Meet The Gruen Family

The Gruen FamilyThe Gruen Family lives in White Bear Lake, MN. Christine Gruen was an MPA student for four years, and this is her first year as an MPA parent! Max is in tenth grade and Samantha is in eighth.

What do you love about MPA?
I love that the teachers take the time to get to know students and genuinely care about their success and well being. I love that my children feel comfortable approaching their teachers if they ever need help or guidance. I love that MPA is a small family-type community. I love that my children are experiencing amazing learning opportunities that can be used in everyday life. I love seeing my children happy!!

What initially attracted you to MPA?
We had recently relocated to MPA from California. I was attracted to the warm welcome we received by both faculty and students, and the sense of acceptance my children received as transfer students.

How are your children encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
My children are inspired by their teachers to become the best versions of themselves, whatever that may be. They are always encouraged and challenged. Read More


Forbes 30 Under 30 Recognizes MPA Alumni

MPA acknowledges and celebrates our alumni for being featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list! Congratulations to Laurel Schwartz ’11 and Aaron Millberg ’10, we are so proud of our alums!

Laurel Schwartz ’11 was featured in the Marketing & Advertising category as the brand director of global non-profit organization: Crisis Text Line, which provides free, 24/7 mental health support by text message. In addition to this, Laurel is also a documentary filmmaker. Laurel shares that she is “so thankful for my MPA education that got me here!” Read more here.

Aaron Millberg ’10 was featured in the Hollywood & Entertainment section for his excellent work with United Talent Agency and for representing some very recognizable names such as DJ Khaled and Zachary Levi. Read more here.


Meet Alumni Board Member, Hena Vadher ’13

Introducing Hena Vadher ’13

For what grades did you attend MPA?
K-12 (“lifer!”)

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
To promote an equity/justice-based lens in a place that served a formative role in my growth

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
A critical assessor of, and huge advocate for, the ways MPA supports all of its students to learn, grow, and succeed on their own terms.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am a reader, poor and injury-prone runner, and aspiring generalist. Outside of how I enjoy living, I was recently working in disaster relief program implementation for New York City over 8 million residents with the American Red Cross as a disaster Response Manager. I oversaw the program, which included cash and sheltering support, for clients displaced due to disaster.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I studied International and Area Studies at Washington University in St. Louis interested in pursuing a humanitarian career, inspired by my time interning with UNHCR—the UN’s Refugee Agency—in Geneva, Switzerland. After graduating, I was lucky to learn and grow at Breakthrough Twin Cities in St. Paul before relocating to New York City and eventually beginning my role with the American Red Cross.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
MPA prepared me to ask questions, prioritizing critical reflection on what and how to ask. I don’t—and can’t—know everything. But, feeling comfortable asking questions and demonstrating vulnerability in that respect goes a long way in better understanding your context (both in personal and professional spheres) and discerning a path toward “doing right.”

What’s next? Any aspirations – personal or professional – that you’d like to share?
I’m currently thinking quite a bit about how I enjoy engaging with my career and am putting intention toward growing in analytic and written communication skills.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
As always, I hope to continue to learn and grow–and support the same for a formative community in my life.

Please share your favorite MPA story.
Thirteen years is a long time for “favorites.” But, I’m so proud to tell stories about how my school encouraged political engagement and thought. I’ll never forget Ms. Conway cancelling our Constitutional Law class the day the Minnesota House voted on whether to legalize gay marriage, asking us all to be present for history at the Capital. That day, she prioritized that sometimes learning comes from living. After the House passed the measure she explained, “In five years, there will be teenagers who won’t remember a time when they couldn’t marry the person they love.” Unforgettable.


Meet Alumni Board Member, Katie (Ditmore) Sinaikin ’97

Katie (Ditmore) Sinaikin, 1997

For what grades did you attend MPA?
K-12

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
MPA gave so much to me; I’d like the opportunity to give back to the MPA community

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
I give, financially, but have also always advocated for the value an MPA education brought to my life.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I work in the biotech/pharma space helping bring oncology drugs to patients who need them most. Personally, I am the mother to 2 sons who keep me quite busy 🙂

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I attended Wellesley College and received my MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. My first role out of undergrad was in Strategy consulting where I worked with a number of small biotechnology companies, and that inspired me to continue to work in that field. All of my work is grounded in knowing “how” to think and not just “what” to think – that’s something that MPA fostered in me from the beginning.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
MPA allowed me the opportunity to try everything. New languages, new sports, new extracurriculars. I was not the best runner or cross country skiier, but I always had a place on the team and I appreciate that even more now as I’m raising my own children and trying to figure out how to give them those same opportunities to “dream big and do right”

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I would just love to see the MPA community – alumni and current students – grow and thrive and continue to develop a new generation of thinkers and doers

Please share your favorite MPA story.
Oh this is hard! When I was in my senior year of track and field something “clicked” and I was running my best times. I ran multiple PRs and was able to be part of the 4x800m relay team that went to Sectionals. Being able to share that success with a team that had been with me for 6 years (Because I was able to join the team as a 7th grader!) and especially with Mrs. Docherty who had been coaching me that entire time was incredibly special.


Meet Alumni Board Member Adi Boeder Risner ’02

Adi Boeder Risner ’02

For what grades did you attend MPA?
K-6 and 10-12 (relocated to Belgium 7-9)

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
Over the last year, my interest in the Alumni Association peaked as I noticed more and more alumni choosing Mounds Park Academy for their children. As a member of the Parents Association at MPA, connecting with all parents is a delightful part of my role, but I especially enjoy relating to other alumni parents given our shared experiences and values. Last year, the Kindergarten class was composed of 20% children of alumni! I pursued a position on the Alumni Association Board to better serve as a bridge between alumni and current and/or prospective parents.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
Well, I send my kids to MPA!

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
My husband and I were married in 2014 in Estes Park, CO, and we now have two sons and a bulldog together. We moved back to the Twin Cities from Denver in 2018 to be closer to family and for the boys’ education. I’m currently a Statistician at 3M. I recently re-entered the corporate workforce after staying home with my youngest son for 3 years. Fun fact, I also make soap – lots and lots of soap!

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
After graduating from MPA in ’02, I received my bachelor’s at St. Olaf College in both mathematics and economics. I worked at an actuarial firm for several years before relocating to Denver in 2011, for the mountain lifestyle. Here, I completed my master’s in business intelligence at the University of Denver, Daniels College of Business. In the years to follow, I worked at a major healthcare company, building statistical models and training data scientists on predictive modeling techniques. I find that I’m most inspired when I accept the challenge to change perspective. For example, the best move that I ever made (both personally and professionally) was taking some time off to stay home and focus on family. The change was scary and uncertain, and no-one thought it was a suitable role for me, but ultimately taking that leap was an extremely gratifying decision that continues to provide benefits. Finding fulfillment at home changed my perspective of who I was and what I can contribute to the world. Not only did I soak up the quality time with my kids but I was also able to recalibrate my goals for the future. I think that anytime you allow yourself to change perspective you’re given the opportunity to grow.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
At MPA I felt regularly encouraged, challenged, and respected in my approaches to problems, without fear, judgement, or social pressure. Most importantly, I think that MPA provided me with a safe environment to pursue a wide-range of multiple disciplines and to make balanced choices about my interests. The emphasis that I felt on exposure and balance over perfection prepared me for an evolving future full of choices that I didn’t yet know existed.

What’s next? Any aspirations—personal or professional—that you’d like to share?
I’m really excited to wear multiple hats this year – Alumni Board Member, Parent’s Association Grade Rep, MPA parent, and full-time working mom. Fun times!

Please share your favorite MPA story.
I vividly recall, as a high schooler, spending most of my free time in Ms. Buck’s classroom, working on my ceramics projects. There was always some detail that needed fine-tuning or some creative process to map out, or maybe I just loved the smell of the clay. Either way, her classroom was always open and I knew that I could expect her cheerful smile. This was my favorite part of the day.


Meet Alumni Board Member Abigail Duffine ’98

Abigail Duffine ’98

Full Name and Graduation Year
Abigail Duffine, 1998

For what grades did you attend MPA?
7-12

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
I have always felt a connection to, and appreciation for, MPA. Now that I’m an active volunteer at my children’s’ independent school, I wanted to also give back to MPA.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
I believe in MPA’s inclusive and well rounded education.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally 50-100 word bio?
After working in Independent school education (including at MPA!) and recruiting teachers for nyc, I am now dedicated to volunteer work at my sons’ school.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
After attending MPA I attended The George Washington University. I found my passion in doing marketing and recruiting. I always loved sales and found “selling” an education to be extremely rewarding.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
MPA was a place where I could grow and be involved in a safe and inclusive environment. I loved my time there!

What’s next? Any aspirations – personal or professional – that you’d like to share?
I look forward to being an active and engaged member of our current school, Germantown Academy.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I hope to help MPA continue to grow and thrive.

Please share your favorite MPA story.
Some of my favorite MPA memories involved athletics. While I wasn’t a particularly talented athlete, MPA allowed me the opportunity to be enjoy the thrill of being on a team.


Meet MPA English Teacher Maddy Wolfe ’12

Maddy Wolfe '12How many years have you been at MPA?
How do I possibly answer this concisely?! I went to MPA for high school, and then a few years ago I helped out in various roles before starting graduate school. This is my second year here as a teacher.

What do you love about MPA?
It feels cruel to choose just one, but I’d have to say the people and the community are what I love most about MPA. The relationships I started to make with teachers and administrators in high school have far surpassed the four years I attended, and now as a faculty member they have become the foundations of my adult life.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
MPA inspires students to dream big and do right through the emphasis on teaching to the whole child. MPA recognizes that a child’s education is so much more than just one or two subjects. It is about nurturing them into growing up to be the curious, smart, conscientious adults our world needs.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
I realize that there are so many factors when choosing a school for your child, and it’s often a huge decision to make. However, MPA truly is even better than it seems on the surface. It’s an intimate, connected community that will encourage and support your child to be the best version of themselves, regardless of their name, gender, race, ethnicity, or interests they may have.

In what ways are you preparing students for life in the 21st century?
More than ever before our students thinking broadly and globally. They are connected to people all over the world and are constantly subjected to a myriad of opinions and viewpoints. In my classes, we do so much more than just read texts; we think critically about the world around us and respond thoughtfully and thoroughly, in order to help students become expert communicators and thinkers.

What do you hope for MPA students in 20 years?
I hope they are living their values out in the world and being the change our world needs, however big or small. I also hope they come back and share what they’ve done and where they are, because we are all behind them supporting them, cheering them on!

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your MPA experience?
MPA has been a part of me since I was 14 years old, and it has fused itself onto my soul in many ways. There is a reason I’ve kept coming back here after years of working and living in other places all over the world. I have a hard time picturing who I would be without MPA, and the overwhelming gratitude I feel is so immense it fuels my work every day with students. Thank you, MPA, for everything you have given me.


Meet Alumni Board Member Lesley Kroupa ’97

Lesley Kroupa ’97

For what grades did you attend MPA?
K-12

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
Joining the Alumni Association board is just one small way I can give back after growing up in the halls of MPA.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
The mission of MPA is more important than ever, and since my time at MPA I continuously strive to act with integrity and recognize our responsibility to support our communities.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am currently the Interim Policy Director of the Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. I provide strategic policy recommendations for ongoing research projects and participate in local, state, and federal campaigns related to child nutrition and nutrition education. Prior to joining the Tisch Food Center, I spent 11 years practicing corporate law in New York City. My husband and I recently moved to San Diego and I am adjusting to winters without parkas and mittens.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I went to Smith College after MPA and went to the University of Michigan Law School a couple years thereafter. After years of practicing law, I knew I wanted to pivot my career to the non-profit sector, so I got a master’s in nutrition and public health from Teachers College, Columbia University. I now use my legal skills to advocate for public health policies.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I would love to see MPA continue to connect and maintain its relationships with its alumni living throughout the United States and abroad.


Meet Alumni Board Member Isabel Meyer-Mueller ’17

Isabel Meyer-Mueller ’17

For what grades did you attend MPA?
I was at MPA for K-12

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
I have never been a part of a more supportive, caring, and intellectually stimulating community than MPA. For 13 years, MPA provided me with not only a place to learn, but a place to build life long friendships, pursue my passions, and create a home. I chose to apply to the Alumni Association Board as a way of giving back to a community that gave me so much and to ensure that even after graduating, each alum knows that they have a place in the MPA family.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
During my senior year at MPA I was voted “Most School Spirit” and that love for MPA has never dwindled. In a lot of ways, I believe that the MPA mission has formed the bedrock of my personal and professional identity. I do my best to prioritize respect and inclusivity, thinking independently, and living up to my responsibility to change the world for the better. Most importantly, I see myself as a lifelong learner and find joy in learning something new everyday.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I graduated from Macalester College in May with a B.A. in Psychology and Community and Global Health. This fall, I will begin a Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at UW Stout. I will also be working with Just The Pill, a mobile clinic that provides medication abortions to rural Minnesotans, as a community outreach coordinator. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, baking, playing pickleball, exploring new running routes in Minneapolis, and going for long walks with my sheepadoodle puppy, Bertie.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
I am so thankful that MPA prepared me to thrive in college. Not only did I learn the necessary writing and reading skills, but I learned how to think critically, manage my time effectively, maintain healthy relationships, and balance academics, athletics, and arts, all of which set me up well for my time at Macalester. Most importantly, MPA instilled me with the belief that I have not only the ability but the responsibility to make a difference in the world. MPA not only gave me the skills to form my own opinions and develop passions but also the confidence to go out and change what needs changing.

What’s next? Any aspirations – personal or professional – that you’d like to share?
My professional goal is to become a sexuality therapist/educator. As a result of my time at MPA, I put a high value on education that teaches students how to think, not what to think. And that is exactly what quality sex education is — giving students all of the information and then letting them decide what is the best decision for their own body. My goal is a world where everyone has the information they need to make the best decisions for their own body and the vocabulary to articulate what that looks like. Personally, I have recently taken up running and I hope to run a marathon next year. I have also been training my dog, Bertie, to become a Canine Good Citizen with the hopes of eventually training him to be a therapy dog.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I am very excited to get to know the other members of the Alumni Association Board and make connections with MPA graduates across generations. I hope that as a team we will be able to facilitate relationships between MPA and its alumni and that everyone who graduates from MPA knows that they will be an important part of the community for the rest of their lives. I am particularly excited to be a part of the new Subcommittee for Alumni for Antiracist Practice in order to increase awareness of antiracism at MPA and among alumni.

Please share your favorite MPA story.
When I was in high school and the school day ended, I never wanted to leave. MPA was one of my favorite places to spend time. Some of my favorite MPA memories are from the countless hours I spent hanging out after school. It didn’t matter if I was doing homework with friends in the yearbook room, going to soccer practice, singing in the spring musical, or helping a teacher with a project, I was always having a blast and did not want to leave. I think this speaks to MPA’s incredible ability to create a safe and welcoming environment for students and I am so grateful that my school felt more like a second home than anything else.


Congratulations Logan Sand ’08!

Logan Sand HeadshotCongratulations to Logan Sand ’08 on winning MPA’s Alumni Association Award for the 2020-2021 year!

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am program manager for the Seeing and Exploring Life’s Future (SELF) Program at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. We do comprehensive, medically accurate, and culturally relevant sex education all over the Twin Cities. I’ve been with LSS since 2017 when I came back to MN after graduate school. I started as program coordinator and I’ve been managing the program since 2019.

The majority of my work is with middle school students but we also work with youth in the community who are at ‘high risk’ for sexual exploitation/unplanned pregnancy/STIs (in other words, folks who would really benefit from sex education). I’m particularly proud of the fact that our program is one of the few in the area providing sex education to individuals with cognitive and intellectual disabilities (with content specifically tailored to that population). We always seek to provide our education through an anti-oppression lens. Good sex education is anti-racist, gender inclusive, and honors cultural experiences and worldviews; I like to think that SELF does really good sex education. Read More