Meet Alumni Board Member Lesley Kroupa ’97

Lesley Kroupa ’97

For what grades did you attend MPA?

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
Joining the Alumni Association board is just one small way I can give back after growing up in the halls of MPA.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
The mission of MPA is more important than ever, and since my time at MPA I continuously strive to act with integrity and recognize our responsibility to support our communities.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am currently the Interim Policy Director of the Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. I provide strategic policy recommendations for ongoing research projects and participate in local, state, and federal campaigns related to child nutrition and nutrition education. Prior to joining the Tisch Food Center, I spent 11 years practicing corporate law in New York City. My husband and I recently moved to San Diego and I am adjusting to winters without parkas and mittens.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I went to Smith College after MPA and went to the University of Michigan Law School a couple years thereafter. After years of practicing law, I knew I wanted to pivot my career to the non-profit sector, so I got a master’s in nutrition and public health from Teachers College, Columbia University. I now use my legal skills to advocate for public health policies.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I would love to see MPA continue to connect and maintain its relationships with its alumni living throughout the United States and abroad.

Meet The Oliver Family

The Oliver familyThe Oliver Family lives in St. Paul, MN. They joined our community in 2021–Kellen is in third grade and Cameron is in fifth grade.

What do you love about MPA?
We love the community. As a new family, it was important to us to find a school that offered and encouraged a sense of “welcome.” We found this through the enrollment process, when we met “buddies,” met online with several teachers and administrators, and then when school began where (possibly most significantly) we have found that students and teachers say “hello” and smile beneath their masks at drop-off, pick-up, in the halls and on the playground. We have really enjoyed this sense that everyone has a place at MPA and everyone gets seen at MPA.

What initially attracted you to MPA?
In our recent school search brought about by our family’s move from Los Angeles, CA, we were attracted to MPA’s small size and with that, a greater chance for our children to have individualized attention–both academic and emotional. We were inspired by MPA’s commitment to encourage and teach children to be independent thinkers and to honor, respect, and contribute to our diverse community and world. We also appreciate the emphasis on collaboration.

How are your children encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
We are new to MPA, so still assessing how the school’s “Dream Big, Do Right” is implemented on a daily or yearly and individual basis. However, already, our young boys have been given choices that guide their learning, from language to music to reading and science projects. This opportunity has encouraged them to take responsibility for their development to some degree and to look inside themselves as well as in their community of students and teachers for answers. We look forward to more of these chances to ask big questions, explore what excites us, and seek new knowledge during our years at MPA.

If your children have attended another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
Our children have only ever “attended” homeschool. This included weekly tutor groups, where they would meet with about eight other students within two grade levels of theirs and go through some lessons with a volunteer instructor. MPA is different because it is not at home! This is a new challenge for our boys as they are away from the comfort of “home” and outside the reach of help from Mom and Dad. It is their first experience working with peers on a daily basis and being responsible for their materials away from home. The learning is quite similar, interestingly. We had always taken an approach that was about building an understanding of oneself and the world at large, asking questions and finding answers. We have believed in a supportive environment that is about achievement not for achievement’s sake, but for individual growth and preparation to be part of a larger community.

What would you tell another family considering MPA?
I would tell another family that MPA has been a wonderful place for our family to “land” after a cross-country move and 1.5 years in a pandemic. In only two short months, we have been welcomed and both the kids and we, the parents, have learned quite a bit. My favorite thing I have heard thus far is what Jenn Milam shared at the Middle School Orientation–that her job is to provide 1. Safety, 2. Health and 3. Happiness and that 1 and 2 have to be met for 3 to be possible. MPA has held to those goals and more.

In what ways has MPA prepared your child for life in the 21st century? What are the key attributes, skills, and content that you find most valuable?
This is tough to answer after such a short time at MPA, but what comes to mind are two things:

  1. Relationships. MPA seems to focus a lot on classroom and teacher-student and parent-school relationships. These are challenging to navigate in life, but also essential and super rewarding when done well.
  2. Tech – I love that MPA is incorporating tech skills (including boundaries) into the school day. Computers and the internet will likely be around for our children’s lifetimes, so these are vital to their “success.” I appreciate that the tech component is minimal and purposeful.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your MPA experience?
We appreciate everyone working so hard to keep MPA COVID safe and a wonderful place to learn!

Meet Alumni Board Member Isabel Meyer-Mueller ’17

Isabel Meyer-Mueller ’17

For what grades did you attend MPA?
I was at MPA for K-12

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
I have never been a part of a more supportive, caring, and intellectually stimulating community than MPA. For 13 years, MPA provided me with not only a place to learn, but a place to build life long friendships, pursue my passions, and create a home. I chose to apply to the Alumni Association Board as a way of giving back to a community that gave me so much and to ensure that even after graduating, each alum knows that they have a place in the MPA family.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
During my senior year at MPA I was voted “Most School Spirit” and that love for MPA has never dwindled. In a lot of ways, I believe that the MPA mission has formed the bedrock of my personal and professional identity. I do my best to prioritize respect and inclusivity, thinking independently, and living up to my responsibility to change the world for the better. Most importantly, I see myself as a lifelong learner and find joy in learning something new everyday.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I graduated from Macalester College in May with a B.A. in Psychology and Community and Global Health. This fall, I will begin a Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at UW Stout. I will also be working with Just The Pill, a mobile clinic that provides medication abortions to rural Minnesotans, as a community outreach coordinator. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, baking, playing pickleball, exploring new running routes in Minneapolis, and going for long walks with my sheepadoodle puppy, Bertie.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
I am so thankful that MPA prepared me to thrive in college. Not only did I learn the necessary writing and reading skills, but I learned how to think critically, manage my time effectively, maintain healthy relationships, and balance academics, athletics, and arts, all of which set me up well for my time at Macalester. Most importantly, MPA instilled me with the belief that I have not only the ability but the responsibility to make a difference in the world. MPA not only gave me the skills to form my own opinions and develop passions but also the confidence to go out and change what needs changing.

What’s next? Any aspirations – personal or professional – that you’d like to share?
My professional goal is to become a sexuality therapist/educator. As a result of my time at MPA, I put a high value on education that teaches students how to think, not what to think. And that is exactly what quality sex education is — giving students all of the information and then letting them decide what is the best decision for their own body. My goal is a world where everyone has the information they need to make the best decisions for their own body and the vocabulary to articulate what that looks like. Personally, I have recently taken up running and I hope to run a marathon next year. I have also been training my dog, Bertie, to become a Canine Good Citizen with the hopes of eventually training him to be a therapy dog.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I am very excited to get to know the other members of the Alumni Association Board and make connections with MPA graduates across generations. I hope that as a team we will be able to facilitate relationships between MPA and its alumni and that everyone who graduates from MPA knows that they will be an important part of the community for the rest of their lives. I am particularly excited to be a part of the new Subcommittee for Alumni for Antiracist Practice in order to increase awareness of antiracism at MPA and among alumni.

Please share your favorite MPA story.
When I was in high school and the school day ended, I never wanted to leave. MPA was one of my favorite places to spend time. Some of my favorite MPA memories are from the countless hours I spent hanging out after school. It didn’t matter if I was doing homework with friends in the yearbook room, going to soccer practice, singing in the spring musical, or helping a teacher with a project, I was always having a blast and did not want to leave. I think this speaks to MPA’s incredible ability to create a safe and welcoming environment for students and I am so grateful that my school felt more like a second home than anything else.

Meet Rae Dillon

Rae Dillon

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Upper School and College Counseling Administrative Assistant

From what school/organization are you coming?
I was the Program and Operations Manager at the MN Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA)

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I was inspired by the strong sense of community and even “family” at MPA! I love the school’s small, intimate feel that cares about students holistically, rather than just data and test scores. I love the welcoming environment and focus on individuality, inclusivity, and the arts!

What’s your big dream?
[Like, if I could do anything?] To help cultivate a world filled with compassion, empathy, and justice for all people and the environment.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I am passionate about young people and their futures, the environment, mental health and mindfulness, spending time outdoors, and reading a good trashy mystery novel (my goal is one every month).

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I LOVE gardening, but I am not very good at it. I love that I get better each year, and every autumn, I wipe the slate clean and try again next year. I love to grow (and eat) tomatoes the most.

Meet The Cook Family

The Cook FamilyParent Rebekah Cook and her family live in St. Paul, MN, and have a second grader at MPA.

What do you love about MPA?
I love the communication from faculty and staff. I always feel like I know what to expect and when things are happening, which gives me a sense of agency and allows me to be an active participant in my child’s education.

What initially attracted you to MPA?
My good friend, Summer, works at MPA. She would share about what she was teaching and the discussions she would have with her students, and I was like, “I WANT THAT FOR FRANKIE. How do I get that?!” Also, we visited several different schools and at no other school did kids have such confidence. We were strangers walking down the hallway, and kids would say, “Hi!” Or when visiting their classroom, a teacher would ask them a question and they would all be so eager to respond and share–so eloquent and confident. That’s all we wanted for Frankie–to feel confident and safe to be herself!

How is your child encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
Frankie is curious, empathetic, highly opinionated, and has some natural leadership abilities, but it can sometimes come across at “bossy.” One of Frankie’s goals from her first grade teacher was to not get distracted by others in the room and to put all of her focus on her own work so she could feel challenged and proud. I LOVED this! Her teacher didn’t discourage her to be different or to simulate, but to identify her weaknesses and strengths and channel all of that to make her the best she can be! Read More

Meet Alumni Board Member Rex Hendrickson ’11

Rex Hendrickson ’11

For what grades did you attend MPA?

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
I wanted to get more involved in many aspects of my life. I wanted to engage with the world around me and the world I know. I know MPA quite well after being there for 13 years – it seemed like a natural way to get involved and a way to give back.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
I believe, deep down, we all know what doing right is. We all have our own unique role to play, which gives us purpose and direction. I support MPA’s mission in passing on that wisdom to its students and encouraging them to dream big and do right.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am an account director at a brand strategy agency called vnzo. We work with other companies to create differentiation in the marketplace – how to claim their own space and increase marketshare. We strategize to come up with solutions; we incorporate that into their brand; and ultimately, grow through marketing.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I attended the University of Denver for a couple years before moving back to MN to start working. I worked a few odd jobs before meeting a good friend of mine with whom we started a company together. Now, that company is no longer, it started to make me think in an entrepreneurial way and that has been exciting to see.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
I think one of the major takeaways from MPA was the notion to think for myself. To be learned and to stay curious – to keep dreaming for something bigger and better for my life. MPA also taught me to do the right thing, to have my own moral code and ethics to live by. To have this personal set of rules that governs me and every one of my choices. I think that compass started at a young age.

What’s next? Any aspirations – personal or professional – that you’d like to share?
I would like to continue to work hard and keep my head down. I enjoy personal development and seeing where consistency can take you. I would also like to travel again but for now, home is where I need to be.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I would like to see MPA continue to grow as one of the premier private education systems in MN.

Please share your favorite MPA story.
My favorite MPA story has to include my time on the soccer team. Going to the state tournament my sophomore and my senior year were memories I will hold close to home.

Meet Ms. Hernandez

Congratulations to Lauren Hernandez who is moving from Communications Coordinator to Communications and Marketing Manager. Get to know Ms. Hernandez!

What do you love about MPA?
There is so much I love about MPA. I love the energy, the joyful students, the dedicated faculty and staff, and the sense of community. I love collaborating with my colleagues and dreaming up big (and small!) ideas. And of course, I really love getting super cute notes and drawings from kiddos!

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
MPA is full of role models that even I as a staff member look up to! The faculty is extremely dedicated and creative, but I think what’s especially inspiring is the environment that MPA creates, representative of different talents, passions, skills, backgrounds, and resources .

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
At the school I worked at before coming to MPA, my office was in a different building, separate from life on campus. At MPA, I am so connected to everything that goes on. I get to truly feel the joy that is ever-present throughout this school.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
Being a part of this community is a gift for your entire family. The educational journey your child will experience and the relationships and friendships you will make are so special.

What do you hope for MPA students in 20 years?
I have seen such brilliant and motivated change-makers graduate from MPA that I have no doubt about the impact they will make on our world. What I hope is that they’ll remember to reach out to us in 20 years so we can continue to share their stories!

Meet Eva Benson ’21

Eva Senior PictureEva graduated on June 6, 2021 as a member of the Mounds Park Academy class of 2021. She will attend St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.

What do you love about MPA?
There are so many things I love about MPA! However, what really stands out to me is the teachers. Every teacher at MPA truly wants to create a personal bond with me and see me succeed. They have shown me true passion in their work, inspiring me to go out and work for my passion every day.

Why do you believe your teachers teach the way they do?
MPA teachers have ignited my love for learning through the ways that they teach. They teach the way they do to inspire their students. Every teacher at MPA has a passion for what they teach and want to see their students thrive. Read More

Congratulations Logan Sand ’08!

Logan Sand HeadshotCongratulations to Logan Sand ’08 on winning MPA’s Alumni Association Award for the 2020-2021 year!

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am program manager for the Seeing and Exploring Life’s Future (SELF) Program at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. We do comprehensive, medically accurate, and culturally relevant sex education all over the Twin Cities. I’ve been with LSS since 2017 when I came back to MN after graduate school. I started as program coordinator and I’ve been managing the program since 2019.

The majority of my work is with middle school students but we also work with youth in the community who are at ‘high risk’ for sexual exploitation/unplanned pregnancy/STIs (in other words, folks who would really benefit from sex education). I’m particularly proud of the fact that our program is one of the few in the area providing sex education to individuals with cognitive and intellectual disabilities (with content specifically tailored to that population). We always seek to provide our education through an anti-oppression lens. Good sex education is anti-racist, gender inclusive, and honors cultural experiences and worldviews; I like to think that SELF does really good sex education. Read More

Dhruv Muppidi ’21 Named Presidential Scholar Semifinalist

photo of DhruvCongratulations to senior Dhruv Muppidi on being named one of 625 Presidential Scholar semifinalists from out of 3.6 million seniors across the country! Since 1964, the Presidential Scholars Program has honored the nation’s most distinguished high school seniors based on academic success, leadership, and service to school and community. Dhruv is one of only 10 semifinalists from Minnesota. He will find out if he is selected as one of 160 Presidential Scholarship recipients in early May!

Meet Dhruv Muppidi ’21

What prompted your application to the Presidential Scholars Program?
After receiving the invitation to apply to the Presidential Scholars Program, I decided to apply mostly on a whim to eliminate any regret I may have had if I didn’t at least test my chances. I never once expected to be a semifinalist, and to be considered alongside some of the most accomplished high school seniors in the country is extremely humbling. It’s a testament to the wonderful work being done at MPA by the teachers and the student body.

What’s your big dream?
If we’re talking long-term (and perhaps a tad idealistically), NBA commissioner is my ultimate dream, combining my love of business management, economics, and sports. However, I’m also passionate about combating educational inequities, and I would love to continue working in the non-profit sector during college and beyond.

Read More