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 ’18

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


Meet Annie Stewart ’11

Annie stewart '11Meet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Annie Stewart ’11!

After attending MPA from grades 6-12, Annie Stewart ’11 went to St. Olaf College for four years and graduated in 2015 with a B.A. in Theater. She worked at a number of theater companies in St. Paul and Minneapolis before finding her way back to MPA as a substitute teacher and PreK teaching assistant. She worked in MPA’s Lower School for a year before deciding to go back to school to pursue her K-6 teaching license and Masters in Elementary Education! Annie says that it was working at MPA that helped solidify her passion for teaching, and she is so thankful for all of the experiences that led her to where she is today.

“MPA was such an important place and community for many years of my academic career,” said Annie. “Now, as I am completing a license and Masters, I use the tools and skills I learned at MPA on a daily basis. Most importantly, I am excited to teach and that love of teaching comes from the teachers and community I had at MPA. I’m especially looking forward to teaching the next generation of students how to think, not just what to think.” Read More


Moving To Collaboration Over Competition

MPA senior Ella JonesThe following essay is adapted from MPA Class of 2020 member Ella Jones’s Senior Speech.

As many of you know, I have only been a member of the MPA community since the beginning of eleventh grade. Before moving to Minnesota, I lived in China. Growing up in Beijing during the Chinese economic boom was a very unique and an eye-opening experience. I watched the entire city develop and grow in front of my eyes. I watched the roads outside my apartment shift overnight from dirt to asphalt, and the vehicles on them evolve from bikes to cars.

The city began to quickly fill with people from many provinces across China. Beijing became a domestic web of people from all corners of the country. Between 1990 and 2015, Beijing’s population doubled, reaching a staggering 20 million people in 2015. At my school in Beijing, there was no such thing as a student on financial aid or scholarship, and because of that, I was surrounded by people who were privileged and had opportunity. School became a competition of who had the nicest clothes or who went to the coolest places for vacation. I started to judge my self-worth on what I had compared to my peers, and not the amazing opportunities I was already provided with. School became a toxic environment where every aspect became a comparison. Read More


Meet The Dimopoulos Family

the Dimopoulos family What do you love about MPA?
The teachers and staff. Everyone has been warm and friendly since we arrived in 2018 and thanks to the small classroom sizes, our children receive the attention they need to learn in the best way suited for them.

How is your child encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
Our children are pushed lovingly but firmly to bring their best to every class, whether it’s drama or algebra. This shows them they are capable of achieving more than they might have otherwise thought possible. The teachers set standards appropriate to each child and support each child to be their best self, academically, and emotionally. MPA also shows that school is more than just math, science, or reading; it helps each student build those soft skills, such as oral communication and presentation, that will ultimately serve our children very well in their future, even if they don’t necessarily always love being out of their comfort zone.

If your child has attended another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
Our children have attended to other schools—in France and the Pacific Northwest—and MPA offers much smaller class sizes, more caring and attentive teachers, and a student cohort that permits each child to be themselves. This permits our children to feel safe bringing to the MPA community the best of themselves knowing that they will be supported. Read More


Meet Cathryn Camacho ’04

Cathryn Camacho '04Meet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Cathryn Camacho ’04!

Following graduation from MPA, Cathryn moved to California to attend Pomona College. She graduated with a B.A. in Economics and worked as an analyst for a litigation consulting firm before switching gears and pursuing a Masters of Interior Architecture from UCLA/Cal Poly Pomona.

“Many of my friends and family joke that I am ‘serial student,’ as I currently pursue my second Masters in a part-time program,” she said. “The joy of learning has never faded. Throughout my collegiate and graduate studies, I sought institutions that mirror MPA’s dedication towards student development.”

In 2015, she returned home to Minnesota to run her family business and enroll in the Carlson School of Management for her Masters of Business Administration. Cathryn now serves as the President of Camacho Contractors and is involved with MPA in a variety of ways. After a tough four years juggling school and work, she is seeking balance, travel, and adventure, as well as growing her engagement with the MPA community and develop new relationships. Read More


Discovering Confidence On And Off The Court

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

I have been at MPA since kindergarten and during my time here, I have done and been many different things. In the early years, my aspirations ranged from being a veterinarian—a job that many regular people would think is a good life goal—to astronaut—again, a good job, though harder to get there, but still fairly normal … to finally … a mermaid. Clearly, my interests would wander, changing with whatever creative thought passed through my head. Luckily, MPA gave me a place to explore my less realistic, yet aspirational side. I don’t know about doing right, but I definitely dreamed big.

My afterschool interests varied, too. I tried soccer and swimming, joined basketball and played volleyball. I loved everything about sports … especially the competitiveness. I enjoyed being physical and loved my will to win. I engaged in as many sports as possible. Eventually, however, it was volleyball that caught my attention and gave me an anchor and a steady focus. In many ways, some of the most important lessons I have learned have come from being on a volleyball team, whether that was here at MPA or on a club team. Read More