2024ward: An Update

from Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

Mounds Park Academy has a long history of thoughtful strategic planning. Through the years, trustees, parents, faculty, staff, and students have come together to chart a path forward to guide the ongoing growth and development of the school in order to meet the evolving and emerging needs of our students. We are now in the third year of our current strategic plan, 2024ward, with the process to create our next plan beginning in the fall. I want to highlight a few accomplishments and share some emerging plans.

PRIORITY ONE: Empower Students to Live, Learn, and Thrive in an Increasingly Complex and Globalized Society.

  • A committee of faculty and staff created a Portrait of a Graduate. The portrait is a representative statement and visual heuristic that conveys our commitment to teaching and learning at MPA.
    Standards for equity and inclusion, social-emotional learning, innovation, technology, and digital wellness were created by faculty and staff. Together with content-specific standards, they will guide a comprehensive curriculum review next year.
  • The Portrait of a Graduate and the newly developed standards guide the creation of a competency framework devised to articulate and make actionable the transferable skills embedded in the Portrait of a Graduate and prepare students for the world ahead.
  • In the past year, we have been researching international organizations that reflect our mission, vision, and values in hopes of establishing a partnership with an international school. Such a partnership is designed to foster cross-cultural competence and global citizenship. There have been some exciting developments that I hope to share with you very soon.

PRIORITY TWO: Ensure An Equitable and Inclusive Community.

  • A 16-member Equity and Belonging Committee composed of faculty and staff was convened in the fall of 2022 and has created shared diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) language for the MPA community. In addition, the committee developed DEIB-related curriculum standards that are reflected in the school’s Portrait of a Graduate and the emerging competency framework.
  • Together with the Equity and Belonging Committee, the director and assistant director of equity and belonging developed an extensive DEIB resource guide for all MPA employees that was deployed in September 2023.
  • For the second year in a row, MPA student representatives participated in the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, and faculty and staff representatives attended the People of Color Conference, both sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools. And, MPA is a founding sponsor, together with SPA, of a new and local Twin Cities Student Diversity Leadership Conference to be held on February 16.

PRIORITY THREE: Affirm and Inspire our Exceptional and Dedicated Faculty and Staff through Competitive Compensation. Read More

A Message From Clare Halloran ’03

Dear MPA Alumni,

In this season of reflection, three MPA moments are on my mind. First, in June of this year, I had the opportunity to help organize our 20th class reunion. The planning process was a fun way to reconnect with many fellow classmates, especially since not everyone was able to attend the event. But what was even better than planning was catching up in person and seeing many familiar faces, hearing about parents and siblings (and partners and kids!), and learning about the amazing things that people are now doing personally and professionally. Thank you to all who could attend and those who traveled across the country to do so!

Another important MPA milestone for our family this year was choosing to enroll our daughter in
kindergarten at MPA. In discussing our dreams of what we would want for our children’s education—a supportive environment, rigorous and engaging academics, a focus on the whole child, and the
opportunity to build lifelong friendships—we knew that MPA was where we wanted them to grow and
thrive. “Dream big, Do right” is the motto I hope our children can carry with them through MPA and
beyond. Read More

We’re Using Robots to Build Kids—With Your Help

It’s been 35 years since I graduated from Mounds Park Academy. Had you asked me then, I would never in a million years have predicted my eventual return as both a parent of a senior and, equally incredibly, as a mentor for the school’s FIRST® robotics competition (FRC) Team 3926, the MPArors.

How I came to mentor robotics is a long story. But it’s so much fun, full of energy, intensity, and camaraderie. I’ve watched in real-time as students grow in confidence and leadership. “We’re using robots to build kids” is how FIRST founder Dean Kamen once described it. While the team wisely keeps me away from actually building the robot, I mentor a lot of the other team’s activities: community outreach, public engagement through social media, preparing for regional competitions, fostering inclusivity in STEM, and raising funds to pay for it all.

It turns out that running an FRC team isn’t cheap! Last year’s expenses included $16,000 in robot supplies, $8,000 in registration fees for two competitions, and $14,000 in travel-related costs. The team also has to regularly update aging tools and equipment.

This is our busiest time of the year for fundraising, and I’m touched by all the generous alumni who have supported robotics at MPA. Did you know that roughly half of the team’s funds come from individual donors? We are so grateful that you have helped us start the season strong.

However, there is still a ways to go before we meet our financial goal. So, this giving season, I’m reaching out to my fellow alumni to ask for your help. Perhaps you yourself were part of the robotics team, or (like me) wished the team had existed when you were a student at MPA. Or maybe you simply appreciate the profound impact that FIRST® Robotics has on our kids.

We’d love to hear from anyone interested in supporting the team – or is able to introduce us to potential new business or corporate sponsors (who make up more than 40% of our funding). Learn more at www.team3926.org or the QR code below, or call (651) 777-2555 x462.

Thank you! Go MPArors!

Sirid Kellerman ’88

A History-Making Performance For Debate

Congratulations to the MPA Debate Team on a history-making performance at the Classic State Debate Festival. Forty-six students represented the school, and for the first time in its history, Mounds Park Academy won the 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. This win is a testament to the countless hours of research, thinking, and practice these students contributed throughout the season.

We call the tournament the Classic Debate Championships in novice and junior varsity. In the novice division, the teams of Sidd Sastry and Kelvyn Boddipalli, Amila Avdic and Ayub Barre, and Myah Hoeschen and Nicole Kim advanced to the octafinal round. The teams of Josh Murr and Hannabella Li and Carter Short and Nico Bergh advanced to the quarterfinal round. And in a commanding performance, the team of Ash Klann and Victoria Lin won the entire division. In the junior varsity division, the teams of Mari Minear and Navreen Biring and Paul Fertig and Zainab Lodhi advanced to the quarterfinal round, while the team of Truman Wilgocki and Soren Winikoff advanced to the semifinal round. And the team of Greta Hanson and Rowan Mulrooney finished second in an extremely competitive final round.
Read More

Meet International Student Alum Peter Wu ’19

Peter Wu '19 What are you currently doing professionally and personally?
I am working as an art teacher at an elementary art institute. At the same time, I am a freelance animator, film director, and production designer.

Where did you attend college, and what experiences or relationships have inspired you along the way?
School of Visual Arts, New York City. Observations, stories, and people from different backgrounds have inspired me to create different film ideas to speak for minorities in society. My connections with famous artists and producers such as Bob Camp and Mario Menjivar have led me deeper into the filmmaking industry.

How was your experience at MPA different than other schools?
Since I transferred from another American high school to MPA, I have seen that MPA is more accepting of students with diverse backgrounds. Not only the education, but the faculty and students are more supportive. Read More

A Spotlight On MPA Athletics

Nate and Yahya at State 2019 This message is from MPA’s Office of Admission from the November 27, 2023 issue of InsideMPA. Click here to get in touch with Admission and learn more!

What factors contribute to a student athlete’s success, both on and off the field? How does a small-by-design school like MPA foster athletes who go on to do incredible things?

A balance between athletics, academics, and the arts is not found at every school. Often students’ priorities conflict and they must choose one passion area over another. MPA students are encouraged to dive deep into many passion areas and the supportive environment makes doing so possible.

When Nate Bander ’09, coach, saw potential in basketball player Yahya Madar ’19 and inspired him to join the track team as a high jumper, a transformation began, and history was made. What might seem like a sports story is so much more.

Through our no-cut policy, low student-teacher ratio, and committed and passionate community, student athletes are known, understood, and seen by their teachers, coaches, and mentors. They receive help when they ask for it. They are fiercely cared for. They are encouraged to take risks and dream big. Click here to hear their story.

A Message From Tim Koerner ’03

Dear MPA Alumni,

At our house, the Halloween decorations have been put away, the Thanksgiving Turkey yard blow-ups are standing proudly in the fading grass (to the delight of our sons), and I am reflecting on the concurrent themes of this month of November: money and gratitude.

Money has been a topic du jour of this month for our family, as we took the leap to take our 5 year old (MPA Kindergartener, Lewis) and 3 year old, Arlo, to Disney World and Legoland for the first time.

“Is this worth it? What will spending all this money do for them?” These questions swirled in our minds as we overpacked for the journey, walked tens of miles through 5 theme parks in 6 days, and as we laced up our shoes for Legoland on November 16th, these same questions arose as Give to the Max stories, appeals and requests began filling our inboxes, a bread crumb trail of all the causes we have ever invested our faith in over the last 15 years.

“Do you still believe in us?” is how I interpreted the core question of each Give to the Max email I received. In the case of MPA, as a Class of 2003 alumns and MPA ‘Lifer’ (K-12 attendee), myself, and current parents of an MPA student, our answer was and is a resounding ‘Yes!’

My wife and I chose to give to MPA on Give to the Max Day, because they have created access to an environment for our son, Lewis, that nurtures him so well, he stated after the first week of school this fall that “I wish I could move my bed there and stay there!” I graduated 20 years ago from the same halls that my son now walks, and I am reminded of the lyrics to ‘The Thanksgiving Song’ by Ben Rector in this month of November:

“Funny how it all looks different
But it feels the same
Like how life never stops changing
But some things never change”

In this month of November, on such a day as Give to the Max Day, we give our money to the places, people and ideas that give us gratitude.

‘Your Gift, Their Future’ celebrates the countless connections MPA students make each day on campus, across academic innovation, athletic prowess and flourishing arts programs. When I was a high school student at MPA in the early 2000s, gifts such as yours enabled the launching of the laptop program.

During the fall campaign stretch alone in 2023, you see the fruits of such gifts as cross country runners and The Blue Wave make their way to State, middle school students put on a stellar ‘Puss N’ Boots’ production with incredible set design and a NYT bestselling author and poet, Jacqueline West, visits campus.

“Is this worth it? What will spending this money do for them?” Whether it’s a family trip, a campaign gift or a Give to the Max Day infusion at the level you are able to contribute, you perpetuate the spirit, energy and ideals of a place that gives you and your children gratitude.

I can think of no better worth for money, myself, and I am grateful to have experienced MPA firsthand, 20-30 years ago, now seeing my son revere MPA as a second home, as I once did.

Apparently, a few of you out there share similar sentiments, as the challenges seen below were met during the MPA Give to the Max Day and Fall Campaign: $529,156 raised overall throughout the Fall Campaign and $356,491 raised on Give to the Max Day.

Because of your generosity and gifts, students will continue to thrive and joyfully experience opportunities at MPA that will shape and enhance their future(s), in the years to come.

On behalf of the current MPA parent community, the Alumni Association and all our beloved MPA teachers and staff, we are thankful for you this season!

See why others gave by reading the comments here.

Relationships Matter

Katie Murr and Salmah ElmasryThis message is from MPA’s Office of Admission from the October 28, 2023 issue of InsideMPA. Click here to get in touch with Admission and learn more!

At MPA, relationships matter, and every child is known. We pride ourselves in being a community that connects with one another. We collaborate with one another, we lift each other up, we provide a support system when needed, and we celebrate each and every one of our accomplishments. As a small-by-design school, every day we witness how relationships have the power to transform lives.

Through our 7:1 student-teacher ratio and dedicated faculty and staff, students receive help when need it, they are fiercely cared for, and they are encouraged to dream big. This is, and always has been, an integral part of who we are as a school.

So when Upper School history teacher Katie Murr and Salmah Elmasry ’21 were met with an opportunity of a lifetime–an opportunity that would require close collaboration and partnership between a teacher and student–they did not hesitate to work together and do right by their community.

When teachers see, hear, and believe in their students, remarkable things happen. Hear their story here.

October Alumni Updates

We are looking for more Alumni Stories to feature. We would love to hear what you have been up to since graduating from MPA. Please email us to provide updates to alumni@moundsparkacademy.org.

Ben Ullery ‘00: “I’ve played viola in the LA Philharmonic since 2011, and I recently was named Associate Principal Viola by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel after a national audition for the spot. In the past few years, I’ve also appeared as Guest Principal Viola with the Chicago Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, and Australian Chamber Orchestra. I also enjoy teaching talented viola students at the Colburn School in downtown LA, and at the Aspen Music Festival in the summer. In addition, I play a lot of solo and chamber music around LA and at various festivals across the US and abroad. In my personal life, I live with my girlfriend (a cellist also in the LA Phil) in the Fairfax District of LA, and in my free time I enjoy studying and playing chess, hiking, cooking vegan and vegetarian food, and snowboarding (which I learned during my MPA years in Mr. Edmundson’s snowboard club). As for my thoughts about MPA…my classes there inspired a lifelong interest and curiosity about literature, science, and language (I still try to study and speak Spanish when I get the opportunity), and I have many lasting friendships from my time there.”

For more on Ben, check out his website at benullery.com and follow him at @bullerbot!

Sofia Walker ‘19 wins first ITA Midwest Regional Doubles title for St. Catherine University Tennis.
We would love to hear what you have been up to since graduating MPA. Please reach out to alumni@moundsparkacademy.org to provide your update. 


Help Organize Your Reunion! A Message from Nick Henry ’93

Earlier this year, one of my classmates from MPA’s class of 1993 texted me asking if I had heard if anything was happening for our 30-year reunion. I said no, but I’d contact the alumni team at MPA to see. When I did that, Ashley Goetzke, assistant director of development, got back to me and said, “No, but congratulations, you’re the reunion chair for your class’s reunion!” So, I texted my buddy and said, “Congratulations! You’re the reunion chair for our reunion.” It’s not that we didn’t want to do it. Well, that’s not true. We weren’t relishing the idea per se, but we quickly realized that the benefit (reconnecting with our classmates) outweighed the drawbacks (herding cats and doing so from afar as neither of us live in Minnesota). We decided the challenge was worth pursuing and forged ahead.

I have two primary takeaways from this experience:

The first is that we found our classmates were more than eager to help crowd source spreading the word, tracking down—and, once tracked down, cajoling—classmates. Whatever the reason, be it a YOLO attitude post-COVID, or (more likely) the value of the connections forged at MPA filtered through the gravity of 30 years in our case this year, each classmate we connected with in trying to ascertain who would be interested and then when they would be available, was gung ho and made that part of the process immeasurably easier for their willingness to amplify the cause. Honestly, tracking people down and then herding them toward consensus was the thing that gave me the most trepidation, and it ended up being very light lifting on our part due to the commitment of our classmates.

The second is that the outcome—we had 21 of 42 (living) classmates, 11 plus-1s, four former teachers, and one former Upper School director attend—was beyond worth it. No, not everyone in our class wanted to participate. Those who didn’t had their reasons, and they were respectable reasons. Several more would have attended but for immovable conflicts. But the desire to re-connect was far stronger than I had anticipated. We had classmates come in from New York, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and *Mexico* for the event. The interest from former teachers/administrators was also extremely gratifying, and the chance to connect with them—this time as adults—was really fun, too.

If you’re considering stepping up and spearheading the organization efforts of your class’s reunion, but are concerned that it won’t be worth it, I would encourage you to go for it. The sum total of my experience doing so was a massively positive, fulfilling, and enjoyable experience both in the preparation and the event itself. Think about what MPA and your experience there as a student means to you all these years later and ask yourself whether or not you’d like to re-connect with the primary drivers of that experience—your classmates. If the answer is yes, then the cost of your time and energy in putting it together will pale in comparison to the benefits you will receive from the manifestation of your efforts.


Nick Henry
MPA Class of 1993