Meet Jenny Portis ’16

Jenny Portis HeadshotWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
Right now, I’m on a gap year after graduating from Carleton College in June 2020 and attending Stanford Law School in August 2021. During this time, I’ve been working for Panther Club at MPA, volunteering for the ACLU-MN, and clerking for Judge Edward T. Wahl, Fourth Judicial District.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
Honestly, I’m still having trouble figuring out how and why everything ended up falling together so nicely for me this year. It’s probably some mix of networking (with both MPA and Carleton contacts), persistence, and a healthy dose of good luck. Being able to intern at legal advocacy organizations and firms was a big help for not just making contacts but also getting some real-world confirmation that this career path is a good fit for me. Read More

Boeder Risner Family Featured in Lake Elmo Magazine

Check out this wonderful feature on the Boeder Risner Family in the December 2020 edition of Lake Elmo Living Magazine! Adi Boeder Risner graduated from MPA in 2002, and after meeting her husband Kyle in Colorado, returned to Minnesota so that her children could attend MPA! “We wanted Luke and Levi to attend the same K-12 (now Pre-K-12) that I attended during my childhood. We chose Lake Elmo because of the unique homes, the privacy, history, and South Lake Elmo is located right between Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul and my parents’ place in Hudson,” she says.  Article by Allison Lund-Zalewski, photos by Hilda Berdie Photography. Read More

Meet Boys Basketball Coaches Rich Harris, Nate Bander, and Matt Bander

Meet Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Rich Harris

Rich Harris in front of MPA BannerWhat was your playing career like?
I played four years in high school in Oklahoma and was the starting point guard my senior year. I then played point guard at Southwestern College, an NAIA school in Winfield, Kansas, graduating in 1996.

What coaching experience do you bring to MPA?
After finishing my college career, I stayed on for one year as a student assistant. Since, I have coached a variety of different levels of basketball and many schools. Some highlights include coaching the freshman boys team at Southeast High School in Wichita, coaching JV boys and then Varsity boys at the American School of Doha in Qatar (we went undefeated in 2011), assistant coaching girls Varsity and then boys Varsity at American School in London, coaching Middle School and High School boys at the International Schools Groups in Saudi Arabia (we went 21-4 record and won the conference championship during the 2018-19 season), and coaching girls JV here at MPA. The girls at MPA taught me compassion and commitment and I will never forget that.

What is it about MPA that makes it a great place to coach?
The kids! MPA has such wonderful students who want to succeed. Also, the faculty and staff has been very supportive. Read More

Meet Simone LaBonté ’06

Simone LaBonté HeadshotSimone LaBonté ’06 is in her sixth year as the Director of Person Centered Practices at New Directions Inc. Under her leadership, New Directions Inc. partnered with local organization Woodbury Thrives to construct a community garden at a New Directions Inc. residential home in Woodbury, creating a resource for the home’s residents and the greater community.

Tell us more about your community garden project and your work with New Directions. How did the garden come to be?

I work for New Directions Inc., a small company that helps people with developmental disabilities lead fulfilling lives. People with disabilities are often isolated or segregated from their neighbors. The community garden is one of the ways New Directions is trying to change that and create connections with the local community.

Three of the men that New Directions serves and I partnered with Woodbury Thrives, a community building organization, and applied for a Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grant through Washington County. They ultimately funded the first year of a community garden project in the pre-Covid era (spring of 2019). The garden was hosted by the three guys–it was built and planted in their yard. We invited neighbors to a community get-together by going door to door to introduce ourselves and our idea. We also hung flyers and handwritten notes on people’s doorknobs. Read More

Meet Alumni and Current Parents Victoria Simmonds ’01 and Sam Brown ’94! 

Alumna Victoria Simmonds with her 2 ChildrenOne of the greatest things about MPA approaching its 40th birthday is the number of alumni choosing MPA for their own children. Nate Bander ’09 spoke with two alums, who each brought their families to MPA in the fall of 2020, on why they chose to come home. Meet Victoria Simmonds ’01, and Sam Brown ’94!

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally and how did you get there? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?

Victoria Simmonds ’01: I was immersed in the world of real estate as a child. My mother was a residential broker, and my father was a commercial developer. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a liberal arts degree, I knew pretty quickly that my future career would involve real estate in some form. Fast forward to now and I am an agent with Edina Realty. I am thankful, every day, to have found a career that I love, and I’m honored by each client who trusts me to help them navigate one of the most important transactions of their lives. The relationships that develop along the way are icing on the cake. Read More

Meet Alumni Board Member Kethan Dahlberg ’14

Kethan Dahlberg '14During his time at MPA, Kethan Dahlberg found his home-away-from-home. From early morning jazz band rehearsals and Nordic ski practices to late night track meets and study sessions for group projects, MPA taught him the importance of teamwork, perseverance, grit, and, importantly, the value and benefit of being an active and engaged member of the community. “Now, reflecting as an alumnus, and especially given the past few months of lock-down orders and quarantines, I feel it’s important for me to become further involved with my fellow alumni and the school to make sure the same strong sense of family and opportunities that I had during my time on campus remain in place for current students,” he said.

After MPA, he attended Harvard and graduated in 2018 with a concentration in government, secondary in music and citation in Spanish. He also pursued a variety of internship opportunities in various levels and branches of government. While he ultimately hopes to end up back in public service someday, he applied for his job with a private law firm before law school to see the other side of the coin and gain some insight into how businesses operate from a legal perspective. Read More

Meet Alumni Board Member Amanda Magistad ’12

Amanda Magistad '12Class of 2012 alum and 13-Year Club member Amanda Magistad joins the Alumni Association Board this year to serve, participate in, and grow with the MPA Alumni community. “I can confidently say that I would not be where I am today without the education and support I received from MPA. The opportunity to be a member of this board, and to hopefully ensure positive experiences for current and future students is a privilege,” she said.

Amanda has continued to stay connected with MPA after graduating. Her sister currently attends MPA, and Amanda loves attending Homecoming and staying up to date with current events through email newsletters and social media. “I continue to support MPA’s mission in everyday life by, ‘Dreaming Big and Doing Right.’ In both my personal and professional life I stand up for what is right, what I believe in and treat everyone with kindness. I am innovative, I am not afraid to speak up and I push myself to thrive and improve every day.” Read More

Meet Alumni Board Member Christopher Staral ’06

Chris '06Christopher Staral ’06 attended MPA for Middle and Upper school, and chose to serve on the Alumni Board to give back to the MPA community by offering mentorship in a career field that may be underrepresented and difficult to break into. He is currently the biotech Investment Analyst for Mangrove Partners and is responsible for making investment recommendations as they relate to the biotech sector.

He majored in chemistry and minored in biochemistry at Carleton College, and also performed medical research at the University of Minnesota’s Lillehei Heart Institute during breaks. He then attended the University of Minnesota’s Medical School immediately following undergrad, where he met his now-fiancée, a Minnesota native and investment banker in healthcare. She introduced him to the concept of trying to predict developmental drug program success as a way to value biotech companies, which he began doing during his spare time while at med school. This lead him to New York and pursue a career full-time in finance, starting at Canaccord Genuity in biotech and pharma equity research, and shortly thereafter moving to Goldman Sachs in a similar capacity.

While there are a diverse set of skills that Chris says can lead to success as an investor, a few that he learned during his time at MPA stand out as crucial. “The ability to think for oneself and to be skeptical of arguments that are made on the basis of authority rather than merit; the ability to quickly break down an abstract thesis into digestible, constituent parts and identify the crucial one or two questions that need to be answered in order to evaluate whether the thesis is valid or not; to have the self-awareness to know when your own knowledge base is insufficient to answer a question and seek out the resources that are needed; to have the confidence to know when you are right in the face of challenges to your beliefs that are unsubstantiated, but also have the self-confidence to admit that you can be wrong when new information disproves your beliefs; have an understanding of risk management,” he lists. “MPA was particularly important in providing a sound foundation for all of these points by providing a challenging, intellectually stimulating yet safe environment that pushed students beyond what they viewed as their own limits. Teachers would encourage students not to hang onto beliefs simply because someone told them it was true, but rather understand the facts and reason out for themselves why they ultimately believed (or dis-believed) something. Lastly, MPA’s strong math (and particularly statistics) provided students with the tools needed to independently test and verify hypotheses themselves rather than rely on someone else to tell them what is and is not true. Furthermore, and even more importantly, it allowed students to separate fact from falsity which is a crucial skill becoming ever-more-important in an age where technology has dramatically amplified the ability for those with perverse political incentives to manipulate and obfuscate truth in favor of a story that supports their own self-serving needs.”

Chris’s favorite experience at MPA was when he worked with three other students to pass a law that mandated 30 minutes of organ donation education in driver’s ed classes throughout the state of Minnesota, which came as the extension of a project he worked on in Ms. Conway’s public policy class. The class served as a way to combine many of the skills we learned throughout high school to creatively solve a problem we identified ourselves and effectuate actual change that continues to positively impact the lives of Minnesotans today.

Meet Nicholas Dugas ’11

Nicholas Dugas '11Meet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Nicholas Dugas ’11!

Nicholas Dugas ’11 joined the MPA Alumni Association Board because of the role MPA had in his personal growth and development. “Many of my best traits and skills had their seeds planted while I was a student at MPA, and I look back upon my time there fondly. I joined the Board because I want to give back to a place that gave me a lot, and help guide the school in such a way that the experience I had continues to be available to others,” he said.

Nicholas joined the MPA community when he was in fourth grade. His favorite memories stem from being on the speech team–hanging out in Ms. Kunze’s room workshopping, rehearsing, and preparing pieces for Saturday tournaments. He notes that one of the highlights was winning State in his respective category one year. Read More

Meet Isaac Marshall ’11

Meet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Isaac Marshall ’11!

After MPA, Isaac attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he closely studied health care delivery systems. He discovered a passion and interest that were key in making his career decisions later on. “I am inspired by professionals who have found mentors to engage their passions and expand their impact,” he said.

Isaac chose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board because he wants to help shape the future of MPA. Since graduating from MPA, he’s experienced the impact that his MPA education has had on his life. “From the first day of college and being prepared to write lengthy papers, to having professional confidence in my strengths, I can trace back several important traits to MPA and the learning that I engaged with there,” Isaac said.

Isaac sees himself supporting MPA both financially and in his role on the board. The “theme” of his support is directly related to MPA’s mission. Issac deeply believes that education is fundamental to growth and life-long success and life-long learning, and that MPA teaches these life-long skills in a way that produces learned and passionate students as each graduate goes out into the world and forges his or her own path. “I want to return to that organization that has impacted my path.”