October 8, 2020
by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School
Over the summer, a transformation took place at MPA. A little known and underutilized courtyard tucked away between the Lower School and our new Martin Lenz Harrison Library became a magical garden of discovery and joyfulness. What was grass is now a place where students can witness the growth and life, get their hands dirty, reconnect with the earth, and enjoy the bounty of fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Each section of the garden is marked by hand-painted stones with the name of the plant in English, French, and Spanish. The garden is the realization of a vision shared with me by Lower School parent Michelle Mick. Together with husband Tim, children Isaac and Freya, Chef Doug, Upper School student Samantha Forgosh, Class of 2019 alum Jaeden McFarland, and grounds staff Andy and Josh, Michelle created this charming and enchanting space for all to enjoy.
Fast forward to this week when the Lower School gathered virtually to launch CHAMP for the 2020-21 school year. In case you are not familiar with CHAMP, it stands for Character Happens At Mounds Park. CHAMP is a time-honored program wherein a character trait is chosen to explore with students throughout the school year in the classroom, in special assemblies, service-learning, music, art, and drama. This year’s theme, perseverance, is particularly relevant given the challenges presented by the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Michelle and Chef Doug zoomed into classrooms and shared their story of bringing the garden to life. They spoke of the challenges they overcame, including yards and yards of sod to be removed, mulch to be hauled, weeds and thistles to be removed, several heavy rains that flooded the space and washed the mulch away, and even several hornet stings. Their story of perseverance was the perfect kick-off to CHAMP this year, illustrating for students that people who persevere show steadfastness in doing something despite how hard it is or how long it takes to reach the goal.
Perseverance was on my mind on Monday when I attended the first three senior performances of the year. Another time-honored and cherished tradition, senior performances are a capstone experience at MPA. The seniors reflect on their learning, values, struggles, and passions as evidence of their readiness for college and life. The speeches then compel them to speak publicly about the formative moments that have helped shape who they are. These performances are incredibly inspiring for me. I wasn’t expecting, but was not surprised, to learn an important lesson about perseverance.
Senior Ani Hegelstrom, without naming perseverance, nonetheless captured the trait so well when she shared her artistic journey at MPA, embracing both passion and challenge. “Despite all [of my struggle],” she said, “I am more invested in art than I have ever been in anything else. I wasn’t able to see it before because the artistic process has never been happy-go-lucky for me. It’s challenging, discouraging, and relentless, but I do everything I can to lean into that discomfort. Even when I don’t enjoy the process, or when I’m disappointed by the results, I always leave with the feeling that I spent my time well, learning new skills and bringing something into the world that wasn’t there before.”
Whether fostered intentionally through character education or through the steady daily guidance of parents, coaches, and teachers, MPA students learn to persevere, developing the ability to move through obstacles, difficulty, and even embrace failure. Not only is perseverance especially relevant this year as we navigate the pandemic, it is a crucial life-long trait necessary to live a successful, productive, happy, and purposeful life.