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

MPA’s Success At The Classic State Debate Festival

from Katie Murr, Social Studies Teacher and Upper School Debate Coach

Congratulations to the MPA debate team on a wonderful performance at the Classic State Debate Festival. 42 students represented the school, and Mounds Park Academy received the second-place team sweepstakes award. This award is based on the top two performances across each of the three divisions of competition – novice, junior varsity, and varsity. It’s a testament to the depth of the team.

We call the tournament the Classic Debate Championships in novice and junior varsity. In the novice division, the team of Greta Hanson and Max O’Connor advanced to the octafinal round, and the team of Zoya Nayak and Annika Binstadt advanced to the quarterfinal round. The team of Molly Vergin and Meiran Carlson advanced all the way to the final round, finishing as the runners up in the division. In the junior varsity division, the teams of Ben Murr and Akshay Somayajula and Zoe Schnell and Frances Martin advanced to the quarterfinal round, while the team of Ian Frankel and Trevor Lien made it to the semifinal round.

The varsity division is called the Minnesota State High School League Classic Debate State Festival, as the MSHSL sponsors the awards for this event. Before we get to the team results, we want to applaud two seniors who were recognized with all-state debate honors for their excellence over the entire season: Charlotte Bergh and Ruby Schwieger. In team competition, MPA had a strong performance. The team of Kaija Kunze-Hoeg and Jenna Sherwood broke to the quarterfinals, where, because of seeding, they had to debate their teammates, Charlotte and Ruby. The judges commented that it was a good round, and Charlotte and Ruby advanced. In the semi-finals, Charlotte and Ruby defeated an excellent team from Eastview High School, and in the finals, Charlotte and Ruby also debated well against another fine team from Eastview, finishing as the runner up.

A special thank you to all the alums who judged and coached for the team this season. In particular, Meg Wilkening ’18 and Elli Carlson ’20 deserve special recognition. These two alums were outstanding debaters and returned to the team to give back to MPA in ways that are hard to capture in words. This season, they coached over 100 students through the rigors of debate, teaching about research, speaking, and writing. We are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of their patient brilliance.

Go Panthers! Go Juggernaut!

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.

Exceeding What We Dared To Dream

dr. Hudson talking to prekby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

“There are four main ingredients contributing to the success of our school. First is the student body which is made up of a diverse group of individuals, each with their own strengths, talents, and enthusiasm. Second is a dedicated faculty that enjoys and really cares about students and individuals. Third is an administration that truly believes in establishing an atmosphere of support for the students, faculty, staff, and parents. Fourth is a board of trustees which is actively committed to overseeing the entire operation of this school.”

Does that sound like something you might have read in one of my recent Panther Post messages? Perhaps. Instead, they are the words of MPA co-founder Bob Kreischer in a document shared with the founding Board of Trustees of a school with no students, no teachers, no building, and no name on December 11, 1981. Yet there was a vision, what founding Lower School Director Joanne Olson described as “a dream and a shoestring with no assurance of success.” Read More

Interested In Becoming A Host Family?

An MPA Host FamilyMPA is actively recruiting host families for both mid-year and fall of 2022 international students joining our school from around the world. This is a wonderful opportunity to open your home and your heart to another student, deepening your family’s global perspectives! For much more information, including details about the available stipend, please visit Reach out to Cory Becker-Kim, international student program coordinator, at to express your interest and learn more.

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?

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.

The Fall Campaign Is Underway!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Let’s Join Together Fall Campaign Kick-off last Friday! It was a wonderful time to connect, meet new friends, and celebrate the impact giving has on MPA.

Don’t forget, participation is what matters most. Our goal is to reach 70% participation for each grade. When your student’s grade reaches this level, they earn a fun “40 Minutes Free” party in honor of the school’s 40th Anniversary.

If you haven’t marked your calendars yet, don’t forget next Thursday is Give to the Max Day! Look in your email inbox soon for more details. Hint: it includes some of your favorite MPA teachers in the annual tradition of a lip sync battle!

For questions or more information, contact Jennifer Rogers, director of development and community engagement, at

Learn more about the Fall Campaign >
Make a gift >

Follow-Up Vaccination Clinic: November 29

MPA will be hosting a follow-up on-campus vaccination clinic on Monday, November 29 from 4-8 PM. We will be offering first or second Pfizer vaccinations for anyone age five or older (including adults), first or second Moderna vaccinations, as well as Pfizer or Moderna booster shots for those who are eligible.

In addition to welcoming MPA community members, this clinic will be open to anyone and is being offered in partnership with Health Care Strong. Please help us spread the word by sharing this page with your network. You do not have to have attended the first clinic to attend this clinic.




  • Please download above, print, complete, and bring the consent form for all those who will be receiving vaccinations. This will help the process move along more quickly and efficiently.
  • Bring your vaccination card (if applicable).
  • All injections will be provided by a highly-trained medical professional and the 15-minute observation period will be staffed by medical professionals as well.
  • Please enter at door 2, the Atrium, which is to the left of the flag pole near the south entrance.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance.
  • Do not attend the clinic if anyone in your household has had COVID-19 within the past 14 days, has any symptoms of COVID-19, or is currently quarantining due to close contact exposure.


  • Any student or adult age five (on the day of the clinic) or older may be vaccinated at this event with their first or second vaccination.
  • Students to be vaccinated should wear short-sleeved shirts and be rested. They should have had something to eat prior to arriving.
  • Students younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and must present a vaccination consent form (download above, print, complete, and bring).


  • Students 18 or older do not need parental consent to be vaccinated.
  • Click here to determine your eligibility for a booster.

We’re grateful to share that approximately 60% of our newly-eligible unvaccinated children received their first vaccination at the clinic on November 8. We strongly urge you to consider vaccinating your children so that they may remain healthy, safe, and happy on campus.

If you are unable to attend this clinic, please visit to learn more about other options and get information.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to should you have any questions or need any additional information or resources.

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.