and a save percentage of 49%, including 54% in-state. And for his efforts in the classroom, Minerd took home Academic All-American status.
"I’ve had the pleasure of coaching Charlie since when I started coaching and he was in the 6th grade. It’s really not until now, thinking about this group of seniors moving on, that I realize what a calming presence it has been to have Charlie back there," said Wildcats' assistant coach Joe Boehm. "Since throwing him into the goal in the middle of the Upper Arlington game his sophomore year, there has never been a question who belongs in the crease as the anchor of the Wildcat defense. Chuck has gotten better every year I’ve been around him, which is a testament to his work ethic. He’s extremely coachable, is a great teammate, and really cares about the game and the guys around him. He holds himself to a very high standard on and off the field and picks up his teammates not just with his saves but also with his leadership in the defensive huddle. He is definitely leaving some very large shoes to fill, literally and figuratively."
As Minerd awaits the status of the spring season, he's learned an important lesson.
"Don't take your team or family for granted," Minerd said. "We talked about it during the chapel talk. Be in the moment whenever possible. High school flies by. Everyone said that freshman year, and I didn't believe them."
But whether or not Minerd ever dons the blue and gold again, he has a bright future ahead.
Minerd is a special young man.
"Most importantly, Charlie already embraces the reality that life is a team sport," Popelka said. "He can best be seen at school bringing his unique positive energy to any group setting: in a lab in the classroom, doing service, or as a teammate on the lacrosse field. Charlie laughs often, knows not to take himself too seriously, and allows himself to truly enjoy his friends and high school experience."
Before he heads to SLU, Minerd has some thank you's.
"I'd like to thank the coaching staff. The possibility of us not playing is there, but they've helped to form this family that we'll have for our entire lives. Joe Boehm has been coaching me forever. He doesn't coach me at goalie, but I enjoy him as a person and the consistency in having him on the sidelines," Minerd began. "My goalie coaches – Max Rennillo and Jim Smith – have also been great. They've worked with me individually to help me get better every day, and same with Coach Cerny. Mr. Rubino and Ms. Sizemore and Mr. Connacher have been great, too, in helping me get stronger and keeping me healthy.
"I want to thank all of my teachers, but especially Popelka and Henderson, helping me to discover what I want to do. And then, of course, my friends and family, starting with my dad. He was my very first goalie coach. He's been pushing me the hardest to be a good player on the field and a better man for others off the field. Thank you to my mom, and my brothers Riley '15 and Leo '18. I'm so thankful for everyone who's helped me."