Host Family Experiences: Ms. Stacy

Parent of alumni and fourth grade teacher DeeDee Stacy shares her experience hosting Lyndon Lyu ’20.

How did hosting an international student impact or change your family?
Having an international student in our home enriched our understanding of another culture first hand, and taught us that extending ourselves to those who need a place to live garners many rewards. The laughter, gratitude, and love that our student brought into our home resulted in an ongoing relationship that feels like family.

Do you have a special memorable moment you experienced while hosting your student?
There are countless memories worthy of sharing, because seeing MPA and Minnesota through the eyes of a new comer was delightful. When our student entered our home for the first time, he went into the living room and and twirled around, saying, “Thank you for letting me live here. I just love this house!” At the end of his first year here, when he learned that as a junior he might not have the same Lower School buddy, our student asked if he could write notes to the young student to let him know how much he enjoyed their time together. The connection to the community was obvious in so many ways. Read More


Calling All Host Families

Dear MPA Community,

Do you have a desire to expand your family’s perspective of the world? A room to spare? Space in your heart for another family member? MPA is seeking host families for three international students for the fall of 2022.

MPA and schools like MPA that have international student programs have struggled to find families willing to host since the beginning of the pandemic. We have three outstanding Upper School students (one male, two female) without homes yet and we are in great need of your help.

All have studied in the United States previously, for a year or more. Among them you will find a student who is an award-winning mathematician and pianist who plays in subway stations and nursing homes, a student who is passionate about oil painting and chemistry, and another who enjoys ceramics and track and field. All three are disappointed in the education systems they have been in and are looking for MPA’s approach to rigor with purpose and joy. All three are fluent in English, strong students, and have a desire to be part of a family here.

How Can You Help?

  1. Volunteer to host. Find many more details below. Note that a $9,000 stipend is provided for room and board.
  2. Share this opportunity on social media. Find a Facebook post here and a LinkedIn post here. Share widely and often!
  3. Email your network, neighborhood, and/or colleagues. Reach out to communications@moundsparkacademy.org and we will send you an email that is ready to forward.
  4. Put a lawn sign in your yard. Do you live on a well-traveled street in the Twin Cities? If so, email communications@moundsparkacademy.org and we will deliver a host family recruitment lawn sign to your home.

As you and your family consider hosting, please review the MPA Host Family Recruitment Flyer and Host Family Application.

STIPEND

  • A 10-month stipend of $9,000 will be directly deposited in equal installments of $900/month on the first of each month for the previous month, September through June.
  • An early installment of $500 will be deposited on August 1 in preparation for your student’s arrival; the remaining $400 will be deposited on September 1.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Host families are responsible for providing transportation to and from school and school-related activities.
  • Host families will work with their student in scheduling rides for social events.

MEALS

  • All international students will receive the MPA school lunch. Host families and students do not need to pack lunches.
  • Host families are responsible for providing two meals on all weekdays and three meals on all weekend days.

We hope you’ll consider opening your hearts and homes to one of our international students! Give it some thought, and if interested, please reach out to me for additional information and/or to begin the process of becoming a host family. I would love to have a conversation with you!

Thank you so much for considering,

Cory Becker-Kim
International Student Program Coordinator
Advanced Language and Culture Teacher
cbeckerkim@moundsparkacademy.org


Meet Samantha Forgosh ’22

Samantha ForgoshMeet Samantha Forgosh, a recent MPA Class of 2022 graduate and proponent of the many possibilities and experiences MPA had to offer during her time as a student.

What do you love about MPA?
The one-on-one experiences with your teachers and fellow classmates.

Why do you believe your teachers teach the way they do?
They want to ensure they give their students the best education and opportunities possible, and they do!

If you have attended another school, how has your experience here been different?
It’s difficult for me to remember my old school, but at MPA there have been so many more opportunities and experiences available for everyone, the possibilities are endless!

What would you tell another student considering MPA?
Even if you spend less than a year at MPA, it’s a guarantee that you’ll meet incredible people and create bonds you didn’t think were possible.

In what ways has MPA prepared you for life beyond school?
It’s given me impossible problems and trials that I would have preferred to avoid and taught me how to get around them. It’s challenged me, and taught me what the world could be like and what it is like.

What’s your big dream?
To either be the CEO of Disney, the Commissioner of the NFL, or to be rich and famous for a good reason.

How were you encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
MPA has encouraged me to do my best at every turn.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your MPA experience?
I can’t believe how much time I’ve spent at this school, yet every year, every day, and every class is always a new experience! It’s been an honor watching my fellow classmates grow up, and an honor learning along with them.


Evan Fraser Wins Class A Singles State Championship

Evan FraserCongratulations to Evan Fraser, the 2022 Class A Singles State Champion in Boys Tennis! Evan is from Nova Classical Academy and a member of the Panthers Co-op.

TwinCities.com reports, “Fraser’s was the third individual Class A title and second in three years (for MPA). Parker Law won the 2019 crown, and Bryan Kelly was the 2007 champ.” Click here to read the full article. Go Panthers!


Students Charting Their Own Course

Graduate with Global GCDSince its founding, MPA has pioneered whole child education in the Twin Cities with a commitment to helping students deepen their understanding of themselves and the world around them. We persistently innovate in alignment with that core value, providing experiences that are challenging to replicate anywhere else.

One of MPA’s visionary programs is the Graduate Certificate of Distinction (GCD). It inspires students’ educational quests in one of four areas: Global Studies, Science Technology Engineering Math & Design (STEM), Fine Arts, and as of this year, Literary Arts. Consistent with the essence of student voice, where students actively shape curriculum and impact their education, MPA encourages and recognizes excellence that takes place outside of our already rigorous curriculum. The GCD program was designed to provide committed students a way to formalize their work. Further, it embodies MPA’s willingness to encourage engagement between students and teachers. A journey of passion, commitment, and hard work, the amount of individualized engagement required to successfully support Upper School students who pursue this challenge can only be offered by a dedicated faculty that interacts one-on-one with each candidate.

“Over the years, Upper School faculty and administrators observed amazing kids pursuing what could only be described as ‘passion projects’—students who dove into fields purely to spend time deepening their understanding,” faculty advisors Kari Kunze (Global), Lisa Buck (Fine Arts), and Jane Anderson (STEM) share. “They were not necessarily those with the highest test scores or GPAs, but students who were independently driven to quench their own thirst for knowledge.”

The GCD program is not a one-size-fits-all concept, nor is it for the majority of students. It’s a time-consuming experience for juniors and seniors who are already naturally exploring multiple subjects in depth. And it’s clear that the student must be leading the process to make this work.

“If you imagine the candidate in front of the line with the advisor close behind and their family supporting from the rear, that’s a good model,” observes Buck. The faculty advisor serves as a sounding board or brainstorming partner and parents can help by factoring their student’s area of passion into family activities, but ultimately, the student is responsible for seeking out new experiences that support the GCD honor. “What those kids offer, in terms of sharing what they’ve pursued, is extremely inspiring to us as teachers and advisors,” says Kunze. “The role of the faculty is to incite curiosity, help build confidence, and cheer them on, but we gain a great deal in the process,” Buck adds.

Graduate with STEM GCDClass of 2018 alum Pranay Somayajula, now at The George Washington University, shares that he chose to pursue the Global Certificate and “the most valuable part of the program was the way it motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and explore the full range of cultural and foreign-policy opportunities the Twin Cities has to offer.” Maija Olson ’17 reflects on her Global Certificate as well, saying, “The freedom to guide my learning offered a new kind of independence. I enjoyed the ability to deeply explore various world issues and focus on something I was truly passionate about.”

The final presentations have turned out to be transformational for students–sometimes unexpectedly. Even when candidates were extremely nervous to get up before their teachers and present their reports at the end of their senior year, there is an evident level of maturity and empowerment along with a feeling of great accomplishment once they were done.

Alex Esch ’18 remarks that although she would’ve completed all the necessary hours in the Fine Arts area because of her personal interest, “The presentation requirement was incredibly valuable because it gave me the opportunity to share my passion and all the work I completed with teachers and fellow classmates. It was amazing to feel the support of the MPA community—especially from my personal advisor, Ms. Buck—as I expressed my love of the fine arts. She was always willing to answer questions and just be there as part of my artist’s journey.” It is truly a unique opportunity to be recognized by academic elders who have served as mentors and who can now formally honor the students’ hard work and devotion to education.

These students are charting their own course—one that can’t be shown by test scores, GPAs, or more traditional forms of recognition. The GCD program takes whole child education to a deeper level, honoring the unique contributions and multi-faceted academic experiences of each candidate. We’re looking for students to push themselves out of their normal routine in order to build multiple capabilities that intersect.

For more information on MPA’s Graduate Certificate of Distinction program, visit moundsparkacademy.org/gcd.


A Peek Into The MPA Robotics World

from Marc Shapiro, Upper School science teacher and robotics coach

If you’ve been in the Lansing Sports Center recently, you’ve surely seen the large wooden structure on Court 4. Maybe you even saw Michael Wilke ’16 working on it. The curiosity some people had about the structure made me overcome my reluctance at sending all employee emails, in order to compose this description of what the MPA Robotics team is about.

FIRST Robotics is an international organization headquartered in New Hampshire. It has four levels, starting with FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for elementary schoolers, all the way up to FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) for high schoolers. At MPA we have only an FRC team. Per capita, Minnesota has one of the highest participation rates in the U.S. There are more FRC teams in Minnesota than varsity hockey teams!

Each year, we are given a new “game” and a limited amount of time to create a robot to play the game. The robot must be designed, built, programmed, wired, and tested under strict constraints. A new robot is built every year; the game changes so much that there’s nothing from the previous year that is useful, other than possibly a drive chassis. With their batteries and bumpers, robots can weight up to 150 pounds. Teams are aided by adult mentors who are volunteers from the community, but the students have ultimate responsibility for designing, building, and operating the robot. Students can go the technical route and learn about building, coding, electronics and controls, computer-aided design, or using a CNC router, or several of these. They can also choose the non-technical path and work on such things as fundraising, marketing, outreach, and social media. Our team has Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and a still-under-renovation website. We are like a small business, and have to raise all our operating funds; our budget for this season is $24,000. Read More


A Lesson In Standing Out

Mr. Vergin talks with a student What is it about great teachers that makes them stand out?

In MPA Upper School teacher Mike Vergin, it’s a commitment to knowledge about his subject matter, synchronized with a sense of humility and a willingness to let students pursue their own interests (a major part of what defines him as an educator). His quiet, laid-back demeanor makes him approachable, but his students will assure you that he is incredibly passionate, whip-smart, and extremely sharp on a wide range of subjects.

Vergin has taught social studies at MPA for 24 years and has been an MPA parent for 15. His current classes are ninth grade Honors World History, AP World History 10, World Religions and Constitutional Law. He has also helped coach MPA’s award-winning Debate and Speech Teams.

Vergin upholds the MPA tradition of sparking vibrant discussions in the classroom, and he credits his debate experience to making all the difference in his ability to credibly see and present both sides of an argument. He appreciates it when his students take risks by leaving their comfort zones and engaging in discussions on important but controversial topics. “Here you can disagree, you can evolve in your thinking, and you can question your original stance. This is a place where being curious and informing yourself is cool, and we hold space for the messy process that it sometimes takes to fully develop a position.” Read More


Meet Fourth Grade Teacher DeeDee Stacy

DeeDee teaching in the MakerspaceHow many years have you been at MPA?
Since 1989 I think…

What do you love about MPA?
Loving MPA is an easy thing to do. The students and their families are all in–and the love of learning and excitement the students bring to the table each and every day makes each day a new adventure. My colleagues are amazing educators, and their passion and pursuit of best practices inspires me.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
Young children naturally dream big, and want to do right. Inspiring them to do just that, then, is easy. Modeling intellectual curiosity, respect, and critical thinking allows our students to maintain the part of themselves that expects the best of others, and to seek paths that bend toward right.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
Two major differences between MPA and other schools I’ve worked in were evident by about my third week at MPA. One was that teachers truly partner with families in order to support students in academics, the arts, and personal growth. The other, of course, was the students. One lesson I introduced as a middle school English teacher required students to illustrate a piece of writing. In other schools, this requirement was met with groans, complaints, and poorly completed work. At MPA, when I introduced the project, hands shot up, as they had in other schools. I braced myself for the onslaught of questions and complaints. Instead, students asked what medium they could use. They wondered if pencil renderings would work, or if water color might be better. They discussed with me, and amongst themselves, how one might choose different ways to illustrate work depending on the content of the piece of writing. Magical moments like that are commonplace at MPA. Read More


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!