May 6, 2019
Thirteen years ago, Mounds Park Academy Class of 2019 students were in kindergarten. As they graduate this year, 13 of them join MPA’s Joanne Olson Club, reserved for students whose entire K-12 or PreK-12 journey has taken place here at MPA.
In February, many members of this remarkable group were able to come together for a conversation about community. After all, who knows more about the MPA community than students who joined us in kindergarten and now leave the school as young adults, bound for college and a promising future?
How has MPA’s community supported and shaped you?
“In Lower School, as we walked to class, we’d high-five older kids. At home we’d tell our parents, ‘I high-fived this huge high schooler today!’ I want to support that community, too.” Parker Law
“Our relationships with teachers forge respect between adults and kids. We talk to our teachers about social-life issues, real-world issues, our opinions, and more. That’s shaped my relationships with adults outside school.” Tara Samsel
“Teachers encourage these relationships. I’m comfortable talking to people much older than I am.” Emilie Davidson
“We’ve grown up surrounded by older kids and loving adults. So that age difference doesn’t seem as big.” Gabby Law
How has the MPA community prepared you for academic and professional success, in addition to a meaningful life?
“MPA fosters curiosity. When I venture off to college and a career, I’ll still ask questions. I’ll look through different lenses and see different perspectives. I’ve learned how to listen to people.” YuLing DeBellis
“Our peers are curious about learning and that doesn’t stop once class is done. We understand the complexity embedded in societal problems. We’re more equipped to not take a
one-sided approach.” Aneesh Syal
“A great example of that is Ms. Murr’s U.S. history class, where you might have to argue for an opinion you don’t possess. You understand another perspective.” Tara Samsel
“You learn how to argue with someone, including your friends. You learn to listen to them and understand what they’re saying without getting angry. You keep that friendship.” Toby Sullivan
Why did you stay at MPA through 12th grade?
“I stayed because my mom wanted me to have opportunities she couldn’t. She was a beautician who earned her college degree when I was in Lower School, and she wanted me to go straight to college. MPA has been an extraordinary experience. It’s weird to think I’ve spent only four years of my life not here.” Annie Berwald
“I started in kindergarten and my brother started in second grade. He had learning differences and my parents couldn’t find support at other schools. They did at MPA. Now, when I tell my mom about my MPA experiences, she says, ‘This is why I sent you there.’” Tara Samsel
“In kindergarten, I lost my newly fallen tooth and I was really sad that the tooth fairy wouldn’t come. A senior found a mint, cut off a little bit to create a tooth, and gave it to me. I told my parents and they said, ‘Yeah, you’re staying at that school.’” Claire Hanson
“I stayed because there’s a community of helping and collaboration across all age groups.” Toby Sullivan
How do your teachers build community in your classrooms?
“Teachers are involved in your learning all the time. In art class, Ms. Sonka walks around the room and looks at everyone’s piece and asks if anyone needs help.” Emilie Davidson
“MPA employs all different types of learning, including visual and auditory, so all students feel included. We use the whole school as our classroom. We’re not confined to our desks.” Aneesh Syal
“Recently, we gave presentations about sex trafficking to the Middle School. Our teachers trusted us to speak about something that serious to community members who are younger and more vulnerable.” Tara Samsel
“Teachers want everyone to speak their voice and share their opinions. People feel comfortable doing that.” Annie Berwald
What makes this community so strong?
“Support. There’s always someone you can talk to when you need it.” Annie Berwald
“The foundation of our community is the kids in this room. We have some of the closest bonds here. But if someone new comes in, they immediately belong.” Parker Law
“Collaboration over competition. There’s no unnecessary competition at MPA—not in sports, academics, or social life. We’re all for leaders who lift others up.” Tara Samsel
“There’s a passion for learning here that brings people together.” Emilie Davidson
“There’s no limit to what you can do in classes. Everyone is trying their best.” Annie Berwald