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Doubling Kindergarten: Our Next Step of Faith

It’s an exciting time at Hope Academy! Last week, we opened our doors wide to 435 students (and counting!) – nearly 70 of whom are Kindergarteners this year.

Over the past fifteen years, we’ve seen that “oaks of righteousness” do not grow overnight. Rather, they start by planting tiny acorns, in good soil.

Then, it takes years for this little acorn to grow deeper and wider roots. Roots that will draw refreshment in the harshest droughts; roots that will anchor this tree in the most tumultuous storms.

That is why our hearts are full of joy – and faith – this year as we double our Kindergarten from 2 classes to 4. We are thrilled to widen our admissions funnel and offer a remarkable, God-centered education to more and more families, K-12.

Thank you, for your help in reaching more “acorns” in our quest to grow “oaks of righteousness,” right here in the inner-city.

Pray that God will continue to grow our students into servant leaders who will work for justice, economic opportunity, racial harmony, hope for the family, and joy in the community.

Blessings,

Russ Gregg
Head of School

P.S. – Join us for Partner Day Sept. 24RSVP to Jim Stigman  (612-721-6294 ext 106) or Jamie Olson (952-807-2888).

Combating the Summer Slide

For many children, summer is a nostalgic time filled with sunny excursions, afternoons on the lake, and the relaxed pace of long, lazy days.

But for our urban neighbors, summer also brings a detrimental widening of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students. Study after study shows that children backslide significantly in knowledge and skills over the summer months–and that many low-income students fall disproportionately behind their higher-income peers, year after year after year.

Enter Hope Academy’s four week summer session. This summer, our students enjoyed:

  • Individual and/or small group reading time
  • ACT prep courses
  • Math fact fluency training
  • Socratic reading discussions in middle school and high school
  • Fine arts instruction through the Inverted Arts program
  • HOPEWorks internships for high school students
  • Numerous field trips and urban excursions

“Summer school makes a remarkable difference for our students,” said one of our teachers. “My room is stocked with excellent literature, and students come in, grab their book, and read for one whole hour in complete silence every day.”

“My readers are thrilled for an uninterrupted hour to be devoted to reading. The books get them hooked on how enjoyable it is to read for pleasure, and how important it is to always respond to reading with thoughtful connections.”

Thank you for partnering with us to enrich the lives of our students, and to maintain the critical progress they’ve worked so hard to achieve throughout the school year.

A special thanks to the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation for the grant it awarded to Hope Academy in support of our 2015 summer enrichment program.

With deep joy,

Russ Gregg
Head of School

From Garbage Dumps to Graduation: An Amazing Story of God’s Handiwork

[aesop_parallax img=”http://nateanderson.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/KAT_2218.jpg” parallaxbg=”off” caption=”“Ten years ago, I was digging through garbage dumps for food. Today, I’m on my way to
college.”” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”down”]

[aesop_image imgwidth=”175px” img=”http://nateanderson.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/IMG_1807a.jpg” offset=”20px” align=”left” lightbox=”on” caption=”“Knowing that God has given me this talent has helped me to glorify Him instead of myself.”” captionposition=”left”]
“Ten years ago, I was digging through garbage dumps for food. Today, I’m on my way to college. I stand before you now as a living testimony of God’s amazing handiwork,” shared Ephraim Bird in his Hope Academy graduation address.

Running a 9:26 two-mile and having placed second in state, it would be simple for Ephraim to find his identity in his amazing running ability. Instead, he chooses to find his identity in what God has done in his life. As he puts it, “knowing that God has given me this talent has helped me to glorify Him instead of myself.”

On a deeper level, a remarkable aspect of Ephraim’s story is that his journey of developing a Christ-centered identity didn’t begin on a cross country track in Minnesota — it began in a garbage dump in Ethiopia.

 

 

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“Whatever we needed to do, we did to survive,” he explains. As a seven year old orphan and caretaker of his younger brother, it was not uncommon for young Ephraim to go door-to-door seeking scraps, eating out of garbage dumps, and begging for money in order to provide food and necessities. “Sometimes we would steal,” he shares. “Stealing was a big part [of our survival].”

Following the death of the boys’ father and mother within an eight month period, Ephraim and his brother were in a time of turmoil, shuffling between relatives, foster parents, and orphanages in an already poverty-stricken area. During this time, Ephraim describes himself as a “cheater and a liar.” He would often work together with his brother and friends in order to steal or cheat others, even creating their own language so that no one else would understand.

In an area with limited education, Ephraim struggled to learn and was disruptive in class. Although the boys’ orphanage taught the Bible, he says that it had no impact on his life. “The Word was there, but it wasn’t implanted in me yet.”

 

[aesop_image imgwidth=”150px” img=”http://nateanderson.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/156-Efrem-Hagos.jpg” align=”left” lightbox=”on” caption=”“Everything was new for me. I didn’t know any English. The culture, the people, everything was totally different.”” captionposition=”left”]

 

While in fifth grade, Ephraim learned that his younger brother would be adopted by a family in Minnesota. Though at first Ephraim was very sad to be separated from his brother, he was soon informed of an unlikely surprise — the family that adopted his younger brother would like to adopt him as well.

After a three-year transition period, Ephraim finally landed in the United States on December 7, 2008, when he officially became part of the Jeff & Widdy Bird family. Completely fresh to American culture, Ephraim struggled to keep up, initially placed in fifth grade at Hope Academy (while his age was equivalent to eighth). “Everything was new for me. I didn’t know any English. The culture, the people, everything was totally different.”

Regardless of the disadvantages that he faced, Ephraim was determined to succeed. With the help of his supportive parents, friends, and family, Ephraim worked hard to improve his skills. That summer, he jumped two grade levels and was promoted to the eighth grade class the next fall.

During the next year at Hope, Ephraim was greatly impacted by the Christ-centered education he received from godly teachers. “God opened my eyes to see spiritual things at Hope,” he describes. “My teachers’ care for me reflected the goodness of God.”

That same year, Ephraim also gave his life to Christ and chose to be baptized. “I had never really accepted Jesus nor had I professed faith in Him before. It was a new walk. I know that my life has a purpose, has a meaning, and it is meant to glorify God in all that I do.”

[aesop_parallax img=”http://nateanderson.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Ephraim-Senior-Photo-1.jpg” parallaxbg=”off” caption=”“Hope Academy has equipped me to be a man of God. Lord-willing, I’ll return to Ethiopia to bring hope and opportunity to the orphans of my homeland.”” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]

Ephraim says that teachers at Hope have taught him that men and women of God, like Jesus, are called not to be served, but to serve. He desires to use the talents, skills, and experiences God has blessed him with to make a difference in the lives of children like him. “A big part of my past is how people have poured into my life, and I want to do the same,” he shares. Ephraim would like to return to Ethiopia to bring hope to the orphans in his home country, as well as support local adopting families. His mission, as he proudly exclaims, is even a part of his name. “My name, Ephraim, actually means to be fruitful and multiply… and I take that seriously. Hope Academy has equipped me to be a man of God.”

“Lord-willing, I’ll return to Ethiopia to bring hope and opportunity to the orphans of my homeland. And maybe someday, there will be another little orphan standing here at this podium [on graduation day].”

[aesop_parallax img=”http://nateanderson.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/KAT_2212.jpg” parallaxbg=”off” caption=”Ephraim and his father, Jeff” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”on” floater=”on” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up”]

Photo of Hope Academy Act Six Scholars

Rejoice with us! Incredible news for 5 Act Six recipients

The entire Hope Academy community is celebrating this month because five Hope Academy students were just awarded $800,000 in college scholarships over four years from Bethel University and the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, as part of the Act Six scholars program.

Photo of Hope Academy Act Six Scholars

Yosief Temnewo, Ruth Norman, Matthew Anfinson, Shania Castillo, and Joshua Gillespie

Selected through a rigorous, three-month competition among more than 200 applicants, Yosief Temnewo (2014 Hope graduate), Ruth Norman (future 2015 Hope graduate), Matthew Anfinson (2015), Shania Castillo (2015), and Joshua Gillespie (Hope Academy 8th grade graduate; son of staff member Darrell Gillespie) were among 27 urban students chosen for their distinctive leadership, academic potential, and commitment to making a difference in their communities.

On the day of harvest, everyone rejoices-not just those who wielded the sickle. Everyone who contributed to making a crop is happy when the harvest is brought in.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this communal joy in developing people. He said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Cor. 3:6-7

Last week, Act Six scholars began an intensive seven month training program that involves retreats, campus visits, and weekly meetings to equip them to succeed academically and grow as service-minded leaders and agents of transformation.

As contributors to Hope Academy, you have a part in our joy in their success. Rejoice with us, and join us in praising God who deserves the glory.

As the Scripture says, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything (in comparison), but only God who gives the growth.”

With great gratitude,

Russ Gregg
Head of School

P.S. – Please join our Hope Scholars Breakfast on Thursday, May 28 from 7:30-8:30 a.m. to learn how you can play a critical role in bridging the gap to college for many more Hope students. RSVP to jamieolson@hopeschool.org.

Black Lives Matter at Hope Academy

In a year of Ferguson protests, mounting racial tensions and even riots sweeping the nation, Hope Academy is making one of the strongest possible statements in our land that “black lives matter.”

So do the lives of Latinos, Somalis, European Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and everyone else.

They matter for a very important reason. They matter because of the dignity accorded to all persons who are created in the image of God.

Fueled by the belief that each person has immeasurable value as an image-bearer of God himself, we are all the more impassioned to make a public statement that black lives count.

And, as a diverse Christian community, we fulfill the law of Christ by bearing the burdens of those who have suffered – both historically and systemically – from a disparity of justice.

So how does a remarkable, God-centered education for inner-city youth shout louder than just about anything else that “black lives matter!”?

In three ways. By the costliness of the investment, the greatness of benefits secured, and the freeness with which it is offered.

A costly investment. It takes millions of dollars each year to sustain the work of Hope Academy with inner-city youth-a cost to which many supporters and families contribute joyfully and sacrificially. But beyond that, it takes love. Costly love. Tough love that says “Try again; I know you can do better.” Real love that initiates hard and healing conversations. Love that daily lays down a life for a friend.

Immeasurable benefits. The work at Hope Academy demonstrates that “black lives matter,”  because we are laboring to give African-American boys and girls, young men and women, what many regard as the single most important right of a human being-the ability to learn for oneself. An ability that opens the door to a universe of opportunities.

Accessible opportunity. One of our greatest joys is to make Hope affordable for all. And while every family has some ‘skin in the game,’ we are throwing a feast of education and opportunity at a price that turns no family away.

By supporting Hope, we believe your contributions are of the utmost importance in turning the tide to affirm the God-ordained worth and value of all peoples. Thank you for your invaluable partnership in this work.

-Russ Gregg
Head of School

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