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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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

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.

Welcome To MPA, Hannah Halvorson!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Year Round PreK Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
St. Paul City School

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I went to The College Conservatory of Music where I received a BFA in Dramatic Performance. I lived in NYC where I was an arts and literacy teacher, and dabbled in the improvisation arts at Upright Citizens Brigade. When I moved back to the Twin Cities I started working right away in early childhood education and have been doing that for the past five years! I’m also in the pursuit of my Master’s of Early Childhood of Education and Development at the American College of Education.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I loved the idea of creating independent students in the classroom and helping them strengthen their voice. I’m very excited to be apart of the MPA community!

What’s your big dream?
To be the best PreK teacher I can be!

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I am a happy cat mom to my kitty named Kiki! I’m also an actor in the Twin Cities theater scene and have also worked as a clown. I’m passionate about both visual and the performative arts!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I love to build my own puppets and write my own children’s music on the ukulele! 🙂

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.

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!

Welcome To MPA, Meem Fahlstrom!

MeemMeem Fahlstrom

What position will you be holding at MPA?
K-5 Spanish Sub

From what school/organization are you coming?
Wayzata Public Schools

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
My favorite job was being a 2 week program facilitator for El lago del bosque – Concordia Language Villages. I got my masters in World Language Intruction through Concordia College. I’ve taught at Armstrong High School, Totino-Grace high school, The Churchill School and Center (For Students With Language Based Learning Disabilities) and Wayzata public schools. Fun fact, I’m also licensed to teach Biology/Natural Sciences 5-12.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I met one teacher who said they went to school there and they wanted to teach there – that’s the kind of story that proves the school has major impact on people. Honestly….I saw the tree in the library and the mini door and knew it was the place for me. Also, the Spanish classroom had non-binary pronouns up on the wall as options, which made me feel included. (I’m leaving a district that was less inclusive). Also, all 3 directors are very genuine and easy to connect with.

What’s your big dream?
My big dream is to grow old and still be close with my two nieces.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I bike each day after work and read each night. My girlfriend and I enjoy knitting. I own a lot of plants and even name them….I’ve had a pathos named Viney for 14 years. My family revolves around local social justice/activist/art causes…mainly housing/renter rights and environmental stuff.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I grew up surrounded by Croatian elders. I only have one great aunt left and we are very close.

Meet Retired Faculty Member—Bev Docherty

BevBev Docherty

Position while at MPA
Physical Education/Health Teacher, Coach

How many years did you work at MPA?
34 years

What do you miss most about MPA?
I miss so much about MPA; the opportunity to work with such driven, focused students and student athletes, my dedicated, fun-loving Physical Education/Health and Athletics Departments and the entire, supportive Mounds Park Academy community.

What have you been up to since leaving MPA?
I’ve been running, biking and exploring areas of Florida with my recently retired husband, Jim. We returned to St. Paul this summer to enjoy the Minnesota summer, to continue work on our “fixer-upper” home–on our 26th year of updates:), and catch up with our dearly missed family and friends. Cheering on MPA alumni Mason Ferlic this past year throughout his journey to the Olympics has been a wonderful treat! Perhaps it aided in my decision to return to co-coach the MPA Cross Country Team this fall after many, many years, which is bringing me such joy already!

Meet Elissa Frankel ’22

Elissa FrankelWhat do you love about MPA?
I love the learning environment that the teachers and students create together! Everyone is encouraged to follow their curiosity and given the support to learn about things they’re interested in. The student body is really involved in clubs and extracurriculars (especially for such a small school), and trying new things is encouraged.

How are you encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
The teachers at MPA always supported me in my goals and dreams and given me the resources to help me follow the right path to achieve them. MPA is a place where dreaming big and doing right are valued and encouraged by the whole community. Having a community that truly believes in you and your future has encouraged me to dream big and do right.

Why do you believe your teachers teach the way they do?
The teachers at MPA truly care about their students and the subject matter they are teaching. They want their students to find fascination in learning and discover their passions. MPA teachers want to see their students make an impact in the world and achieve their goals and they equip us with the tools to do so. Read More

Meet The Soto Álvarez Family

Soto Alvarez FamilyMeet the Soto Álvarez family! Current parents Diana and Michael are joined by their MPA kindergartener, Lucas, to share their MPA story.

What do you love about MPA?
Lucas: I have a lot of friends. And on the school’s birthday, we got cupcakes! I like my French class. I also like my classroom because that’s where my friends are.

Diana & Michael: Everyone is so welcoming. And it is clear that the programs and offerings are incredibly well thought out.

What initially attracted you to MPA? Do your same needs/desires hold true today?
Lucas: My mommy and daddy picked it, but it was a good decision.

Diana & Michael: We wanted a school that was excellent academically, but that also took a holistic approach to the student. We value that MPA cultivates active community members and social change agents. We like how design thinking has been interwoven throughout the school. And we were blown away by the quality of the ceramics projects on display! Over the past several months we have seen Lucas growing and learning in a range of ways, including how to use his “emotional toolbox” to handle difficult situations. Read More