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.

Parents Association News & Events May 26, 2022

We Love our Faculty and Staff!
On Friday, May 20 all Staff at MPA were treated to a Pop-Up Staff Appreciation event. This event also coincided with the release of Harry Styles’ new album, so it also doubled as an album release party. At MPA , we appreciate our great staff and great music.

Eighth Grade Moving-Up Ceremony
Tuesday, June 7 from 1:30-3 PM
Our Middle School days are coming to an end very soon! To celebrate our wonderful rising ninth graders please plan on attending the moving-up ceremony on Tuesday, June 7 from 1:30-3 PM.
We will honor each student during this commemorative event and ask for your help to make sure everyone is included. Each student will have their own slide during the presentation to celebrate just them!

Please send three (3) pictures of your eighth grader:

  1. From when they were young
  2. One that captures their personality
  3. One with middle school buddies

You can provide your THREE (3) pictures two ways:

  1. Upload to the PARENTS ASSOCIATION GROUP (Class of 2026) Schoology Group: Album – Eighth Grade Moving Up Photos. Albums are found on the left-hand navigation when you are in the Class of 2026 Parent Association Group.
  2. Or if it’s easier you can email the photos to Christine Larson, Grade Rep at

Your photos are due today. If your eighth grader has a fluid identity, may not want pictures of their youth, or any other worry about photos, they can submit any photos they’d like. We just want everyone to be represented and happy!

If you have any questions or concerns about the ceremony, presentation or photos please connect with Dr. Milam.

Open Garden with Michelle Mick
Saturday, May 28 from 9-11 AM and 3-5 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, May 28. All are welcome from 9-11 AM and 3-5 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!

The address is 565 Arlington Avenue West, St Paul, MN 55117. You can’t miss it, there is a free-stacked stone wall, very English looking!

Gardening at MPA
Thursdays at 8 AM
Calling all those who want to spend some time outside, at MPA, in the gardens! You’re invited to spend time in the gardens tidying up, building, sowing, and spuddling around in the dirt. Come for a few minutes or stay for an hour or two. All are most welcome. We’ll meet outside under the flagpole at the Lower School entrance, with gardening tools in hand!

End of Year Grade Events
Pre-K:  Saturday, May 28, 2-3:30 PM, MPA playground. Renee Roach,
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
Grade 3: June 8, 11 AM-2 PM, SkyZone in Oakdale, Jumping and lunch!
Grade 4: June 11, 9:30 AM-12 PM, 10145 Bush Lake Rd., Bloomington, MN 55438.
Grade 5: June 30, 2-4 PM, West Park in White Bear Lake
Grade 6: June 8, 5-7 PM,  Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo
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,
Grade 9: June 8, 11 AM-2 PM, Ojibway Park, Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125
Grade 10:  June 8, 2-4 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo
Grade 11: June 8, 4-8 PM, Ojibway Park, Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125
Grade 12: TBD, Valleyfair Event canceled due to COVID.

Vote for Next Year’s PA Board
The Parents Association (PA) is an organization formed by and for the MPA parents. Every family is automatically a member and eligible to vote. This is your last week to vote for the PA Board. Look for results in the June 2 Panther Post. Please vote for the Executive PA Board for 2022-23 here!

The board position of Community Development Lead is open. This person helps coordinate the Grade Rep Program, organizes a few community events during the year, and attends monthly board meetings. We would love to have a full voting board for the 2022-23 school year.

We are looking for a Grade Rep for the current fourth/rising fifth grade, as well as some co-grade reps at a couple of grade levels.

The PA will be forming Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School committees next school year to help plan our traditional division-specific events.

Please consider getting involved! It is a great way to meet the school community, show our appreciation to faculty and staff, enrich our children’s school experience, all while making new friends and seeing old ones. A willingness to help is the only experience needed. New families are especially encouraged as it’s a great way to get to know your fellow parents. If you are interested in any of these opportunities or have questions, please contact Staci Banks-Hehenberger (

Middle School Division News May 19, 2022

middle schoolers at recessby Jenn Milam, Middle School Director

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!

It is not unusual at this time of year for students to act-out, push boundaries, and make some poor choices. They are tired, just like we are as parents, and they are acting out for any number of reasons–exhaustion, lack of motivation, frustration, overscheduled activities, friendship blunders, and more. It is also not acceptable for these behaviors to be disruptive to class (we are still learning!), disrespectful to teachers and other adults or to their peers, or hurtful to other people in our community. While we can explain, we cannot excuse.

Today, during lunch announcements, I reinforced my expectations and I also let students know that if they make bad choices that are obviously out of line per our community expectations and standards, and hurtful to others, that they would be calling you to share why they felt it acceptable to be less than their best self at school. Simply, we cannot tolerate disruption and deliberate defiance of our community expectations, regardless of the reason. And we are at a point in the year where those expectations have been reinforced often, and clearly.

I hope you’ll take some time over the next few days to reinforce YOUR expectations and values and the reason why it is important to show up at school, each day, even in the last few days, to learn, contribute positively, and grow. As members of our MPA community, each of us has committed to a shared culture of kindness, respect, and diligence–even in the last 12 days of school! If we all do our part, we can finish joyfully!

As I wrote in my email yesterday, we made the decision to postpone the seventh grade class trip to the fall. We have rescheduled the trip for September 26-28, 2022. Please have your seventh grader attend school, as usual, next week, Monday through Wednesday.

We remain optimistic that the sixth grade class will be able to have their trip in just a couple of weeks. The sixth grade class will leave on Wednesday, June 1 and return on Friday, June 3. We will send more information as the dates get closer! If you have not completed the MEDICAL RELEASE FORM for participation, please do so at your earliest convenience by clicking on the link below. Any student who does not complete the release form, will not be allowed to travel.


NOTE: If you do not wish for your student to participate in this class overnight, they will need to remain at home during the trip, as all sixth grade teachers will be away, too. Read More

Honoring All Who Make MPA Great

from Bill Hudson, Head of School

Great schools depend on great teachers and staff. I am reminded of that each day as I travel from my morning post in Lower School to my office in Upper School. It’s the informal conversations, not necessarily the perfect lessons, that most often illustrate that for me. It’s the quick reminders, the high fives, the quiet conversations. What I have learned from my past experience is that one can become a better teacher or staff member, but someone needs to have the heart of an educator first and foremost. MPA has been fortunate to have a strong school culture built and fostered by faculty and staff who not only have the heart, but they are also masters of their craft. They are all committed to continuous improvement and lifelong learning.

As a community, it is our privilege and responsibility to honor the people who make our school great. And next week, we have the opportunity to not only honor faculty and staff who are retiring dating back to the 2019-2020 school year, but the larger community as well. MPA would not exist without the vision of the founding families and generosity of time and resources of so many through the years who have built our incredible community and beautiful campus. This year we are celebrating 40 years of MPA—40 years of faculty, staff, alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents, trustees, and friends coming together to demonstrate their love for and commitment to the MPA way. Read More

A Match To Be Made

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I don’t think I ever fully realized the value of college counseling until I came to MPA. I was the first in my family and extended family to go to college. We didn’t have a college counseling office or program when I was in high school, and for the most part, we were left on our own. Although I had a wonderful undergraduate experience, the only reason I initially applied was that there was no application fee or essay required. My worldview was pretty narrow, and my college search did not extend beyond the borders of Michigan. Even the two high schools I worked in did not have such a thoughtful, comprehensive, and personalized college counseling process as we are fortunate to have at MPA.

May is one of my favorite times at MPA because of the many joyful celebrations and events. One in particular, College Choice Day, was celebrated last Wednesday and is on my top 10 list. Sporting their chosen college apparel, seniors gather in and around the College Counseling Office to create their college pennants and feast on cake and punch. The pennants and senior pictures hang in both Upper and Lower Schools. It is enjoyable to see our younger students look for their Upper School buddies and try to find the locations of all of the different colleges and universities on the map.

Fifty-one seniors will be attending 38 different colleges and universities in 19 states and Washington, D.C. They have chosen large research universities, public and private institutions, small liberal arts colleges, Ivies, art schools, and women’s colleges. Students will be attending schools in urban and rural locations that are across town, in-state, and across the country. One student is taking a gap year, and another plans to attend a trade school. Read More

Parents Association News & Events May 12, 2022

Microfunding in Action
Recently through a microfunding grant, the PA funded the student-run newspaper, MPA Freethinker, to use the School Newspapers Online, SNO platform which supports and promotes student journalism. PA micorfunding also enabled the third and fourth graders to see eleventh grader Jack Peterson in Diary of a Wimpy Kid at the Children’s Theater. Microfunding provides funds for projects and programs, existing or new. It’s open to student organizations, teachers and parent volunteers.
Gardening at MPA is Back!
Thursdays at 8 AM and Saturday, May 14 from 9-11 AM
Calling all those who want to spend some time outside, at MPA, in the gardens! You’re invited to spend time in the gardens tidying up, building, sowing, and spuddling around in the dirt. Come for a few minutes or stay for an hour or two. All are most welcome. We’ll meet outside under the flagpole at the Lower School entrance, with gardening tools in hand!

Read More

Meet Retired Faculty Member–Martha B. Castellanos

Martha B. Castellanos

Position while at MPA
Spanish Teacher

How many years did you work at MPA?
31 years

What do you miss most about MPA?

What have you been up to since leaving MPA?
In 2020, COVID limited my life of service in the community. Unfortunately this year I was sick, I am still recovering from major surgery. My plans for the future are still uncertain!

Buddy Families Needed

MPA is starting the onboarding process for more than 100 new students enrolled so far for the fall of 2022 and we are seeking volunteers to be buddy families! The opportunity involves connecting with the family over the summer months, helping them integrate into the social fabric of the class, and being a resource as they transition into a new school. You and your child will be a very warm and welcome friendly face on their first days of school! If you are interested in this meaningful volunteer opportunity, please contact Angie Gerstner, development coordinator, at

Cultivating MPA’s Vision

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

For me, one of the best parts of spring is seeing the land come to life with plants poking out of the ground and flowers beginning to bloom. A stroll through our Lower School garden this morning filled me with anticipation as I imagined the awe and joy our younger students will soon experience as the garden comes to life. With a vision and a great deal of hard work, Michelle Mick, parent of Isaac ‘29 and Freya ‘33, together with a small but committed group of volunteers transformed an unused plot of grass into a magical garden of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Students across all grade levels care for the garden and in the fall, harvest the vegetables for Chef Chris to use at lunch.

Planting a garden is an expression of hope. It requires patience, knowing it will take years to grow, mature, and bear fruit. In an era of on-demand, instant gratification, gardens requires vision and commitment. In much the same way, ensuring the long-term viability and sustainability of our family, loved one, and causes important to us require decisions today that will pay dividends later.

MPA would not exist without the vision of the founding families and generosity of time and resources of so many through the years who have built our beautiful campus and school community. This year we are celebrating 40 years of MPA, and I am particularly grateful for those families who have supported the school financially through philanthropic giving. I humbly ask you to consider making an estate or planned gift to the school. Like the Lower School garden, your investment now will pay dividends for years to come.
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