Reflections From The MPA Class Of 2024 Lifers

The Class of 2024 Lifers then and nowNear the end of their final year at MPA, we had the honor of interviewing many of the MPA Class of 2024 Lifers about their time at MPA, the only school they’ve been at for their entire academic career. A group of dedicated athletes, talented musical artists, Peer Leaders, and proud self-proclaimed robotics “nerds,” each of them shared memories and reflections of MPA past and present, looking toward the future well prepared by MPA. Devneet Biring, Jay Green, Greta Hanson, Sylvia Hawley, Micah Hudock, Khushi Jain, Else Kunze-Hoeg, Logan Miller, Ben Murr, Nora Pederson, Hunter Scheible, David Steinberger, and Molly Vergin will graduate on June 8 and join MPA’s Joanne Olson Club, reserved for students whose entire K-12 or PreK-12 journey has taken place here at MPA.

Choosing a school for 13 years means you’re growing up within a strong community that ensures every child here is known. So we asked: How has MPA’s community supported and shaped you over the years?

Jay: Everything I do pretty much revolves around sports, so what’s been really helpful for me is the community. If I’m in the hallway and I see a parent or a teacher, they always ask me how my game was, and that’s something that I really have enjoyed in my time here because it makes me feel seen. That was very consistent from even when I was in kindergarten, just playing in gym class versus now, when I play three sports at a time. That’s something that’s shaped me into a better person. I think now my focus is trying to give that same opportunity to the younger kids that I see and am coaching. I think the community does a very good job of supporting everyone in it. From my perspective, I feel like I’ve been very well-supported by pretty much everyone around me.

Khushi: I agree with that. Being both a tennis athlete and a nerd in robotics has pushed me to do more of what I love. Through tennis, I’ve learned more about myself, about mental health, and other things. Through robotics, I’ve learned how to be a leader, how to speak up, and how to get the team together. Through all these different clubs and activities that MPA has, I’ve learned different skills from each.

Micah: There are a lot of people who have a lot of different interests in a lot of areas. Everyone’s kind of encouraged to do their own thing and have their own interests, and no one is trying to fit into a category. Everyone’s cool to do whatever they want.

Ben: Elaborating on that, I’ve really enjoyed being able to know my class. To actually know people—having a small, very close-knit group—has really helped us understand each other on a deeper level than just, “There’s a person from my class in the hallway.” I find that nice.

“There's definitely no other school where I could be in three choirs, in three different bands, and then also play three sports throughout the year.” -Jay Nora: I like how integrated everybody is, whether in sports or other things. For example, in basketball, we did this kid’s camp with the boys’ and girls’ teams where we got to work with Lower and Middle School students, so now when I see them in the hallway I can say hi. And with different classes like choir and orchestra, you get to know people in all grades. With track, since it’s a co-ed sport, I get to talk and know people that I wouldn’t normally. It’s just interesting knowing more than one grade.

Sylvia: The relationships we’re able to build are pretty unique to this school because of the small class sizes. Throughout all my years here, I think all the teachers really make an effort to build a relationship outside of the classroom, to know you on a more personal level. That has allowed me to feel comfortable sharing non-class material with them and getting to know them as people. I think that has shaped my love for learning but also made me want to do more. Read More

MPA Artists Receive 26 MSAA Awards

The Art Department is thrilled to share the list of students honored in the 2024 Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards:

  • Zephyr Bulera ’24, Painting, Honorable Mention, “Ziibi”
  • Clara Deneault ’25, Drawing, Honorable Mention, “Fragmented Still Life”
  • Arlo Dickson ’26, Drawing, Honorable Mention, “Kaleidoscope”
  • Leo Eakin ’24, Drawing, Honorable Mention, “Manhattan Bridge”
  • Paul Fertig ’25, Painting, Honorable Mention, “Poisoning Mother Nature”
  • Grace K. ’27, Painting, Gold Key, “Untitled”
  • Aixa Kellermann ’24, Digital Art, Honorable Mention, “Coyotes Are Invading New York!”
  • Aixa Kellermann ’24, Drawing, Honorable Mention, “Great Blue Heron”
  • Aixa Kellermann ’24, Mixed Media, Gold Key, “Watcher”
  • Nicole Kim ’26, Fashion, Gold Key, “Dress with Red, Blue, and Yellow”
  • Nicole Kim ’26, Fashion, Silver Key, “The Color of the Earth”
  • Ash Klann, ’26, Painting, Honorable Mention, “Actuality”
  • Ash Klann ’26, Painting, Honorable Mention, “Mechanized”
  • Ellie L. ’27, Drawing, Silver Key, “Shading Practice”
  • Ellie L. ’27, Drawing, Honorable Mention, “Autumn Feast”
  • Lilly Liao ’26, Drawing, Silver Key, “Charcoal Drapery”
  • Elena M-S. ’27, Drawing, Honorable Mention, “Still Life in Yellow”
  • Elena M-S. ’27, Painting, Silver Key, “Winter Scene”
  • Elena M-S. ’27, Photography, Gold Key, “Anni”
  • Lia Sonka ’24, Ceramics, Honorable Mention, “Lotus and Lily”
  • Lia Sonka ’24, Ceramics, Silver Key, “Cacti”
  • Lia Sonka ’24, Painting, Honorable Mention, “Wildflowers on Repeat”
  • Yuhan Zou ’25, Drawing, Silver Key, “Duomo di Milano”
  • Yuhan Zou ’25, Painting, Honorable Mention, “White Bird”
  • Yuhan Zou ’25, Painting, Honorable Mention, “Pieta”
  • Yuhan Zou ’25, Painting, Honorable Mention, “Breathe”

The Scholastic Art Awards is a highly competitive, nationally recognized competition for students ages 13-18. Gold Key awards will go on to competition at the national level.
The list of awards represents a variety of mediums, styles, and techniques, as well as countless hours of work over the course of years of skill development. We are so proud of the accomplishments of these artists! See an album of their award-winning work here.


Four MPA Artists Selected for High School Visual Arts Exhibition

Please join us in celebrating the four MPA artists who had their artwork selected for inclusion in the annual juried High School Visual Arts Exhibition at White Bear Center for the Arts: Lia Sonka ’24, Clara Deneault ’25, Piper Hubert ’26, and Nom-Ujin Byambatsogt ‘26.

Lia was selected for her two ceramic pieces, “Cacti” and “Lotus and Lily”; Clara will have her drawing “Fragmented Still Life” and painting “Color Bubble Koi Fish”; Nom-Ujin has painting “Bubbles and Bones” and drawing “The Mori Tower,” while Piper is to be represented by her drawing, “Ribbon.”

Their work will be part of an exhibition that runs from April 15 to May 22, with an awards reception on Thursday, April 25. All are welcome to attend the reception to honor young artists from the region. We are so proud of Lia, Clara, Piper, and Nom-Ujin!

Students Recognized During Youth Art Month

Representing MPA, 10 talented students will have their work displayed as part of the Art Educators of Minnesota Youth Art Month. The creations will be displayed at the Faribault’s Paradise Center for the Arts.

Two of our students also won awards within their division levels. Elena M-S. won first place for the middle level, and Peyton won third place for the elementary level!

The other students featured are Rose, Maddy, Maddie, Sophia S., Harper S., Cosmo Vanzyl ’26, Teagan Swanson ’24, and Zephyr Bulera ’24.

Youth Art Month was started in 1961 by the Council for Art Education. The art will be displayed until April 6 in the Carlander Gallery. Congratulations to our incredible artists and for MPA’s dedication to the fine arts!

MPA Students Experience Music Clinic At University Of Wisconsin

Oslo, Julia, and LucyThree exceptional MPA students had the opportunity to attend a prestigious orchestra clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this week. Julia Anderson ’27, Oslo Norcross ’27, and Lucy Mayer ’27 attended intensive rehearsals, guided by university faculty, and all of their hard work culminated in a live concert performance.

“Our MPA musicians are so dedicated to music making and I love that they were able to experience this event,” said Hannah Lawson, MPA’s director of orchestras. “As their director, I want to give my students as many performance opportunities as possible and I’m so proud that they accepted the challenge and can carry this experience with them forever.” Read More

MPA Students Selected For Art Invitational 

Please join the art department in congratulating the following artists, who had work selected for inclusion in the Shattuck St. Mary’s 18th Annual Art Invitational.

Their work will be part of a juried exhibition at Shattuck St. Mary’s School.  The exhibition opens October 26 and runs through November 14.

  • Leo Eakin: Drawing, 3rd Place Award
  • Aixa Kellermann: Drawing
  • Teagan Swanson: Art and Design
  • Thura Zaw: Drawing
  • Yuhan Zou: Drawing



Explore The PreK-12 MPA Preview Sessions

MPA Preview November 5The MPA Preview on November 5 is a signature PreK-12 event designed to introduce you to the faculty, students, and families who make MPA the exceptional learning community that it is. You’ll hear from a variety of perspectives, be engaged in conversation with academic leaders, experience mini-lessons taught by expert teachers, and leave with a much better understanding of the MPA way.

Explore the mini-lesson sessions at each division level that will be taught at the Preview on November 5, 2023! Read More

Welcome to MPA, James Lekatz!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Middle and Upper School Theater Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
International School of Minnesota

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I graduated in 2007 with a Theatre Arts degree from Augsburg University. Right after undergrad, I moved to London, England and completed my studies at the London International School of Performing Arts. Upon my return to Minneapolis, I worked as an Education and Access Associate at Stages Theatre Company, as well as music directed and composed many productions while on staff. I was Artistic Associate of Performing Arts at Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts where I collaborated to produce new works of musical theater with artists with and without disabilities. During Covid, I switch careers and moved fully into education. I taught music at Alice Smith Elementary and was the Head of Performing Arts at the International School of Minnesota.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
The atmosphere at MPA is so welcoming and kind, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it? As schools start more and more to take away arts classes, I found it exiting to see that MPA has the arts fully woven into the curriculum. Not just theater, but all arts have a place for students. Read More

MPA Dreamers: Parents Of Lifers

Quote from Kelsi Picture yourself in the position of a parent of a PreK or kindergartener, perhaps anxiously, but jovially, beginning your school search. If you are looking at a school like Mounds Park Academy, you want your child to grow into a free spirit, a risk taker, a right maker, a dreamer, and a doer. You want an independent thinker. You want your child to be known. You want your child to love school. Your role, as the parent in the school search process, will determine the foundational years of your child’s education. It seems that for parents of the Class of 2023 Lifers, the memory remains clear as day.

Parents of MPA Lifers, the students whose entire K-12 or PreK-12 journey has taken place here at MPA, made a choice for their students and continued to choose MPA every year for all 13 years of their education. Right before they graduated from MPA, we interviewed the Class of 2023 Lifers in a group reflection on their MPA journeys. Their responses and recollections, punctuated with gratitude, nostalgia, and undeniably helpful feedback, led us to further expand on the conversation. We decided we needed to hear from the Lifer parents, as well.

An MPA education emphasizes the value of purposeful academic rigor in a hands-on, experiential, college-prep environment with the goal of instilling a lifelong love for learning. So we asked:

How has MPA accomplished this for your children, helping them find personal and academic success?

Christine (Anthony ’23): Anthony’s a quiet kid, more on the introverted side. And I think one of the things, from preparing personally, is being somewhere this many years and really knowing people and having those longitudinal relationships with teachers, classmates, and other staff at school. It has really been beneficial for him as far as building confidence and being comfortable–coming out of his shell a little bit. The first time he came here, he was 10 days old, so by the time he came as a student, he was super comfortable and felt like it was somewhere that he was familiar with. I definitely think that’s made a difference for him.

John (Freya ’23): When it comes to Freya, one thing that I think has been beneficial for her academic success is the small size of the school and the exceptional students that she’s with. And some of those kids being so exceptional and doing such exceptional work has forced her to become a better student.

Natalie (Henry S. ’23): I couldn’t agree more. One thing I’ve been really pleased about and so proud of is the diversity that Henry’s experienced here. It’s something he was looking for in his college search, which I was just so profoundly impacted by. He’d say, “mom, that’s just not what I’m used to, and I’m looking for a school with more diversity.” That is MPA. I love that. Read More

Welcome To MPA, Ursula Hargens!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Upper School Ceramics Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
I have been an artist and educator for over twenty years, teaching at colleges, universities, and community art centers. I also led an advanced ceramic certificate program that I co-founded with Northern Clay Center in 2014.

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I earned an MFA in ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and an MA in Art and Art Education from Columbia University Teachers College. I also spent a transformational year in Nova Scotia, studying with the renowned teacher Walter Ostrom. As a teaching artist, I divide my time between creating work for sales and commissions and teaching ceramics in a wide variety of settings. My artistic output is broad, and I make large-scale tile installations as well as wheel-thrown, functional pots for the kitchen.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
MPA is unique in its visible commitment to the arts. I am excited to be stepping into Ms. Buck’s clogs and inheriting such a strong and vibrant ceramics program. I also look forward to working alongside teachers who are deeply invested in building a positive community and focused on creating challenging and meaningful experiences for students.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA?
I want to help students strengthen their understanding of materials, experiment and take risks, gain confidence in the process of making, and see projects through to completion. I feel this is an essential part of a well-balanced education and is increasingly important in a digital world. This kind of creative problem-solving will serve students regardless of where they end up in their careers. I am also interested in building connections with other content areas. For example, ceramics naturally ties into chemistry, art history, material science, and literature, and I look forward to exploring some of these links in the classroom.

What’s your big dream?
In every aspect of my life—whether teaching, making, or personal time—I want to bring value to the community, work in collaboration with others, learn something new, and enjoy the process.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
My family and I like spending time in the outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and Nordic skiing. I also love gardening and am often watering and moving plants in my yard!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I have been a vegetarian for 36 years. My baked tofu was a hotly traded commodity at school lunchtime for both of my kids.