Marked by Hope

Hi, my name is Mandi, and my daughters are in second grade at Hope Academy. I can’t tell you how much relief, stability, and joy this school has brought to our lives.

As a single mom, I work and pray really hard to make our tuition payment each month. And then there’s you–Hope’s supporters.

Your gifts make it possible for my daughters to get a top-quality, Christ-centered education, regardless of where they were born, how much money we have, or the color of our skin.

I want you to know 7 ways your gift changes our lives, and invite you to consider making a tax-deductible, year-end gift to Hope Academy so more children can have this opportunity:

  1. Christ-centered education anchors and guides us.
  2. Teachers make us feel loved and seen.
  3. Hope Academy’s community strengthens families.
  4. You are opening doors for my girls’ futures.
  5. Discipline targets the heart.
  6. Hope’s partnership empowers parents.
  7. Your gifts are turning the tide for low-income families.

If you haven’t made a gift this year, would you consider what you can do to provide children in the inner-city with access to a high-quality, Christ-centered education? Dozens of students still need financial sponsors this school year.

Click here to make a gift, or to see how you can make a difference in families like mine.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Mandi Cardwell

Hope Academy Mom

The Foolishness of God

When God finally moved my heart to start a school for my neighbors, I had no idea what he had in store.

I thought maybe we’d try it for a year or two. Or if God really blessed us, we’d grow from 35 students to 180 urban youth. I got used to hearing, “Russ, you’re an idiot!”

And, in a sense, I was. I moved my family to “Murderapolis.” I quit my job, with a wife and three children to feed. My friend Jeff and I started a school, with no formal education training.

But 18 years and hundreds of faithful helpers later, look what God has done. Our latest Annual Report is a true testament that, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26):

  • 474 urban youth receiving a remarkable, God-centered education (p. 4).
  • $1 million dollars in college scholarships for our 2017 graduates–some the first in their family to graduate from high school (p. 15).
  • Students who face adversity grasping “what true love really looks like” (p. 5).
  • God transforming families, through Hope (p. 9).

During the last 18 years, I’ve grown especially fond of 1 Corinthians 1:25 & 27 which say, “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom,” and that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” In a world that says, “God is foolish,” we say the “foolishness” of God is exactly what we need.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey, it’s that faith may not always make sense–but obedience to God is always worth it. May you be encouraged to follow God’s promptings today.

With joy,

Russ's signature

Russ Gregg
Co-Founder & Head of School

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Online K-12 VS Private School: Which is better?

With the global rise of access to the internet, opportunities for online education have increased. There are many valid reasons why a virtual school may be of value to some families, such as struggles with bullying, family schedules that are not conducive to traditional school, or limited access to desired programs. In Minnesota there are free online school options available to residents.

Virtual schooling may provide some form of flexibility that families find valuable, but there can be an unforeseen drawback to the lack of personal contact and face-to-face interactions. The lack of personal interaction with staff and teachers who care about the outcome of the student’s education and faith, as well as the success of the entire family unit is an important piece of education that is missing.

At Hope Academy, we believe that the forming of a child’s character is a large part of the educational process. Our goal is to teach the whole child, which necessarily includes maturing in godly character, and that cannot be ascertained through the results of a test. Godly character cannot be fully learned through videos or textbooks; it must be modeled.

Rick Weissbourd, author of the book, “The Vulnerable Child” and a lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education explains teacher and student relationships this way, “In these relationships, moral qualities are shaped. Adults do not simply transmit moral qualities and beliefs to children. These qualities and beliefs emerge and continually evolve in the wide array of relationships that every child has with both adults and peers starting nearly at birth, and in children’s felt knowledge of what is harmful, true, or right. In these relationships, children continually sort out, for example, what they owe others, what they should stand for, what traditions are worth keeping, whether to follow rules, how to contribute to their family, classroom, and community—in other words, how to be a decent human being.’”

Children learn how to live by watching those around them. Hope believes that through our shepherding-learning model, our students will be positively influenced to live a life in accordance with the Gospel of Christ.

What is lacking in an online K-12 education is the mentorship, relationship, and discipleship. At Hope Academy, we believe that this piece is crucial to the success of our students and their families. Our partnership with parents and seeing our students face-to-face, allows us to shepherd their lives in a way that is as unique as the students we teach.

Just as Jesus walked with his disciples, all the while teaching them – we desire to do the same with our students and their families. To see the educational difference that Hope Academy provides, come to our open house, schedule an admission tour or a shadow visit. We’d love to meet you!

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Closing the Achievement Gap

Rising Above Education Standards

Driving down the streets of inner city Minneapolis, one can glimpse a multitude of ethnic groups. The same diversity that makes our city beautiful presents us with challenges that naturally occur when cultures cohabitate. With such a concentration of minorities, Hope Academy desires to do our best to help close the achievement gap, that affects many of our neighbors.

According to Wikipedia, “The achievement gap in the United States refers to the observed, persistent disparity in measures of educational performance among subgroups of U.S. students, especially groups defined by socioeconomic status (SES), race/ethnicity and gender.”

What that means is that specifically minority children are behind their peers in reading, math, and other subjects. Hope Academy believes Academically Disenfranchised, Culturally Diverse, and Economically Disadvantaged children matter, and therefore they deserve an education worthy of image bearers.

What tactics do we use help our students?

Hope classrooms are marked by discipline, high expectations, an extended school year, and standardized testing that informs the way we teach our students.

We keep our class sizes small, averaging only 20 students per classroom. We feel that strong teacher-student-parent relationships are vital to the successful outcome we are striving for.

Beginning in seventh grade at Hope Academy, students have their math and language courses in combined-gender classrooms — but almost all of our other core courses at Hope Academy happen in single-gender classrooms. We believe this helps reinforce serious study.

We provide a rigorous classical curriculum, including Latin, Music, Art, and P.E., as well as a mandatory four-week summer school program for our elementary and middle school grades.

Hope Academy also provides an Academic Support Center that is designed to help ensure that not a single student falls through the cracks.

Raising Standards of Expectations

At Hope Academy, we believe that our students can and will achieve what is required of them – which is why we place high standards on academic achievement, knowing that our students can reach the goals placed before them. Over 90% of Hope Academy High School students are at grade level in Math & Reading!

Our goal is that all graduates of Hope Academy would be prepared for college-level work. Students are required to take four years each of our six core courses: Humane Letters, Writing/Rhetoric/Speech/Drama, Bible, Science, Math, and Foreign Language. Additional academic courses contribute to the development of a solid classical liberal arts education, with offerings in physical fitness, health, music, art, and others.

Why Do We Care?

Hope Academy cares deeply about the success of the students and their families. Our efforts to close the achievement gap spring from our belief that every human being is created in the image of God is absolutely stunning in its majesty and grandeur, and its implications are weighty, almost beyond comprehension. We believe that no child should be warehoused, rather, our job is to do the really hard work of cultivating virtue and Christ-like character by shepherding students’ hearts.

We desire for our students to know the One of whom it is said, in Psalm 111:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”

We desire that our students to be successful in ALL areas of their lives, especially the life to come!

To learn more about why we take education so seriously, we encourage you to read the text of Imago Dei Education: Bearing the Burden of My Neighbor’s Glory, a talk delivered recently by Russ Gregg, our Head of School.

To learn more about enrolling your child at Hope Academy, visit us.

To partner with us in closing the achievement gap, see our Growing Hope Campaign page.

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Family Ministry Resources

One of our biggest goals at Hope Academy, is to witness our students and their entire family living successful and faithful lives.

We understand that many of our families depend upon government programs to help make ends meet. We desire to help families thrive in the life skills necessary to no longer need programs, such as food stamps, Medicaid, and other government assistance.

See the infographic below to learn more about how we support our families. You can also learn more about our family support here.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming one of our families.

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Growing Hope Update: The Biggest Ribbon Cutting You’ve Ever Seen

By God’s amazing grace, Phase I of the Growing Hope Capital Campaign was completed on time and under budget.

Last week, we pulled out the biggest pair of scissors Hope Academy has ever seen, and hosted a Ribbon Cutting to celebrate our new science wing, computer lab, and 4th grade classrooms. Click to enjoy a snippet!

Lord-willing, this will not be the last time you see those scissors. In fact, we are hoping to use them 11 more times — once to christen Phase II of our Growing Hope expansion to make room for 250 more students, and 10 more times to celebrate the opening of 10 Hope Academy-style schools nationwide. We are trusting the Lord for the remaining $625,000 to make this possible.

To learn more about the Growing Hope Capital Campaign – or to join us in our efforts – see

Thank you to everyone who has had a hand in Growing Hope for urban youth. There has never been a better time for hope!

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The Best Private School or the Right School?

The decision to send a child to school is an important one, wrought with many small decisions along the way. Most parents or guardians do their research before making that momentous decision on which school(s) to apply to. Everyone wants to send their child to “the best private school”, but what if we told you that “the best school” is not always the right school for your child?

When looking at research comparing schools, articles are generally providing data collected from the school and students based on test scores, college data, and other sources. Niche is a website that devotes itself to helping users discover where they want to live and raise their family. The data that they collect also provides users with comparisons of K12 public and private schools and where they rank – according to data collected. Niche, like other K12 data gathering sites, uses this methodological system of rating school systems:

The 2018 Best Private K-12 Schools ranking is based on rigorous analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education along with test scores, college data, and ratings collected from millions of Niche users. Additional data is also collected from schools directly.

It is an extensive data collection system that can help you learn some qualities that make up the best private schools, yet there are some elements of a child’s education that are not considered in the data, such as the distinctives at the right school that are not quantitative on a measurement scale.

Parental involvement is crucial to the success of the child.

Every student’s excellence is achieved through the partnership of parents and school faculty. When all parties are working toward the same goal, of the child’s success in education, everyone succeeds. At Hope Academy, we are serious about our commitment to you, as parents and the partnership that we share, thus we sign a covenant with parents to display that commitment.

Beyond test scores

The truly best private schools will educate the whole child — mind, body, and soul. That’s why we integrate God’s Word and his principles into every aspect of our students’ day. Hope Academy believes in equipping our students not only to do exceedingly well in the rigors of their education and in their earthly lives beyond school, but more importantly to prepare them for eternity. We, at Hope Academy, desire to shepherd our students in the wisdom and truth of the Scriptures.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:34-36 ESV

Character also matters

Test results matter, for the best private schools, when getting into a desired college or university. Degrees and experience matter when getting job or making a career change. Character matters in every area of life. We set high expectations of our students. We unashamedly follow through with those expectations and discipline. We desire to equip our students to academically achieve their goals, as well as working on areas of character that cannot be tested with paper and pencil.

Consistency is key

Double-standards can cause apathy or frustration in children, which is why we are just as concerned about the character of parents and teachers. We hold the standards the same across the board. We want our students to see godly character modeled throughout their life. We firmly believe in accountability in every area of education.

Ranking systems are beneficial in comparing prospective K12 private and public schools, but they do not reveal all that a school offers. There are much deeper and beneficial traits that a school can offer that cannot be collected through data reporting. Hope Academy’s unique qualities reach beyond those to work with you, the parent, to reach those goals that are beyond the ranking systems. Schedule a tour today to learn more.

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How to Find School Tuition Assistance

Paying for private school tuition can be difficult no matter a family’s level of income. There are many different ways to pay for and receive private school tuition assistance. Here are some options:

Personal Budget. Some families choose to make changes in their spending to find assistance within their own budget. Perhaps it means taking less or smaller vacations as a family. It could also look like the family driving a vehicle for longer than they typically did in the past. There are creative and different ways families may change their spending to accommodate the new expense of private school tuition.

Friends and Family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends are amazing at giving gifts for holidays, birthdays, or just because. Giving monetary gifts toward a child’s tuition is a viable option. Their generosity could turn into a significant contribution to the education of your child.

Specific School Assistance. Often private schools have tuition assistance available to their students. Whether it is like our family share option or our available scholarships – there are often times viable options within the walls of the school. Ask your school about tuition assistance!

National and State-Specific Assistance. In addition to the aforementioned areas, there are many options for private school tuition assistance nationwide and state specific. School and Student Services, run by the National Association of Independent Schools, helps parents walk through all the financial aspects of paying for private school tuition. You can use their site to apply for assistance with any of the schools you are applying to.

Fastweb, which many people use for college assistance searching, also provides information about national and regional assistance for K12 private school tuition.

Children’s Scholarship Fund lists grant, scholarship, and voucher opportunities by state for easy use.

Student and Family Loan. Sallie Mae offers low interest loans to families who need assistance in paying for their child’s K12 education. The application process is done online. They have loan options available with the current interest rates and no penalty for paying off a loan early. When other options are not available, for private school tuition assistance, this option may be beneficial to your family’s needs.

Although families can find it difficult to fund private school tuition, there are avenues of help available to cover some, if not all, of the cost. The ideas above are some of the ways that families have found assistance for their child’s K12 private school tuition.

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Imago Dei Education: Bearing the Burden of My Neighbor’s Glory


Over the last five months, I’ve been writing and speaking about something I call Imago Dei Education, or education for image-bearers. This work arose from a need to explain more clearly what we mean at Hope when we say, “The hope of Hope Academy is God.”  I could tell from certain follow-up questions to talks I had given that I had falsely assumed a high level of understanding where in fact there was little. When people would ask me, “What could schools learn from Hope Academy even if they don’t care a whit about God?” I just shook my head and knew I needed to do some better teaching.

What I first needed to correct was the false idea that Hope Academy is basically doing the same thing that other public and charter schools are doing, only we’re executing a little better than they are. We’re like Avis. We try harder.

No, no, no, no. Let me assure you, we are not doing the same thing as other schools in our city. We are doing something completely different. We are doing education for image bearers, and there is a world of difference between the two.

This morning, I want to talk with you about Imago Dei Education—its urgent need, its power, and finally its price.

The Urgent Need of Imago Dei Education

There is a crisis of honor in America that is crippling our day to day lives. From the coarseness of our speech on the airwaves and on social media, to the cheapening of human life, especially the lives of the unborn, to the unwillingness to even listen to, much less consider the merits of an opposing argument, to the political gridlock that is paralyzing St. Paul and Washington. Have you ever asked yourself what’s behind all this? What’s changed?

Let me suggest that as the doctrine of creation has been lost, what was also lost was seeing and honoring the image of God in one another. Mere material beings don’t necessarily deserve respect and honor, do they? Random collections of atoms cannot be said to have an ultimate purpose or a sense of dignity.

The tragic loss of the image of God has powerfully affected our schools. It is no mere coincidence that education divorced from the image of God has relatively quickly resulted in God being dismissed from classrooms, truth being rejected from textbooks, parents being ignored, teachers being abused, and students being warehoused. It has contributed to school shootings, voluntary segregation, a yawning achievement gap, gender confusion, chaos, and now generation after generation lost to drugs, gangs, and teenage pregnancy.

Could this explain why, according to a recent series of articles in the Star Tribune, black families are fleeing district schools and searching for alternatives in massive numbers?

The Power of Imago Dei Education

So how does the image of God have the power to change all that? As we say around here, “Hope in God changes everything.”

A good friend of mine, Dr. Vernard Gant, an urban school leader for over 30 years, refers to the students we serve at Hope Academy as ACE Students. It’s an acronym meaning students who are Academically Disenfranchised, Culturally Diverse, and Economically Disadvantaged. It’s a succinct and memorable way of describing our preferred student.

However, the all-important question is this: Do we see our ACE Students: academically disenfranchised; culturally diverse; and economically disadvantaged, as children created in the image of God? If the answer is, “Yes,” then that means at least three powerful things.

First, it means that our students have a special dignity arising from their special connection with God. The imago Dei means that all children, made according to God’s image, are endowed with a dignified status that accords with their connection to Christ. And all children, means all children, because it is a status that is conferred by God in creation and not earned or deserved by man.

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “There are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from the treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God.” (The American Dream)

Throughout history, sinful leaders have perpetrated great evils based on the mistaken idea that there are “gradations” in the image of God—that certain peoples are more or less deserving of honor than others.

One implication of this in the classroom is unintentionally submitting to a two-tiered approach—especially regarding student expectations. We will trivialize the imago Dei in our students if we expect less of some, particularly if they come from an at-risk background. Teachers and Partners at Hope believe that the dignity of man opens the door for all children to receive a great education.

Second, the imago Dei also confers a holy and joyful duty upon all our students—the duty to worship and glorify God. We have all been created with a great and glorious purpose, to reflect the glory of God on the earth. The ultimate purpose of our instruction can never be limited to preparation for college. The ultimate purpose of our instruction must aim higher at what the scriptures call “shalom,” or human flourishing. As the old catechism puts it, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

The word, “forever,” leads to a third massive implication of the imago Dei– our students have a glorious destiny. We are teaching immortal beings. I’ll expand more on this later.

So, how is Imago Dei Education different from other kinds of education practiced in our city? Education for image bearers means that God is exalted at Hope Academy. It means that truth is treasured. It means that parents are involved. It means that teachers are respected and looked to as role models and mentors. It means that students are dignified by high expectations of their behavior and academic work. It means that bullies are disciplined; and achievement gaps are closed; and youth are prepared for college and for a life of God-glorifying work and service.

Imago Dei Education means that children will be able to discern the difference between reading Captain Underpants and reading Charlotte’s Web. As image bearers, they will be able to discern what is objectively good and true and beautiful.

Education for image bearers means caring enough about a child to do the really hard work of cultivating virtue and Christ-like character by shepherding student hearts. It means welcoming the immigrant and the stranger God has brought into our city into our school family. And it means not giving up on students, but prayerfully and patiently pursuing God’s redemptive work in their lives when they rebel against family and God.

The Price of Imago Dei Education

As you can imagine, this kind of precious education comes at a price.

It is currently against the laws of the State of Minnesota to use tax-payer dollars to provide Imago Dei Education to a child. And let me make this clear, trading Imago Dei Education for government dollars is a trade that Hope Academy will never, ever make.

There is a price to do what is right.

As you know, next to Hope Academy is a park where different churches and ministries come regularly, with good and noble intentions, to serve the poor a meal. Regardless of the group doing the serving, the menu almost always contains the same item—hot dogs.

This is not because the poor are so enamored of hot dogs. It’s because we haven’t truly reckoned with the weight of our neighbor’s glory. Disrespectful and dismissive of the image of God in our neighbor, our charity will appear flippant.

Similarly, in my pride, when I thought of starting an inner-city school 18 years ago and considered what kind of education I should serve my neighbors with, I was strongly tempted to give them “a hot-dog education”—an education more fit for a pauper than a future king.

The truth that every human being is created in the image of God is absolutely stunning in its majesty and grandeur, and its implications are weighty, almost beyond comprehension.

Your partnership with a Hope Academy student is making the strongest possible statement that Academically Disenfranchised, Culturally Diverse, and Economically Disadvantaged children matter, and therefore they deserve an Imago Dei Education. What a courageous statement you are making by not warehousing children, but in love, gladly bearing the burden of your neighbor’s glory.

Let me conclude with a powerful exhortation from C.S. Lewis’ essay, The Weight of Glory:

It may be possible for each of us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

Remember, there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

—C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), pp. 45-46.

On behalf of our students and families created in the image of God, thank you for changing the world by making Imago Dei Education affordable for all.

By Russ Gregg, Head of School

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How to Choose a Minneapolis Private School

Choosing a private school is tough! There are so many things to think about. We’ve found that by focusing on the following 3 factors, you can quickly narrow your options for a Minneapolis private school.

Here are 3 factors that we think are helpful when considering the possibility of a private school education in for your child:

Make a decision based on your values.

Refine your search by considering what’s important to you, whether it’s math, foreign languages, art, religion, after-school care, free busing, or special education resources. At Hope Academy, we provide a rigorous classical curriculum that prepares students not only for college but for life in general beyond high school graduation. Yet academics are not the only thing we are interested in. We believe in shepherding the hearts of all students. So in addition to a demanding education, we also provide a culture that fosters Godly character. We are committed to seeing our students develop Godly qualities like integrity, peace, honor, excellence and faithfulness, just as much as they master subjects like Calculus, Chemistry, Rhetoric and Spanish. In Minneapolis or and even in the greater Twin Cities area, your choices are vast – but it’s important to find a good fit for both you and your child.

Be comfortable with the cost.

Ask about cost! Find out what financial aid or scholarships are available. Ask if the cost for students increases as they get older. Find out if there are free lunch options and if there are other costs for things like uniforms or sports activities. Here at Hope, we provide individualized, affordable options. For instance, Our ‘Family Fair Share’ of tuition takes into consideration each family’s income, number of children in the home and number of students who are applying. This helps us to ensure that an education at Hope Academy can be affordable for all. In fact, many of our families pay a total share of only $75 – $300 per month for all of their children to attend Hope Academy!

Visit the school.

Scheduling a time to do an Admission Tour or visit during an Admission Open House is a great way to learn about a school. Hope Academy offers Admission Tours and Open House events during the school year for you to see the school in action. While you’re at a school for a visit, try to meet the principal, teachers, and maybe even students or other parents. Check out the work on the walls, how adults and children interact, and what type of involvement the school wants from parents. One indication of how well a school is doing is if the faculty and staff trust the school enough to send their own children there. So, inquire about what schools the staff have their children enrolled.

Those are 3 factors we recommend to parents when considering a private school for their child. If you’d like to explore more if Hope Academy can be a good fit for your family, schedule a tour with us. We’d love to meet you!