Hope Principal's Frozen Experiments Go Viral!

We are rejoicing over the teachers and staff that the Lord has brought to serve the students and families of Hope Academy.

They are talented and passionate educators who believe that each child who walks though our doors has unique, God-given abilities and intrinsic value.  And they are committed to providing a classical, Christ-centered education of the utmost excellence to the children of the inner city.

Many of these teachers and staff also have a flair for innovation and creativity. That was revealed again this past week when Hope’s upper school principal, Nathan Ziegler, was featured on The Weather ChannelGood Morning America, and KARE 11 for his “below-zero” weather experiments. His “Minnesota Cold” YouTube videos have garnered national attention and millions of views.

Click to see Mr. Ziegler’s Sub-Zero Experiment that has Gone Viral!

And while Mr. Ziegler’s notoriety is fueled by frostbite, our hearts are melting over God’s faithful provision and the joy-filled, year-end generosity of so many.

As we round the New Year, we have received more than 90% of our annual fundraising goal for this year. We are so grateful to the Lord for his provision!

Thank you to each one of you who has given sacrificially to this labor of God’s love!

With deep gratitude,

Russ Gregg
Head of School

A Stable Miracle & Giving at Christmas

by Russ Gregg, Head of School

Over the last fifteen years since God called us to start Hope Academy, I have been guided by three convictions regarding education.

  • First, true education begins and ends with God.
  • Second, with schools, small is beautiful.
  • Third, liberty and effective learning are often stifled by bureaucracy.

I was reminded again of these three convictions with the recent resignation of Bernadeia Johnson as superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools. I have admired much of Dr. Johnson’s leadership these last four years, but I was not surprised by the news. Facing so much bureaucracy and factionalism in public education, the average tenure of a big city public school superintendent in our country is just 3.6 years.

For these last fifteen years, your generosity has helped provide stability in providing a classical, Christ-centered education to our city’s most important and endangered resource: inner city children.

As you consider end-of-year giving, we are still asking the Lord to provide more than 40 Day Sponsors for a class of kindergarteners ($540/day); one full ($6,000) or two half ($3,000) Partners for more than 25 students – including Jonathan, Alejandro, Sienna, LaKylee, Gideon, Jay’Veonna, and Ma’layiah – and three more Boaz gifts ($50,000).

All told, we are asking the Lord for about $250,000 of our $2,975,000 fundraising goal this year as we serve more than 400 inner city youth in grades K-12. You can click here to make a gift online.

More than 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ entered our human history in the most unlikely of circumstances, as a baby in a stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem.

Fifteen years ago, God began our unlikely story of stable redemption, right here in the Phillips neighborhood. Thank you for your partnership as we together see how God’s story of Hope unfolds over the next fifteen years.

Introducing Jim Stigman

Jim Stigman
Jim Stigman is joining Hope Academy as our new Head of Institutional Advancement

Dear Hope Academy Supporters,

I am pleased to share that in mid-November, Jim Stigman accepted the call to join the Leadership Team of Hope Academy as our Head of Institutional Advancement, with Dan Olson’s calling to another Kingdom assignment. Jim has been transitioning into his position at Hope Academy for the last six weeks, and will start full-time in January.

Looking back it feels like the Lord had been planning this since last Spring, when Jeff Bird and I first started talking with Jim about joining Dan Olson on the Advancement team.

Jim brings a passion for the Lord and the youth of the city and is a highly articulate and passionate communicator. He has a well-rounded background in development, vision-casting, constituent relations, and financial services, as well as having many existing relationships within our donor community.

Jim may be familiar to many of you. Perhaps you’ve seen a tall guy with a bunch of kid’s coming to a Partner Day, playing on the playground, or sidling up next to a kindergartener in the lunch room. Jim has been a supporter of Hope Academy since 2007. At that time, Jim was raising support for Katie’s Club Fund, a fund which his family had established in memory of Jim’s previous wife, Katrina, who had died in 2005 of breast cancer.

Dan Olson learned about Jim’s efforts from a Hope supporter and reached out to Jim to see if there might be a connection with the mission and ministry of Hope Academy. Jim had started Katie’s Club Fund to help girls and women with a financial need receive social, educational, and life-changing opportunities in a Christian environment. Jim immediately saw the impact of Hope Academy and, within the year, Jim began supporting a kindergartner at Hope.

In 2008, God saw fit to bless him with another beautiful wife and he was remarried in 2008. Jim and Stacy immediately started home-schooling their blended family, primarily because they knew it would be the fastest way to strengthen their new family unit. The Stigmans have been blessed with eight children: Phoebe, Maddie, Dezi, Ethan, Simon, Bella, Olivia, and Opal. Partner day trips to Hope Academy have become a high-anticipation event and they have enjoyed their interaction with the Hope Academy family, primarily the students.

Please pray for Jim in the weeks and months to come as he works to familiarize himself with the school, the development cycle, our constituents, and the nuances of a new position. Join me in welcoming Jim into our collective mission to bring the hope of Christ to families of the city. I know Jim is excited to meet you.

Warmly,

Russ Gregg, Head of School

P.S. – In late September, Dan Olson let us know that the Lord had called him to serve The Gospel Coalition as their Director of Advancement, a position he is beginning in January. We are so grateful to God for Dan’s work these last nine years for the children of the city. Dan will be based out of Minneapolis in this new position, and he and his family will continue to be involved at Hope Academy as parents and Partners.

Sophomores in Photo, smiling

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

I was standing in the hallway this morning as a steady stream of urban parents entered Hope Academy for their kids’ parent-teacher conferences. As we address the crisis in urban education, nothing brings me more joy than seeing parents responding to our gentle prodding that they are the first and most important teachers in their students’ lives.

This made me overflow with joy for you, our supporters, and all the work the Lord has done through your support and generosity.

Join us in thanking God for:

  • 13 Hope Academy seniors who recently returned from sharing the love of Christ with children in the Dominican Republic
  • 24 tenth graders who spent the past week sacrificially serving youth and the elderly in downtrodden areas ofNew Orleans, growing in their relationships with God and one another
  • Sustained enrollment of more than 400 inner-city youth who every day are receiving a remarkable, Christ-centered education
  • Hundreds of parents who are attending their kids’ parent-teacher conferences yesterday and today.
  • Nearly 450 Evening of Hope guests who celebrated God’s incredible works of redemption in Hope Academy families and alumni – click to watch!

More than that, we praise God for the unquantifiable grace he provides for us each day through our Lord Jesus Christ. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Co. 9:15, NIV).

 We praise the Lord as well for:

  • The prayers you’ve prayed for our students, families, teachers and staff
  • Your sacrificial generosity in providing Hope to families who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a remarkable, Christ-centered education in inner-city Minneapolis
  • Your hours upon hours of tutoring, mentoring and volunteering with our students.

Now, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:15, NIV).

Blessings,

Russ Gregg, Head of School

Student Testimony (Dashon – 10th Grade)

My name is Dashon and I’m in 10th grade at Hope Academy. I’ve been a student here since 7th grade. At my old school in 6th grade, some of the kids were in gangs, kids were bringing drugs to school – Yes, in 6th grade. And the teachers didn’t really know what to do, and it seemed like they just didn’t care.

So when my baseball coach, Pastor Erickson, told me about Hope Academy – I was interested. I talked to my mom and she said sure – and I got in. What I noticed right away was that the teachers cared, and my classmates cared about school. But there was one big problem. Me.

By the end of 7th grade, I was failing a lot my classes – and I just got down on myself, and got angry at the teachers. In the Upper school we have something called the ASC or “Academic Support Center” where you have to stay after school to finish your homework. I was there almost every day.

Mr. Hutton runs the ASC and helped me understand Algebra, and Latin, and Science – and to get my homework done. He and his wife even had me over to his house – and we’d work on our homework.

So  things started to change in me — I realized learning requires perseverance and patience. My mom says so too.

In 8th grade, I started doing better. I started getting C’s and a few B’s. During summer session, we read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. This is still my favorite book I’ve ever read at Hope. Nothing teaches patience better than reading a 1000-page book.

Last year, in 9th grade, I really started applying myself. I realized that my grades were going to matter for getting into college. Now this year, my goal is to be on the B-honor roll.

One of my favorite classes this year is Humane Letters – which is sort of history and literature together. Right now, we’re studying the Westminster Confession of Faith and next we’re reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I also like our Christian Apologetics class.

When I think about how I’ve changed these last four years, I would say I’ve grown in putting my trust in the Lord – and I’ve become more patient and slow to anger. And I really want to do my best – and work heartily as unto the Lord.

As I think about my future, right now my goals are to graduate from High School with at least a 3.0 GPA, then go to the University of Texas.

Then I’d like to go to seminary and become a youth pastor or pastor – like Mr. Erickson. I’m grateful for everyone who is praying for us here at Hope Academy, and helping provide a school like Hope Academy.

Character, Poverty, Health & The Gospel

Note: This article is adapted from Russ Gregg’s opening address to the staff and faculty of Hope Academy on August 18, 2014.   

Fifteen years ago, Jeff Bird and I were in a cabin on Lake Huron talking about how to start Hope Academy. We made a roaring fire, but as we put on a few additional logs, the fire was smothered. We took this as a sign that however Hope Academy was would grow, we were going to grow slow, with the gospel as our fire.

While we have grown slow, today it is hard to believe. We started with 35 students in grades K-2, and today we serve more than 400 K-12 students, 200 families, we have nearly 70 staff, a $3.3 million budget, and we are helping lead an education reform movement around the country. Today, I believe more strongly than ever that the Gospel is the source of our success. Let me explain.

The Gospel & Character

This summer, our teaching staff read How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. Writing about education reform, Tough rightly puts forward the character hypothesis over against the intelligence hypothesis. He writes:

When looking for root causes of poverty-related under-achievement, we tend to focus on the wrong culprits and ignore the ones that science tells us do the most damage. The science is saying that conservatives are correct on one very important point: character matters. There is no antipoverty tool we can provide for disadvantaged young people that will be more valuable than the character strengths of conscientiousness, grit, resilience, perseverance and optimism.

   However, from my view, Tough is relatively clueless about how to develop this hidden power in children.

   Ultimately, he believes character is developed by:

  The mundane, mechanical interaction of specific chemicals in the brains and bodies of infants as parents lick and groom them like rats, so that their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functions well.

A chemical and genetic view misses the source of how character is formed.

True grit, Biblical grit, is not primarily genetic trait. It is an acquired character trait that is forged in the fires of adversity and faith in the gospel.

One writer, Jon Bloom at Desiring God, put it this way,

The Bible’s terms for grit are steadfastness (1 Cor. 15:58) and endurance (Luke 21:19). Steadfastness is the determination to remain at your post come what may. Endurance is the determination to keep moving toward your desired goal despite external challenges and internal weariness.

True godly grit is able to strive hard and stand fast because it is empowered by God’s grace. That’s why Paul could say things like, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me”(1 Cor. 15:10).

The Gospel & Poverty

So we possess the most powerful weapon in the war on poverty and character development—the gospel.

In Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice, Keller quotes an essay by Croatian theologian, Miroslav Volf.

After visiting an inner-city ministry, Volf began to imagine for the first time how the gospel could change the self-understanding of the poor in life-changing ways.

He discovered how the (seemingly) dead doctrine of justification by grace contained untapped resources for healing:

Imagine that you have no job, no money; you live cut off from the rest of society in a world ruled by poverty and violence; you are pre-judged for the color of your skin—and you have no hope that any of this will change. Around you is a society governed by the iron law of achievement. Its gilded goods are flaunted before your eyes on TV screens, and in a thousand ways society tells you every day that you are worthless because you have no achievement… But the gospel tells us that we are not defined by outside forces. It tells us that we count; even more, that we are loved unconditionally and infinitely, irrespective of anything you have achieved or failed to achieve. Imagine now this gospel not simply proclaimed, but embodied in a community. Justified by sheer grace, the community seeks to “justify” by grace those declared “unjust” by a society’s implacable law of achievement…. A dead doctrine? Hardly!

We, at Hope Academy, already possess the most powerful weapon in the war on poverty—the completely unmerited grace of God. And paradoxically, it often produces the fruit of achievement that society is looking for, but with a radically different source.

The Gospel & Healthy School Culture

The gospel is not just central to character and poverty, but organizational health as well.

Our leadership team is reading Pat Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else.

Lencioni makes the case that organizational health surpasses all disciplines in any organization as the greatest opportunity for competitive advantage.

We may be smart at Hope Academy, but we are not much smarter than our brothers and sisters down the street.

Our real advantage is the health of our community—our spiritual and emotional health.

According to Lencioni, a healthy organization is one that has all but eliminated politics and confusion from its environment. As a result, productivity and morale soar, and good people almost never leave. Health is as tangible as anything an organization does, and even more important. Why? Because the smartest organizations and schools in the world will eventually fail if it is unhealthy.

By God’s grace, Hope Academy is a relatively healthy place, but I am proposing the following eight commitments to strengthen and sustain the health of our school.

Eight Commitments of the Hope Academy Community

1. We’re going to express our love for God and our dependance on him everyday together.

2. We’re going to invest the precious time needed each day to really listen to and care for one another.

3. We’re going to actively collaborate to help each other become the best teachers and leaders we can be.

4. We’re going to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus to the students and families we serve.

5. We’re going to celebrate the work of the Spirit, whenever we see one another caught in the sacrificial act of laying down our lives like Jesus.

6. Even when it’s difficult, we will endeavor to speak the truth in love to one another, seasoned with grace and generosity of spirit.

7. When sinned against, we’re going to forgive one another just as God has so lavishly forgiven us, in Christ.

8. We are going to faithfully honor our commitments to one another and invite one another’s help in holding ourselves accountable.

What an advantage these eight commitments would give us!  If we live them by God’s grace and wield the gospel in all things—God will continue to grow character and end the cycle of poverty in our community.

A Window Into Remarkable Teaching

The following remarks were shared by Peter Ziegler at Partner Day. Mr. Ziegler provides teacher coaching throughout Hope Academy, and so has had opportunity to see teaching in progress schoolwide.

What a wonderful day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it! And you get spend part of the day with the students of Hope that you have partnered with!

I have five grandchildren who attend Hope and I want to thank you for your spiritual, personal and financial support of this school. Like you, my wife and I are also supporters of Hope. But I have had a unique experience here, as an educator.

I have been involved with education for a long time. This is my 42nd year working in schools. Do the math that makes me old.

First I was a classroom teacher, next I worked with schools to improve curriculum and instruction. Then I worked as the executive director of an education district.

In retirement I have worked as the executive director of an education non-profit. I estimate that I have been in over 1000 classrooms during my career.

The highlight of my career came three years ago when my son Nathan, the Upper School Principal and his staff called and asked me to come to work with them as their instructional coach.

As a coach in both the Upper and Lower Schools I work with them in their Professional Learning Communities studying topics that will help them improve their instructional skills. Several times a year I observe them in their classrooms.

We meet before their lesson to discuss what I am going to see. During the lesson I make observations, take notes and video tape. After the lesson we meet to critique the lesson using teacher observations, my notes and the video.

I have never worked in a school system where every teacher takes part in such a rigorous professional development program. The teachers of Hope Academy work very hard to continually improve.

I have personally watched all of them teach – now I would like to take you to see what I see. So put on your imagination caps, and let me take you around the building.

If I was to share all of the great things I have seen here it would take days. We will visit a few classrooms to get a sampling of what happens here.

First stop – first grade where we see Jose and Stella who do not speak English. Their teacher is teaching them not only to speak English but to read and write it. While we are here please take a look this writing by Angel. She reports in her journal that she has been “Inspired” by the writing lesson that day. This is the first month of school and her writing is a couple of pages long, shows a personnel voice and has vivid details.

Shhhh. Now we’re entering a third grade classroom, where Theodore, Isabella and their class are engaged in a Socratic Seminar, I don’t want us to interrupt. These third graders have read a difficult piece of text and are now coming together to discuss it. In the seminar you will hear them support their view, make references to the text they read, build on what their classmates have said – and look – they are taking turns speaking.

Now let’s go into a fifth grade room — Jasmine and Anthony are in a writing conference, learning to critique and edit not only their own work but the work of others. Let’s see if we can get close enough to hear what Jasmine is saying. “Wow those are juicy words Anthony! I feel like I am actually there!” A bit later in the discussion, “Anthony tell me about what you are trying to say here. Listen as I read it to you – does it say that? Can WE find juicy words to make this more precise?”

These are fifth graders, working together, for each other’s improvement. I think this looks and sounds like the type of world that God has envisioned for his servants.

Now let’s go up the stairs to the Upper School, to a Bible class. This interaction was caught on video, unbeknownst to the teacher and me. The class is engaged in a discussion about grace. After Sam gives his interpretation we see Isaiah, on the video reach across the aisle and say “Great answer SAM! – Right on!” and then give Sam a high five.

Mind you these are middle school boy’s high-fiving over an interpretation of grace. Tell me that HOPE isn’t a great place for us to share our blessings.

Down the hall we are going to step into a Middle School math classroom. One of the techniques that our teachers have studied is No Opt Out – students are not given the option to say: ”I don’t know.” A while back the teacher called on Ellen. “How can this fraction be reduced – Ellen?” Ellen – “I don’t know.” “Ellen I am going to ask another student for their response and I will come back to you. Listen carefully.” The teacher asked another student and then came back to Ellen. “I don’t know.” “Ellen I will come back to you. He asks another student and comes back to Ellen – “You already asked me twice – I DON”T KNOW!” “Ellen I will come back to.” Patiently the teacher calls on yet another student who responds and we are back to Ellen – a defining moment. Ellen gives huge sigh and says “Ok all right already here is how you do it.”

Pay attention to Ellen in class today. There she is in the second row. Look at that, she just answered the teacher’s question the first time he asked. The will of this teacher is a testament to our Lord – “I will stay with you and together we will work this out.”

I am very pleased to have this teacher working with my grandchildren.

Now let’s move on to a high school room and peek in the door – notice Nicole who is engaged in her pre-Calculus class. All the students are gathered around tables. Look around – they are all working – or are they? At closer observation you see that they are all playing a game designed by the teacher – Mathopoly. In the game they proceeded around the board drawing Chance and Community Chest cards that require them to solve a complex problem.
I am not sure they even know we are in the classroom, and guess what – they all passed the test. These are the children of the inner city and their teachers are assuring that they will achieve great things.

As the student(s) you sponsor make their way through Hope Academy – I can assure you they are in incredible hands – yours, God’s and these teachers.

I have seen many good teachers in my day, but I would be hard pressed to find an entire staff as committed to their own self-improvement and the improvement of their students, as the teachers here at HOPE.

As you have a chance, thank them for all they do for the children of Hope and for the Kingdom of God.

Thank you.

410 Students; Prayer & Praises for 2014-2015

Today is the first day of school, and 410 students streamed through the doors of Hope Academy today, our 15th school year. When Hope Academy began in 2000 with just 34 students in grades K-2, we could have never imagined what the Lord would do. Continue to praise the Lord and pray with us for his provision and protection.

PRAISE
 
> For 410 students starting school at Hope Academy!

> For the Lord bringing us gifted staff for the year:

  • Ten new teachers & aides
  • Three Senior Administrators:
    • Mr. Kevin Farmer, Head of Admission & Family Ministry
    • Ms. Leslie Smith, Lower School Principal
    • Ms. Patti Tongen, Head of Finance & Operations
  • Ms. Jamie Olson, Manager, Development & External Relations
  • See all of our Faculty & Staff here >>
PRAYER
 
>> STUDENTS, FAMILIES, & STAFF >> Be in prayer for our students and families, especially those in difficult circumstances; & our teachers & Family Ministry staff and volunteers, and Emerge Mothers Academy coming alongside our families. Learn more here >>  
 
>> ALUMNI >> For our 39 alumni, with more than 30 of them still enrolled in a 2- or 4-year school. Read about them here >>.
 
>> GIVING >> For Partners for 53 of our new Students. Learn more about Sponsoring a Student here >>.
 
>> VOLUNTEERS >> For volunteers for our various volunteer opportunities, lncluding Mentors for Mentors for Hope. Learn more here >>.
 

 

RSVP

 

>> PARTNER DAY >> We can’t wait to have you join us for Partner Day on Thursday, Sept. 25 from 11am-1pmPlease RSVP to Dan Olson at dolson@hopeschool.org or 612-721-6294 ext. 106.
Grateful for your partnership in the gospel,

Russ's signature 

Russ Gregg

Head of School   

  

P.S. – We are launching a new web site at the end of this week, though it is still in test mode for this week. We invite you enjoy navigating the new site and let Dan Olson know if you find any mistakes. Email him at dolson@hopeschool.org.

 

P.P.S. – Click here to make a secure on-line gift. This year, we are still trusting the Lord for sponsors for 53 more students, and six more Boaz gift of $50,000 or more. Contact Dan Olson, Head of Institutional Advancement, with questions at 612-721-6294 ext. 106 or dolson@hopeschool.org.

(5.6.14) Dr. Ben Carson Speaks at Hope Academy

Dr. Ben Carson’s life story has been an inspiration to our work at Hope Academy since the very beginning. Dr. Carson grew up in a rough neighborhood of Detroit, and his parents divorced at an early age. His mother couldn’t read. With a deep faith in the Lord, though, Dr. Carson persevered in school and beyond, eventually becoming the director of pediatric neurosurgery of Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 33. He is credited with being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head.
Dr. Carson, now retired from medicine, spoke to a packed house at Hope Academy at an all-school assembly from 3:40-4:15pm, Tuesday, May 6. In addition to our entire student body, approximately 150 parents and guests were in attendance.