Meet MPA Parent Laura Butler

Ella Jones graduating MPA Parent Laura Butler is mom to Upper School students Amelia and Callum, and new alum Ella ’20!

What do you love about MPA?
The community!!

How are your children encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
They are allowed to be a part of their own, focused extracurriculars. And also they are very welcomed to any extracurricular or sport there is.

If your child has attended another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
They loved their international school and MPA made them feel at home and as welcomed.

What would you tell another family considering MPA?
It’s a very welcoming community and administration and teachers want nothing but the best for the students.

Mounds Park Academy, a PreK-12 private school in Saint Paul, is currently accepting inquiries for the 2020-21 school year. For more information about admission and to schedule your tour, visit moundsparkacademy.org/admission. We look forward to getting to know your family!


Meet Alumni Board Member Christopher Staral ’06

Chris '06Christopher Staral ’06 attended MPA for Middle and Upper school, and chose to serve on the Alumni Board to give back to the MPA community by offering mentorship in a career field that may be underrepresented and difficult to break into. He is currently the biotech Investment Analyst for Mangrove Partners and is responsible for making investment recommendations as they relate to the biotech sector.

He majored in chemistry and minored in biochemistry at Carleton College, and also performed medical research at the University of Minnesota’s Lillehei Heart Institute during breaks. He then attended the University of Minnesota’s Medical School immediately following undergrad, where he met his now-fiancée, a Minnesota native and investment banker in healthcare. She introduced him to the concept of trying to predict developmental drug program success as a way to value biotech companies, which he began doing during his spare time while at med school. This lead him to New York and pursue a career full-time in finance, starting at Canaccord Genuity in biotech and pharma equity research, and shortly thereafter moving to Goldman Sachs in a similar capacity.

While there are a diverse set of skills that Chris says can lead to success as an investor, a few that he learned during his time at MPA stand out as crucial. “The ability to think for oneself and to be skeptical of arguments that are made on the basis of authority rather than merit; the ability to quickly break down an abstract thesis into digestible, constituent parts and identify the crucial one or two questions that need to be answered in order to evaluate whether the thesis is valid or not; to have the self-awareness to know when your own knowledge base is insufficient to answer a question and seek out the resources that are needed; to have the confidence to know when you are right in the face of challenges to your beliefs that are unsubstantiated, but also have the self-confidence to admit that you can be wrong when new information disproves your beliefs; have an understanding of risk management,” he lists. “MPA was particularly important in providing a sound foundation for all of these points by providing a challenging, intellectually stimulating yet safe environment that pushed students beyond what they viewed as their own limits. Teachers would encourage students not to hang onto beliefs simply because someone told them it was true, but rather understand the facts and reason out for themselves why they ultimately believed (or dis-believed) something. Lastly, MPA’s strong math (and particularly statistics) provided students with the tools needed to independently test and verify hypotheses themselves rather than rely on someone else to tell them what is and is not true. Furthermore, and even more importantly, it allowed students to separate fact from falsity which is a crucial skill becoming ever-more-important in an age where technology has dramatically amplified the ability for those with perverse political incentives to manipulate and obfuscate truth in favor of a story that supports their own self-serving needs.”

Chris’s favorite experience at MPA was when he worked with three other students to pass a law that mandated 30 minutes of organ donation education in driver’s ed classes throughout the state of Minnesota, which came as the extension of a project he worked on in Ms. Conway’s public policy class. The class served as a way to combine many of the skills we learned throughout high school to creatively solve a problem we identified ourselves and effectuate actual change that continues to positively impact the lives of Minnesotans today.


Meet Nicholas Dugas ’11

Nicholas Dugas '11Meet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Nicholas Dugas ’11!

Nicholas Dugas ’11 joined the MPA Alumni Association Board because of the role MPA had in his personal growth and development. “Many of my best traits and skills had their seeds planted while I was a student at MPA, and I look back upon my time there fondly. I joined the Board because I want to give back to a place that gave me a lot, and help guide the school in such a way that the experience I had continues to be available to others,” he said.

Nicholas joined the MPA community when he was in fourth grade. His favorite memories stem from being on the speech team–hanging out in Ms. Kunze’s room workshopping, rehearsing, and preparing pieces for Saturday tournaments. He notes that one of the highlights was winning State in his respective category one year. Read More


Meet Isaac Marshall ’11

Meet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Isaac Marshall ’11!

After MPA, Isaac attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he closely studied health care delivery systems. He discovered a passion and interest that were key in making his career decisions later on. “I am inspired by professionals who have found mentors to engage their passions and expand their impact,” he said.

Isaac chose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board because he wants to help shape the future of MPA. Since graduating from MPA, he’s experienced the impact that his MPA education has had on his life. “From the first day of college and being prepared to write lengthy papers, to having professional confidence in my strengths, I can trace back several important traits to MPA and the learning that I engaged with there,” Isaac said.

Isaac sees himself supporting MPA both financially and in his role on the board. The “theme” of his support is directly related to MPA’s mission. Issac deeply believes that education is fundamental to growth and life-long success and life-long learning, and that MPA teaches these life-long skills in a way that produces learned and passionate students as each graduate goes out into the world and forges his or her own path. “I want to return to that organization that has impacted my path.”


Meet Jeremy Drucker ’97

Jeremy Drucker '97Meet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Jeremy Drucker ’97!

Jeremy Drucker is a public affairs consultant working with non-profits, businesses, and governments to help them achieve their public policy objectives. Before finding his path in social justice and leadership, he was originally training to be an English Literature professor, but transitioned during graduate school to government and strategic communications work. “The skills I learned at MPA served me well in both settings,” he said. “They taught me how to write, they taught me how to speak, and they taught me how to think.”

Jeremy’s MPA experience of rigorous curriculum combined with caring, detail-oriented instruction formed the groundwork not just for him to utilize his passions personally and professionally, but also to organize them toward a globally positive goal.

Now, chooses to serve on the MPA Alumni Association Board for a variety of reasons. “MPA was very important to my educational, professional, and life development. I want to see it remain that way for others,” he said. “I’d like to see the board continue deepening the commitment of alumni to the school both personally and financially. Providing avenues such as the alumni-student mentorship program is a great way to do that.”


Meet Nate Bander ’09

nate bander and yahya madarMeet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Nate Bander ’09!

MPA Class of 2009 alum Nate Bander is MPA’s admission outreach coordinator and Upper School admission coordinator at Mounds Park Academy. He also coaches boys basketball and the varsity track and field and cross country teams at MPA. After attending MPA K-12 and the University of Minnesota, where he majored in Communications Studies with a Spanish Studies minor, Nate moved to Baza, Spain and worked in an adult language academy as an English teacher.

“The single biggest impact that my MPA experience had on me was inspiring me to learn about the world. MPA is a wonderful, diverse community of parents, students and educators who place a high value on education. I feel prepared to speak about the greater world, travel to faraway places, digest complex theories and thrive as a global citizen. MPA connected me to the broader world.”

But Nate’s MPA moments did not stop as a student and alumni. In fact, he didn’t make one of his fondest memories until coaching in 2019.

Nate recalls, “I first met Yahya Madar (Class of 2019) when he came out for my ninth grade basketball team. That season, I benched him in a game and he almost quit the team.” But, Yahya persevered and in 10th grade, he came back out for the basketball team. He also tried high jumping in track and field for the first time, and something clicked. Read More


Feeling Supported And Strong At School

Lilly Ramalingam '20The following essay is adapted from MPA Class of 2020 member Lilly Ramalingam’s Senior Speech.

I started preschool at the age of two at my family-owned Montessori school, Ramalynn Montessori Academy. My parents, my grandparents and my uncle have all taught at the school and it is a four-minute walk away from my house, so it was almost quite literally a home away from home. Before graduating from Ramalynn after eighth grade, I was a confident and happy girl, with none of the worries I would quickly take on during my first two years of high school.

After eighth grade, I didn’t have much of a choice on where I would attend high school, since my parents and grandparents had already decided to send me where my uncle had gone before he went to college at Brown back in the 90s. This high school I attended for two years before coming to MPA will rename nameless.

I went into this new school as a freshman, while the majority of students in my grade had been together for many years before high school, so I knew I was already at a slight disadvantage, but because I’m generally a very social person, I wasn’t too worried about finding new friends.

I don’t want to get into the specifics of why my time at this new school quickly became so miserable, because it wasn’t just one reason, and I do not to dwell on the past, but rather wish to show my growth and strength. Which brings me to transferring to Mounds Park Academy. I begged and begged my parents every single day to allow me to transfer, and finally, we made a deal that if I was still not enjoying experience by the middle of my sophomore year, I could switch schools. Read More


The Ability To Choose A New Path

Ceci Driano '20The following essay is adapted from MPA Class of 2020 member Ceci Driano’s Senior Speech.

I have always been a planner. The color-coded schedules and to-do lists kind of planner. Yet somehow my life has not gone according to plan. Eighteen years in the making, I now understand that change is constant and life is not always fair, but through it all, the most important thing is how I view change when my best laid plans go awry.

I went to elementary school in rural Minnesota and loved the small-town life. I was able to walk to school and recognize a familiar face everywhere I went. I have many fond memories partaking in events that would only happen in a small town. One of my favorites was walking in the Homecoming and Glows Parades, where the high schoolers were able to ride floats for their sports team and then run back to the beginning of the parade and do it all over again with another extracurricular. Whether it was running my make-believe Screwball Café where I took real money for fake food, or playing chip-it-over the river, where I just kicked a soccer ball over the wheelbarrow in my backyard–I found a way to have fun. My imagination seemed to run wild, and as my dad liked to say, I was basically a free-range chicken. I thought I had my whole life planned out: I would graduate, go to the college down the street so I could live at home with my parents, and then I would become President. What could go wrong? Read More


Meet Juliana Wu ’19

Juliana wu visiting campus What do you love about MPA?
I love the inclusive environment MPA offers to each and every student that goes there.

How were you encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
I started to play cello right after submitting my college application during my senior year. Now, it has become one of my favorite ways to get away from the heavy workload at Carnegie Mellon and a great hobby of my life in general. Thinking back, it is still a bold and somewhat “reckless” decision that I made to begin a new instrument at the end of high school, but without the encouragement of MPA, I wouldn’t have made that decision and I would have missed out on a lot of the fun I have playing cello. Read More


The Journey To Where I Need To Be

Sehar Mapara '20The following essay is adapted from MPA Class of 2020 member Sehar Mapara’s Senior Speech.

Who I am today is a result of my diverse background and my family. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan with a loving father, mother and brother. At just a month old, I was already cruising on a plane flying from country to country because of my dad’s job.  Leaving my loving grandparents, Nani and Papa, my cousins, my friends, and my home at such a young age seemed easy at the moment but the further I went from my roots, the more confused I became about my identity.

Time went on, and we moved to Saudi Arabia, then to Dubai. I was a nerdy-looking little girl with brown skin in a classroom filled with international kids. I made some white friends and thought of myself as a whole new person.  It amazes me how even in the third grade, I was so influenced by the concept of looking different. Regardless, I started to love Dubai, my home, my friends, and my school, but before I knew it, it was time to move. Read More