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


Welcome To MPA, Samantha Sanchez!

Samantha Sanchez

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging

From what school/organization are you coming?
I worked at a very small community college in New Jersey and am completing my Master’s degree at NYU.

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Black Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara and led efforts in higher education reform to increase access and the holistic achievement of minoritized students, which began my professional career in both DEIB and education. After working in K-12 with neurodiverse students and for a private corporation leading community empowerment and equity efforts in urban planning, I decided to pursue my Master’s degree in Sociology of Education at NYU–both so I could fulfill a lifelong dream of living in New York City and to further my research pursuits.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
My education philosophy and research foci are centered in the holistic development of students, so it was beautiful to see so many people dedicated to developing the whole student and practicing education models that center student needs. I also found myself in a (virtual) space with people I felt incredibly comfortable with and could sense how fundamental community formation is at MPA.

What’s your big dream?
I have dreams of buying a farm, own lots of animals (we have five dogs now!), and growing a majority of the fruits and vegetables we consume.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
My family is incredibly passionate about just that–family! We seize every opportunity to be together and spend quality time with one another. These days, that often looks like a group FaceTime where all you can see is all of our foreheads (I have no idea why we all FaceTime that way) and gatherings at our family home. The last big family outing we had was some months ago at Disneyland for my nephew’s first birthday!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I am originally from California! The rest of my family currently lives in Southern California and my fiancée is originally from the Bay (Northern California), but she and her family moved to Minneapolis some time ago…which is what initially brought me here!


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 Dr. Ann Jurewicz

Ann JurewiczPlease help us welcome Dr. Ann Jurewicz, interim Lower School director, to MPA!

From what school/organization are you coming?
American School of Barcelona

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I’ve had the joy of serving in senior leadership for the past 10 years both overseas and at the German Immersion School in Saint Paul. I love children of all ages and feel honored every day that parents entrust them to our care. My learning background is in social studies and literature, and I’ve been a technology integrationist and S.E.E.D. diversity trainer. I received my Educational Doctorate from Bethel University.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
The very first interview question Bill Hudson asked me was “How are you?” From that moment, I knew MPA was a deeply caring community as evidenced by its motto, “Dream Big. Do Right.” Throughout the process, MPA’s mission and values were at the heart of our conversation. I am thrilled to be joining such a transformative school and look forward to learning much from the families, children, and staff.

What’s your big dream?
To complete a set of art works and hold an exhibition where I invite all my friends.

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about global mindedness, travel, culture, and long conversations with great people over great meals (without cell phones!). I love nature and am an avid scuba diver. I hope to never stop loving, learning, and laughing with others.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I took a year off to travel around the world with my sister and we got to see my favorite animal—a giraffe!


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.


MPA’s Enduring Spirit

 

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Over the long weekend, my family undertook the colossal challenge of cleaning out the storage room in the basement. While I wouldn’t classify myself as a hoarder, I must admit that I have a tendency to save a lot of seemingly useless things. A quick search on Google led me to the following definition: “people with a hoarding disorder have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions due to a perceived need to save items.” To be sure, there was a fair share of junk but there were also some treasures that made me feel vindicated.

In one bin, I found a stack of birthday greetings from fourth graders in Ms. Stacy’s class from 2014 in which the students shared what they liked about MPA. What made this find special was that they were written by this year’s graduating class. Here are a few examples:

  • “What I like most about MPA is the great lunch variety. I also like that next year when I am in fifth grade I get to stop by at the official salad bar! (I’m kidding but it would be nice.) Anyway, I like how I can make choices on which classes I take when I am older, how we have drama and all those other classes that most people don’t get to take, and once again, a great lunch.”
  • “My parents send me to this school because it’s a really good school and you make a lot of nice friends and this was the school for me.”
  • “I like MPA because I get to have learning opportunities that other schools don’t have like the Book Fair.”
  • “I like MPA because all my great friends are here and the fun teachers. MPA is a great school because everyone is open minded and have great personality (especially the teachers).”
  • “One of the reasons Mounds Park is important to me is that the teachers are really nice.”
  • “I think MPA is a great school because of all the kids. I just love how they all include each other and play with each other and are really friendly.”
  • “I like the risks the school takes to make me happy. I think the new things help us learn, and if not, then they can just stop doing it. I also like the more open-ended responsibilities that the school lets me take control of on my own.”
  • “There are a lot of different things that Mounds Park Academy has in store, from great and positive students to awesome fun loving teachers who know how to teach so that the lessons can be fun. MPA also has great class sizes so it is easier to get one on one attention.”

Reading their letters caused me to pause and consider all that has happened over the course of their career at MPA. Our world, our society, and our school community has experienced significant change in many ways since they were in fourth grade. It was the philosopher Heraclitus who said that the only constant in life is change. Without change, there is stagnation, a lack of growth, and no progress. While some people prefer the predictability of the status quo, such stagnation limits the full potential of an individual or institution.

While we’ve had our share of challenges and change this year, what has stayed constant is the spirit of MPA as reflected in the letters of the seniors as fourth graders. The mission and values of MPA have provided the certainty and the inspiration for growth. As I look back over this school year, I delight in the growth of our students, in their resiliency, in their excitement for learning, in their accomplishments, and in their joyfulness.

As the school year draws to a close, I want to thank you for entrusting your children to MPA. I also want to thank you for investing your expertise, volunteering your time, and contributing your financial resources to the school. I am continually in awe of the generosity of the MPA community and grateful for the positive relationship and partnership between parents/guardians and the school. It is hard to let go of our seniors and other students and families who are moving on. However, I am grateful for their impact and contributions to our school community.

As all of us part ways for a few months, I extend my warm wishes for a restful and relaxing summer. I hope you will enjoy time with family and loved ones and look forward to coming together again in August.


Middle School Division News June 2, 2022

from Dr. Jenn Milam, Middle School Director

3.3 DAYS TO GO!
This issue of Middle School News & Notes is a “need-to-know” look at the last few days of school! Grab your planners, family calendars, and get to looking forward to summer!

GRADE 6 RETURNS TOMORROW!
Reports from Eagle Bluff are that all is well and the kids are having a great time! Your big kids will likely have showered less than you’d hoped, and they’ll return with plenty of clean clothes to your dismay (it always amazes parents that the stack of undies and socks that you sent, are still clean as a whistle–LOL)! They’ll also be positively exhausted, have a hundred stories to tell that will trickle out over the weekend. They’ll have tales of friendships, fusses, and newfound confidence in themselves, their peers, and the world around them. While it’s true that this class has been unable to share in many experiences over the last two years, I have no doubt that this adventure for them has been a good one – no phones, new experiences, and a taste of independence!

We’ll see you at the end of the day tomorrow. While I know some of you may have to work (and that’s OK!), if you can be here at the end of the day (2:45-3 PM) to pick them up, that would be best. They’ll be tired, in need of a bath, a big dinner, and some rest in their own comfy bed. You’re welcome to come hang in the Middle School hallways to await their awesome return…I do always love standing in the hallway and watching them all re-enter the school world.

PS: The cell phone/internet connection at Eagle Bluff is notoriously poor. We will post pictures into a Flickr page/album as soon as we all return and have had a moment to catch our breath! If you need anything or are worried, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Read More


Parents Association News & Events June 2, 2022

Open Garden with Michelle Mick
Saturday, June 4 from 3-6 PM
565 Arlington Avenue West, St Paul, MN 55117

For anyone who would like to wander through a rather wild unruly but fun garden in St Paul, our gardening guru, Michelle Mick has graciously offered a tour of her gardens this Saturday, June 4. All are welcome from 3-6 PM to come on over and wander through her gardens. The irises are starting to bloom, as well as many other lovely plants; many natives share their beautiful colors. For those interested, there are three rain gardens out back, boulevard gardens, and solar on the roof too! If there are seeds around, you are most welcome to have some too!

End of Year Grade Events
Pre-K: Saturday, May 28, 2-3:30 PM, MPA playground. Renee Roach, reneetroach@gmail.com
Kindergarten: Wednesday, June 8 at 11 AM Powers Lake Pavilion, Woodbury
Grade 1: Party has already taken place!
Grade 2: June 6, 3:30-5:30 PM, West Park Pavilion and Playground, White Bear Lake nelsonhe5@yahoo.com, latodero@gmail.com
Grade 3: June 8, 11:00 AM-2 PM, SkyZone in Oakdale, Jumping and lunch! nelsonhe5@yahoo.com
Grade 4: June 11, 9:30 AM-12 PM, 10145 Bush Lake Rd., Bloomington, MN 55438. heatherthurmes@gmail.com
Grade 5: June 30, 2-4 PM, West Park in White Bear Lake adenight@siscovers.com
Grade 6: June 8, 5-7 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo darcyjerome@comcast.net
Grade 7: June 8 at 11:30 AM, Wakefield Park Shelter #2, Maplewood, MN
Grade 8: June 8, 11 AM-1 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo, chrisandmatt1289@gmail.com
Grade 9: June 8, 11 AM-2 PM, Ojibway Park, Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125 juliebixby1@gmail.com
Grade 10: June 8, 2-4 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo sbhehe42@icloud.com
Grade 11: June 8, 6-8 PM, Ojibway Park, Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125
Grade 12: TBD, Valleyfair Event canceled due to COVID.

Meet Some New Families Over the Summer!
Join us for summer fun and to meet new friends and families. We’ve organized a number of events to bring the MPA community together over the summer. All events are for new and returning families. For all the details, download the pdfs below. Read More


Providing A Safe And Secure Space

from Lamar Shingles, Director of Equity and Belonging

One Thursday per month you will see a guest Head’s Message from a member of the Institutional Advancement Team. We hope these additional perspectives will help you catch a glimpse inside the inner-workings of your school.

As the sun begins to set on my first year at MPA, I have become increasingly reflective of my experience over the past 10 months—a cerebral space where many educators find themselves to be on the eve of commencement and summer break. What can I say, introspection is my jam! I have learned so much about education that I didn’t already know and engaged with amazing people across this community. What has really stood out for me and made a profound impact on my experience thus far is the time I’ve spent with students in the Middle and Upper School BIPOC affinity groups.

When I think back on my own experience as one of only a few black students in my class, every day was a reminder that I was different from my peers. I recall my mom’s reaction when I begged her to let me bleach my hair blonde. I remember the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when racial epithets were read aloud in class text—the bewildered eyes that descended upon me throughout the classroom as my peers searched for my response. Mostly, I remember an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. As a child, I didn’t have the terminology, adolescent social development models, or supportive resources to help define how I felt—but knew, I just wanted to fit in.

So what are affinity groups?

In a recent conversation with two of our Lower School teachers, Ms. Santiago and Mr. Moore, I thought they summed it up very well:

“Affinity groups provide a safe and secure space for students to explore and develop their sense of identity in a facilitated environment where they do not feel isolated, but connected. This enables them to grow into strong advocates for themselves and others”.

Affinity groups provide an opportunity for students to speak from the “I” perspective, at a critical time when they are formulating who they are among their peers and the broader community. These spaces can serve as a powerful mechanism for self and group affirmation by reducing feelings of isolation and discomfort that many students face—and instead, encourages students to be confident and proud of who they are.

At MPA, there are currently three BIPOC affinity groups—fifth and sixth, seventh and eighth, and Upper School—that were established in 2021 out of a request from students of color who wanted a safe space to gather and reflect on their experiences, without feelings of marginalization. More than 30 students have consistently attended facilitated group meetings and engaged in dialogue across a broad range of topics throughout the year.

It has been a privilege to see firsthand how affinity space can positively influence the sense of belonging for students at MPA, while also demonstrating the value of our commitment to becoming more inclusive as a community. Looking back on my own journey, I can’t help but to wonder, what may have been different if I had the benefit of a safe space that celebrated the most authentic version of me? Looking ahead, I am incredibly optimistic that we will continue to create opportunities that ensure all are students will never have to ask that question.


Two National Merit Finalist Scholarship Winners in MPA’s Class of 2022

Congratulations to Elissa Frankel and Ruihan (Leo) Yu, recently announced as winners in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program! Elissa and Ruihan (Leo) entered the scholarship competition when they took the PSAT as juniors in October 2020 and scored in the top percentile. This past fall, they were among 16,000 Semifinalists chosen nationwide state-by-state, based on their scores relative to other Minnesota students. After submitting a substantial scholarship application and supporting materials from MPA, they were chosen as National Merit Finalists this winter.

Elissa is one of only about 1,000 students nationally who will receive a corporate National Merit award. Corporate sponsors provide National Merit Scholarships for Finalists who are children of their employees, who are residents of communities the company serves, or who plan to pursue college majors or careers the sponsor wishes to encourage. Elissa will take her scholarship, sponsored by 3M, to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she plans to major in neuroscience. At MPA, among other things, Elissa sang in Concert Choir and Madrigals, led the Social Consciousness Club in discussions of national and international subjects, initiated a voter registration drive, and co-captained the girls varsity soccer team.

Ruihan’s scholarship is funded by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. He is one of only 2,500 Merit Scholar designees from across the country, assessed by NMSC to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies. Ruihan (Leo) will attend Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, where he plans to study economics and philosophy. Ruihan (Leo) also is a strong advocate for the liberal arts at MPA, co-leading the STEM Education Club over the past four years, playing cello in the Orchestra and keyboards in Jazz Ensemble, serving on Student Council and competing with MPA’s varsity baseball team.

We also congratulate the following MPA graduating seniors who scored well on the PSAT as juniors and were recognized by National Merit as Commended Students: Skyler Burnett, Rohit Iyer, Kaija Kunze-Hoeg, and Ruby Schwieger.