The Danger of “Getting Back to Normal”

In many ways, it feels like things have returned to normal after the last few years. But we believe God wants more for us—to reset our lives on a new and better trajectory.

Because of a major, pandemic-like event in his own life, New York Times columnist David Brooks realized that there were two different sets of virtues to be cultivated. Résumé virtues are the skills we bring to the marketplace, that help us get ahead. By contrast, eulogy virtues are talked about at our funeral—whether we were kind, brave, generous, honest, and faithful. Whether we really loved others.  

The pandemic years won’t have been wasted if they taught us that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones—because the résumé virtues are all about me, and the eulogy virtues are about others. 

So many new people have reached out to Hope Academy because they want to be part of something good happening in Minneapolis. Educational inequality continues to be one of the greatest racial inequalities in our city. Low-income and non-white students were hit hardest by the learning disruptions throughout COVID-19, exacerbating the achievement gap beyond belief. Today, the front line of the civil rights movement runs through our schools.  

But even if there was no achievement gap, we would still be neglecting a deeper issue. All of us need a heart transformation—the kind of transformation that only God can bring about by His Spirit and His Word. 

As a K-12 school, we’re thankful for the time we’ve been given to point students to Christ (as many as 14,000 hours per child over 13 years!) and to engage hundreds of urban families in their children’s education. Together, we can shape the hearts, lives, and perspectives of children in a way that few other things can. One family shared:   

“The school has been a tremendous blessing and support . . . for our whole family. [Our son] has been nurtured at Hope after several family tragedies. He has grown in a way that would not have been possible in public school. Most importantly, Hope’s firm foundation in Jesus Christ is taught and lived out in a way that makes an impact on even the most troubled kids.”  

 This has the power to transform future generations, as well. 

“If I had not gone to Hope Academy from 2nd to 8th grade, I do not think I’d be sitting here today,” shared DaShawna, one of our very first students. “Now, I get to work with kids in the West St. Paul community . . . reintroducing them to Christ and showing them that yes, you can come from very rough backgrounds, but that doesn’t have to define who you are or your future.” 

Together with parents and financial partners, we’re helping to grow hundreds of servant leaders in Minneapolis. A remarkable 96% of Hope Academy students have graduated on time (nearly 1 in 6 with a full-tuition college scholarship!) Graduates are becoming first-generation college students, completing higher education/vocational training, working in a variety of rewarding fields, and returning to mentor students, volunteer, and even work or enroll their children at Hope Academy! 

All of our families pay a sacrificial tuition amount (together providing 10% of the cost to educate our students). Thanks to hundreds of financial partners who provide the remaining 90%, we’re grateful to say that no child has ever been turned away for lack of funds.  

As we continue to see widening achievement gaps and a lack of hope in our cities, Hope Academy is pursuing growth to serve more students. We invite you to consider partnering with us in this important work for urban youth.  

The content in this post is based on powerful words spoken by our Head of School, Russ Gregg, at Hope Academy’s annual gala. Listen to the full talk here.

Teaching for Transformation at Hope Academy

With the help of Teaching for Transformation, Hope Academy is providing more opportunities for urban youth to experience God’s goodness, truth, and beauty in their lives. Teaching for Transformation (TfT) was developed by the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE) and has been implemented by more than 70 schools across Canada, the United States, Central America, and Africa.

At Hope Academy, Teaching for Transformation is equipping staff with the training, tools, and support to more deeply integrate faith into their teaching and daily interactions with students. From raising chicks to analyzing literary classics, students are learning to see the world through the lens of God’s Word and becoming active participants in His redeeming story.

3rd Grade Students Re-Write the Story of Peter Pan

A core theme at Hope Academy this school year is “identity.” We want our students to know who God is and who He has made them to be. Beginning in kindergarten, each child memorizes and recites our school’s creed, which says: “I am created in the image of God, and He loves me beyond my imagination. God calls me to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ . . . to love and encourage others and to serve my community. For I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

With these powerful truths in mind, third grade students look at examples of misplaced identity and hope in Peter Pan. In the story, Peter says, “I want always to be a little boy and to have fun; so I ran away. . . .” He finds himself with other “Lost Boys,” in a fairyland that’s empty of meaning and purpose. Through Peter’s example, students see the danger of placing our ultimate hope in youth, fun, and other temporary circumstances.

3rd Grade Students prepare for their new production of Peter Pan.

After analyzing Peter Pan through the lens of Scripture, students then have the opportunity to write a new ending that’s truly hopeful and redemptive – and to act out this new story!

With support from Teaching for Transformation, children are learning to connect God’s Word to literature, history, and culture and see how they can become part of His work to renew and restore all things.

1st Grade: Raising Chicks in Minneapolis:

Using the TfT framework, teachers are also creating Formational Learning Experiences (FLEx) for their students. These are “opportunities for the learner to engage in ‘real work that meets a real need for real people’—opportunities to practice living the kingdom story.”

Though there aren’t many farms nearby, first grade students raise chicks at Hope Academy! With the help of an incubator, a process called candling, and reading a book on the development of chicks, children watch and learn as chicks grow inside of their eggs.

Students waiting for eggs to hatch.

Through this project, children also develop core habits for engaging in God’s story. TfT provides ten habits or “throughlines” to help further this growth. One of these is Order Discovering: “Learners seek and find God’s fingerprints in the intricate, purposeful design of what he has created.” Hope Academy students learn that God created many different breeds of chicks, and He gave them the ability to hatch from an egg all on their own!

When the eggs hatch, there is a real problem to solve. These chicks are messy. Students take on the responsibility of caring for their new friends—cleaning out the cage, sweeping the floor, and feeding and watering the chicks.

Finally, they have the joy of giving the chicks to a new owner, knowing their work will meet a real need outside the classroom as the chickens produce eggs.

1st grade student holding a baby chick.

Across K-12, we’re thrilled to provide these and many other activities that help students experience God’s love and engage in His story.

Each year, Partners like you help to make a remarkable, Christ-centered education possible for hundreds of urban youth. Together, your gifts provide for 90% of the cost to educate our students. Click here to learn more about becoming a Hope Academy Partner.

You can also learn more about Teaching for Transformation here.

Celebrating True Hope This Christmas!

The Hope Academy Christmas programs and Christmas Book Giveaway are such a blessing to our students, families, and staff. Each year, we design these programs to reinforce key aspects of Hope’s mission and distinctives.   

One of our core values is to build “deep, authentic, loving relationships.” With multiple ethnic and cultural influences at Hope AcademyAfrican American, Hispanic, Native American, East African, Hmong, Caucasian, and more—it’s important that we take time to understand one another’s perspectives, and the unique ways our students and their families celebrate the birth of Jesus. That’s why we chose Every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation as the theme of this year’s Upper School Christmas Program. 

“This year we wanted to be intentional to celebrate and represent the diversity of our families and students at Hope. To that end, we chose a context that invited our students and families to bring their individual cultural forms, fashion and food.”  – Mr. LaRose, US Art Director

The event was an amazing time of worship filled with music, drama, dance, and other creative performances. It featured many different nations and traditions, offering a glimpse of what we’ll experience together in heaven.

The Christmas Book Giveaway is another highly anticipated event for the students and staff of Hope Academy – and it’s a powerful reminder of God’s love and generosity through His people. 

Hope Academy’s first core distinctive is to provide our students with a faith-based, Classical education. The reading of Scripture, story and literature provides students with an ever-growing base of language and the ability to use it to understand God’s world.   

Many of our students would love to have more books to read in their homes. This school year, donors and volunteers helped us provide a beautifully wrapped set of books for each of our 580 students! Our teachers worked hard to choose books that will help children store up God’s goodness and truth in their hearts, think critically, and grow in their love for reading and learning.  

Some of this year’s titles include The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, Indescribable by Louie Giglio, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, the NIV Gift Bible, and the Iliad and Odyssey Boxed Set, by Gillian Cross (View the full list below).

Christmas is a wonderful time to celebrate the arrival of our Savior in the context of an inspiring and loving community. We are so grateful to rejoice together at Hope Academy, and for the opportunity it provides to enrich our academic pursuits while simultaneously growing in our love and devotion to Jesus Christ. Thank you for helping support Hope Academy in our aim to provide a remarkable, God-centered classical education in Minneapolis. 

Merry Christmas! 

2022 Christmas Book Giveaway Books

The Future is Bright! (A look at 2021-22)

In the midst of real challenges, the light of Christ is shining at Hope Academy. We think you’ll be encouraged by the fruits of this work, as illustrated in our 2021-2022 Annual Report. Here are a few highlights:

For the Youth of the City

Although the lingering effects of a global pandemic, social isolation, and cultural tensions were very real in Minneapolis, Hope Academy remained focused on a remarkable, classical, Christian education for hundreds of youth in our city—delivered by amazing teachers and supported by faithful partners.

Pressing Forward

While the disruptions of the past few years took a toll on students and staff, we continue to see positive progress indicators and are taking stock of the work yet to be done.

Partnering with Urban Families

Hundreds of families were supported through home visits, conferences, and meaningful connections with staff throughout the year.

Faith & H.O.P.E.

From athletics to mission trips, to our student leadership team and house system, students grew in faith and the H.O.P.E. virtues of Honor for God and others, Optimism for the future, Perseverance in adversity, and Excellence in all things.

Bright Futures for Our Graduates!

Seniors continued to navigate high school in a pandemic and grow in faith, determination, and leadership. “Our class is resilient,” shared Elliot, a 2022 Hope Academy graduate. “We have been ‘more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’” We’re thanking God for:

Generous Partners + Invested Families

Together, 1,043 donors + 354 Hope families provided 587 students with a remarkable, God-centered education at Hope Academy.


See more of the impact at Hope Academy in our 2021-2022 Annual Report:

The Snyder Seven

Sometimes we’re humbled by the challenging circumstances that face Hope Academy families. At the same time, we’re amazed by their perseverance and the support provided by our community.

Sam and Sarah Snyder, together with their five children, lived through several heartbreaking tragedies. Our staff was there with them—praying, reaching out, and helping their children grieve and continue their growth both academically and spiritually.

See how God has redeemed the story for the Snyders:

Over the past 11 years, Hope Academy teachers and staff have truly partnered with Sam and Sarah to meet the needs of their children. “One of our kids was having a really hard time learning math,” explained Sam, “and [Mrs. Gregg] revamped the entire math curriculum to help them be able to learn it.”

While the situation was unmistakably difficult, the Snyders’ faith in God and the support of the entire Hope Academy family helped them to persevere.

“As I think of our children and all of the ways that they’ve been impacted by Hope Academy,” shared Sarah, “it seems like there’s so much fruit. Our daughter, who’s a senior now, has so many options ahead of her, and she’s not limited by the things that she’s gone through…That’s really exciting. It makes us feel so grateful to be a part of Hope Academy and for their sponsors who have helped support them throughout the years.

I just see how God was able to redeem the story…He brought two families together. Now, to see [our kids] flourish and have purpose…and be excited about the future and all of the things that they have—it’s just a testimony of God and His goodness even in the midst of all the hard stuff that we go through.”

Thank you for helping to fuel hope in God and bright futures for the Snyders and for hundreds of Minneapolis children.

Back to School: 3 Strategies to Foster Academic Recovery & Growth

COVID-19 has hit education hard—non-white and low-income students especially.

In a national study on pandemic learning loss, Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research found that Black and Latino students, as well as students from low-income families suffered the greatest learning loss from 2019 to 2021—and that, in high-poverty school districts, remote learning was a large contributing factor.

“This will probably be the largest increase in educational inequity in a generation,” noted Thomas Kane, an author of the study.

To say there is much work to be done would be an understatement. But there are also proven approaches that, when implemented, can help even the most adversely-affected students move forward. Below are three key strategies that can help students recover and gain ground in the wake of the disruptions of the past few years.

  1. Provide Targeted Support & Enrichment

There’s overwhelming evidence that tutoring can help students achieve higher academic growth and achievement. But, not all types are equal. In a review of more than 90 studies, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found:

  • Tutoring interventions by teachers and paraprofessionals have a stronger impact than those by nonprofessionals and parents.
  • Tutoring interventions for students in the earliest grades, during the regular school day, also tend to have stronger positive impacts.

At Hope Academy, hundreds of children K-12 receive this type of support throughout the year. All of our younger students work with teachers and support staff during the regular school day, one-on-one and in small groups. In the upper grades (6-12), students also have the opportunity to visit the Academic Support Center (ASC) for before and after school tutoring. In fact, if students are on academic probation and don’t complete an important assignment, they’re required to visit the ASC after school and to make up their work that same day.

Summer enrichment has also proven to help students—particularly children from low-income families—combat summer learning loss and continue their academic growth. From June to July each year, Hope Academy provides four weeks of support and enriching opportunities to hundreds of students K-11. Across K-5, students read for 45 minutes to an hour each day and enjoy many hands-on activities and field trips throughout this program. Middle school students have math class daily, as well as enriching electives in areas like coding and music production. Through credit recovery classes, teachers help students complete or re-do assignments and stay on track for graduation. Title support is also provided.

Nationwide and at Hope Academy, students’ math and reading scores are not at the levels they were prior to COVID-19. But, there is hope. At Hope Academy, we’ve seen students persevere and continue their growth, despite many significant challenges (and increased disadvantages for low-income, urban youth). In 2021, our students’ average math and reading scores grew from spring to fall—combatting the ‘summer slide.’

Compared to a national sample of more than eight million students who took the NWEA MAP assessment this spring, our students’ average reading scores exceeded the national averages in every grade, 3-8. Across these grades, our students’ average math scores were also higher than those of schools serving a similar population of students.*

In the coming school year, Hope Academy will continue to provide extra support, especially in math, to foster growth and success for more students in need.

  1. Focus on Faith Formation

From analyzing a decade of national survey results and hundreds of interviews, one researcher found that “nonaffluent teens who are intensely religious” (that is, who grow up in a strong, Christian community and develop true faith of their own) “complete more years of education than nonaffluent teenagers who are less religious.”

At Hope Academy, we’ve seen the difference hope in God makes for our students. That’s why our teachers read the Bible and pray with their students. Children learn about God and His Creation and store up His Word in their hearts. Through classroom instruction and discipline—and activities like chapel and mentor groups—teachers help students reflect on deeper heart issues and thinking patterns, look to Christ, and pursue an authentic relationship with Him.

Israel shared: “God has made it possible for me to learn in a school that encourages religious growth. He has put people in my life who remind me of the importance of faith, and he has challenged me to continue to pursue Him.”

Israel graduated from Hope Academy in 2021 and is a first-generation college student at the University of Minnesota-Carlson School of Management. Across all classes, a remarkable 96% of our seniors have graduated on time—nearly one in six on a full-tuition college scholarship!

We want every student to see and experience God’s love and to achieve this kind of success. That’s why we’re continuing to invest in deeper faith formation at Hope Academy. Through an initiative called Teaching for Transformation (TfT), teachers are gaining a common language for communicating important biblical themes to students. They’re learning how to connect each subject to the biblical storyline, and to create hands-on activities that help students apply faith to their lives.

Most importantly, Hope Academy teachers are building Christ-centered relationships with students and their families. One parent shared:

“By inviting us into their families, this community has strengthened our family, which has had a tremendous stabilizing impact on our kids…I know that the love for Christ and the lessons my children have learned here, they’ll continue passing on to their children, and hopefully their grandchildren after that.”

  1. Build Strong Relationships & Community

The most successful people can often point to mentors who have helped them along the way. And, as one New York Times article articulates: students are more motivated and learn best from those they love. That’s why it’s so important for students to have access to positive, caring role models. This starts with their parents and teachers, but it can extend even further to coaches, older students, and neighbors in our community.

One of our students shared:

“[At Hope Academy], people want what’s in your best interest. I’ve never had that at other schools. Mrs. Pearce is definitely a person that I’ve connected with. I struggled pretty hard last year just outside of school and she went out of her way to make time once a week to check in. We wouldn’t talk about anything school related—simply just how I was doing, what she could do to help. The standards at Hope Academy are definitely a lot higher but not in a bad way. The teachers have always made sure specifically that I’ve had everything I’ve needed to be successful, and that’s definitely improved my grades a lot.”

Teachers and staff also lead student mentor groups from 6-12th grade, coach student athletic teams, and greet students by name in the hallway each morning. Every year, staff take a group of high school students on mission trips to New Orleans and Puerto Rico. These are all great opportunities to connect with students and have conversations around faith, and to help students build character as they work together on teams.

Many volunteers give their time to help children strengthen their academic skills and grow in their love for learning at Hope Academy. Students work with volunteers on anything from math and reading to LEGO robotics and videography throughout the regular school year and during our four-week summer session.

Through our Partner Program, students have yet another caring adult/family to support and encourage them in their education and faith. Hundreds of generous donors sponsor one or more students to attend Hope Academy—helping to keep tuition affordable for our families. Students write two thank you letters to their Partners throughout the school year. Partners often respond with an encouraging note and spend time praying for their students. They also have the opportunity to visit their student(s) in the classroom at two Partner Day events in the fall and spring.

All of these relationships are helping hundreds of urban youth see that they are valued and loved, and that there are many people who want them to succeed. Students are overcoming significant obstacles and pursuing a higher standard at Hope Academy. Despite COVID-19 and other trauma and chaos in Minneapolis, we had fewer students on academic probation in our upper grades (6-12) throughout 2021-2022.

A remarkable 96% of this year’s seniors graduated on time and have amazing opportunities ahead. Several plan to attend the University of Minnesota, University of Northwestern-St. Paul, New York University, and other colleges and universities locally and nationally.

There’s no denying we’re facing serious challenges in education. But, with the right strategies and a faith-filled perspective, we believe God can do great things in the year ahead.

To learn about enrolling your student at Hope Academy, contact our Admissions Team. Or find out more about volunteering, employment, or financially supporting Hope at the links provided.

*In spring 2022, Hope Academy students’ average math scores exceeded the national averages for high-poverty schools (schools with 75% or more students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch (FRL). During the 2021-2022 school year, 70% of Hope Academy students were FRL-eligible.



How Is Your Child Being Influenced at School?

Starting in kindergarten, children spend 1,000+ hours in school each year. This means they often spend more waking hours with their teachers than with any other adults—including their parents!

So, here’s an important question: How are they being influenced?

One Hope Academy student shared,

“At my old schools, the kids just did whatever they wanted and the staff kind of just went with it…I made a lot of bad decisions because of the people I was hanging around. That weighed heavy on me because I knew that I shouldn’t have been doing the things I was doing. I still continued to [make bad choices] because I felt if I didn’t, I would just be alone, and no one wants to be alone. If I didn’t have a place like Hope Academy, I feel like right now I probably would still be making the wrong choices—doing things that I didn’t want to do.”

The pressure to fit in with peers is massive for children and teens. As many as 90% of teens report having faced peer pressure. Sadly, students often give in to what it seems like “everyone is doing”—including bullying, substance abuse, and other negative behaviors.

We can’t focus only on what students achieve. We have to consider who they’re becoming.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”

How do we instill morals into the hearts and minds of our students? How do we determine what is moral and right?

At Hope Academy, we believe that each child is made in God’s image—created to reflect the kindness, love, creativity, and many other wonderful aspects of His character. Our goal is to point students to Jesus Christ, who “radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God.” (Hebrews 1:3). Only when students see and experience the love of Christ and pursue an authentic relationship with Him, can they enjoy true freedom and become who God made them to be.

Children have weekly chapel time, learn about God’s character and work throughout history, and memorize priceless truths from Scripture. In the younger grades, children work with staff and peers to grow in friendships and social skills. We provide a “Boys to Men” club to help students—many from fatherless homes—build character and pursue a higher standard of excellence. Through discipline, teachers and deans help students pause and think about other people’s feelings. Children learn when and how to apologize, and how to rebuild trust.

Throughout middle and high school, classes in ethics, Bible, and social-emotional learning help children continue this growth. Students build self-awareness as they reflect on their health, relationships, and thinking patterns. Students also learn to use logic and reason and the truth of God’s Word to understand and process through history and current events.

Makiah shared: “This year in ethics class, our teacher, Mrs. Brueske, has helped us learn how to be more intuitive about our thinking behind actions and the actions of other people around us. We’ve gotten to learn about different people groups—different ways that they think and how culture can impact your own thinking.

We’ve done a lot of Socratic seminars, as well…It’s a time to listen to others and kind of challenge your own thoughts, and see how your beliefs could change or how you could learn to sympathize with others more. It’s been really cool to see how, over time, our classmates have learned to respect each other and listen to others’ opinions.”

From their teachers, Hope Academy students are learning about their identity as God’s image bearers and gaining confidence, security, and peace in their lives. Children are learning to discern what is moral and right and seeing the difference it makes when they apply this in their classes and relationships.

Every time our students get a report card, they rate themselves on the HOPE values of Honor for God & others, Optimism for the future, Perseverance through adversity, and Excellence in all things. Each ranking is discussed with parents, students, and teachers in some honest and transformative conversations.

One of our graduates, Kalista, shared:

“I remember our middle school principal, Mrs. Pearce, frequently telling me, ‘Someone’s always watching. The people who are younger than you are looking up to you to know what to do.’ Finally, that clicked. That changed the way I thought about myself and caused me to start thinking about how my actions affected other people.”

At Hope Academy, students also have a wealth of opportunities to build caring friendships with their peers, to invest in the lives of younger students, and to serve in our communities—opportunities like mentor groups, sports teams, cohort tournaments, service days and retreats, and mission trips to New Orleans (10th grade) and Puerto Rico (12th grade).

Nathanael explained,

“People think that teenage guys are kind of self-centered and don’t really care about others; but I’ve seen quite the opposite at Hope. Many of my classmates take time out of their mornings to come into school and to tutor other students that are younger than them. I know there are many captains that have really sought to push their teams forward and show what it means to be a leader.”

By God’s grace, Hope Academy is helping to make a different way possible for Minneapolis children. One of our parents shared, “It saved my child. I truly believe that she could have gone the wrong way with the wrong children and I can’t tell you enough how lucky we are that she has found Hope Academy.”

If you’re looking for a high-quality, faith-based education in Minneapolis, at a price your family can afford, the Hope Academy Admissions Team would love to connect with you!

And don’t let cost be a barrier. We work with each family to determine a fair share of family tuition, sometimes as little as $75/family/mo.

We also invite you to share this post with others who may be interested in learning more about Hope Academy.

A Republic, If You Can Keep It: Educating Kingdom Citizens

When Hope Academy began 22 years ago, we focused on solving the urban education crisis.

These days, the education crisis has spread all over our nation. Accelerated by a cultural shift away from basic concepts of morality, it’s a crisis that threatens our very republic.

Have you ever considered the fragility of our American republic? Most of us never give the future of America’s grand experiment with democracy a second thought.

The founders of our country thought differently. They assumed that our experiment in self-government would require constant vigilance. They knew its continuation would require the education of a special kind of citizen. I want us to consider how critically important a Hope Academy education is to protecting our liberty and sustaining the future of our way of life.

There is a story that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The brevity of that response shouldn’t fool us: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people and a piece of paper. They are absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the governed.

As I look at the state of our country 235 years after the Founders completed their work, there is both cause for satisfaction and reasons for grave concern. We have avoided many of the plagues afflicting so many other societies, but this is hardly cause for complacency.

One could argue that the challenges to national unity are, if anything, far greater today than those confronting our infant nation in 1787. The face of America in 2022 looks very different. We’re no longer a people united by a common language, a common religion, or a common culture; and while our overall material prosperity is staggering by any standard, the widening gulf between rich and poor is perhaps the most serious threat to a common “pursuit of happiness.”

So, Franklin said, “You have a republic, if you can keep it.” I would suggest that most American schools today, both secondary and post-secondary, foster three serious threats to the future of our republic.

American schooling threatens our country with:

  1. A destructive view of freedom
  2. A dangerous view of truth
  3. A devastating view of identity

And while this doesn’t necessarily apply to all teachers in our public schools, it is descriptive of the system as a whole.

Let’s look briefly at each of these threats and then how radically different and necessary is a Hope Academy education.

First, American Schools Suffer from a Destructive View of Freedom
American schools have exalted freedom as an essentially private matter, a liberty conceived only as freedom from all outside interference. Today’s destructive view of freedom assumes that there is no overarching purpose for which we were created. And if there’s no overarching purpose, then there’s no obligation to conform to it and fulfill it.

Freedom today is understood as the freedom to create your own meaning and purpose. Even the Supreme Court enshrined this view into law when it said, “The heart of liberty is to define one’s own concept of existence, of the meaning of the universe.”

The modern mind’s exchange of liberty for license has had a cancerous effect on our society and on our schools. Students are no longer prepared to answer the question, “What is freedom for?”

Without virtue there can be no true, personal freedom.

Imagine a fish who didn’t understand that its freedom must fit with the reality of its God-given nature and capacities. Designed to absorb oxygen from water rather than air, a fish is only free if it is restricted and limited to water. If we put it out on the grass, its freedom to move and even live is not enhanced but destroyed. Similarly, we will not flourish if we do not honor the reality of our God-given natures.

True freedom, then, is not the absence of limitations and constraints, but it is finding the right ones, those that fit our nature and liberate us for something greater.

Second, American Schools Foster a Dangerous View of Truth
In the middle of the 20th century, people like Dorothy Sayers and C.S. Lewis astutely suspected something was horribly wrong in our schools. Schools began to graduate people who were incapable of even basic intellectual skills that all previously educated generations took for granted.

Schools had exchanged a belief in transcendent, objective truth for relative, personal truths, an exchange that will ultimately lead to the destruction of society as we know it.

Schools no longer teach that certain attitudes and beliefs are really true, and others really false, in relation to the essence of the universe.

Do you see the difference between two persons having a disagreement over whether something is actually true or false? Or good or evil? Versus someone arguing that something is true for me, or evil for you?

The distinction is subtle in one sense and monumental in another. I would argue that this is an underlying reason for the educational crisis sweeping our nation. One type of school denies that there is any objective reality that stands outside of a person’s opinion, and the other says that the nature of objective reality allows for us—or should I say demands—that we respectfully discuss and reason with one another to come to some sort of agreement.

Third, American Schools are Beginning to Foster a Devastating View of Identity
The founders of our country chose a powerful motto to inspire its new citizens streaming to our nation. They chose the phrase, E Pluribus Unum—Latin for “out of many, one.” Today, American schools have moved away from honoring any singular, unifying, identity and have instead essentialized secondary identities: political, cultural, racial, and sexual identities. This has led to greater division, greater incivility, and greater polarization than at any other time in our lifetimes.

Have you noticed how this devastating view of identity has infected our everyday speech? Almost everyone now prefaces their remarks with a reference to some personal identity marker. For instance, “As a white, middle-class son of a Wisconsin tavern owner, I feel that it’s inappropriate for me to make any statements about the detrimental effects of alcohol.”

How detrimental is this erroneous view of identity? Recently, the superintendent of the Meade County School District in Kentucky dealt with an unusual situation: a group of high school students attending his school were acting like and dressing as cats. He said these students identify as animals and call themselves “furries,” preferring to crawl in the hallways and hiss at you or scratch at you if they don’t like something you’re doing.

Today, correcting such behavior is frowned upon. Imagine the chaos if our schools go down this road on a massive scale.

Educating Kingdom Citizens
So, what’s the solution to this chaos? What’s needed is an education that fosters a different kind of citizen. For lack of a better term, we need an education that fosters “kingdom citizens,”—citizens with a radically different view of freedom, truth, and identity. What we need are kingdom schools.

What if a school fostered a view of freedom, not primarily as freedom from all limitations or constraints, but as freedom for—as freedom for serving others? What if freedom was connected to the virtue of love, the virtue that supplies the self-restraint that is the indispensable requirement for liberty?

Let me illustrate this kind of freedom. A couple months ago, our upper school principal, Nathan Ziegler, got a phone call from a parent of a player from the opposing basketball team we played over the weekend. The parent called to single out one of our seniors, Jordan, for something he did during the game. Nathan’s first thought was, “Uh-oh.”

The parent said that his son was a very awkward and uncoordinated boy, and that he was the student manager of the team. That night the coach told his son to suit up because it was Senior Night. In the last few minutes of the game, to wild applause from the hometown fans, the coach put the student manager into the game. The first time he touched the ball he was immediately smothered by our defense and had the ball taken away from him.

Comprehending all that was happening, in a single moment, Jordan, our most ferocious competitor, took action. The next time up the floor, Jordan waved his teammates off, and he guarded this other player himself—making sure to give him plenty of space to attempt a shot. After receiving the ball, the opposing player awkwardly threw up a wild shot and made the only basket of his high school career, after which he was mobbed by all his friends.

The parent called to speak directly with Jordan to thank him personally for the gift he had given his son: a memory that will stay with him for the rest of his life. That’s what freedom is for.

What if truth was less about looking inside yourself to discover what’s true for you, but instead about using reason and the guidance of the Scriptures to discover what is objectively true and good and beautiful for us all?

What if classroom discussions of controversial topics with the guidance of the Scriptures were the most educational acts in which we could engage?

What if our core identity wasn’t something to be achieved, but something to be received from God? And what if students learned to preface their comments with, “As an image-bearer and child of God,…?”

What if education was ultimately about preparing citizens for eternal life? Divorced from its ultimate end, the worship of God, even the best penultimate educational goals will prove meaningless and hollow, won’t they? As Jesus himself said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

Our school’s vision statement says, “Hope Academy will seek to unleash kingdom citizens who work for justice, economic opportunity, racial harmony, hope for the family, and joy in the community.”

That’s what your partnership makes available for the families in our city who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

Clearly, a Hope Academy education can carry the awesome weight of such a noble and transcendent purpose—to prepare one to truly know and enjoy the glory of God and to love your neighbor as yourself. As Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Now, that’s liberty indeed!

Bright Futures for Hope Academy Graduates

We have so much to celebrate with this year’s graduates!

Though they haven’t had a normal school year since they were freshmen, “our class is resilient” says Elliot, co-valedictorian for Hope Academy’s Class of 2022. “We have been—as the apostle Paul put it—‘more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’”

Jessica, who attended Hope Academy from kindergarten through 12th grade, is the first in her family to graduate from high school—and she has been accepted to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota! A classmate of hers will be joining her at Carlson; another is heading to New York University.

Graduates attending (left to right): NYU, Grand Canyon University, and Carlson School of Management.

This fall, Makiah, who also attended Hope Academy for 13 years, will be joining her older sister (one of our 2020 graduates) at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul—both on full-ride scholarships!

Though Minnesota continues to have some of the worst high school graduation rates in the nation for students of color—and children in our local schools are facing COVID learning loss, widening achievement gaps, and other enormous challenges—we’re grateful to see Hope Academy students beating the odds.

Across all of our classes, 96% of seniors have graduated on-time; and have together been awarded millions of dollars in college scholarships. Graduates are advancing in higher education and careers, and serving as leaders in their families, workplaces, and communities.

This year’s graduates are a beautiful picture of God’s work at Hope Academy, over many years. Thirteen have been here since kindergarten or first grade! Through classes, retreats, cohort tournaments, mission trips, and many other experiences, they’ve gained deep friendships and authentic faith.

“I really love my environment and the community here at Hope – the loving environment, the opennes, the willingness to talk about anything, and the environment that’s closely related to God and helping me find my faith.” – Nakila

“Hope Academy has helped me to grow stronger in my relationship with Jesus in many ways. The teachers and staff have continuously poured into my life, encouraged me and prayed for me.” – Ellie

This year’s graduates have also persevered through a pandemic, the grief and chaos surrounding George Floyd’s death and ensuing riots in our city, extended school days, and other trials—adapting to change after change, developing grit, and becoming confident leaders. Now, they’re ready to take on the rigors of college, vocational training, and other aspects of life after high school.

Hundreds of students are following in their footsteps—growing in faith, wisdom, and stature at Hope Academy. Parents are gaining essential skills and resources to lead their families; and lives are being changed by the Gospel. Kenneth, one of our 2018 graduates shared:

“I’m just so grateful for Hope because that’s where it all started. That’s where the relationships were built, where we were able to get to know each other, and where we all fell in love with the gospel—and where that desire and that passion for ministry started for me and for many others…I’m thankful for places like Hope Academy that are strategically placed in the middle of the city in tough neighborhoods, where people without it wouldn’t have the chance to hear the Gospel. My prayer and my hope is that Hope Academy and other churches around the city will be used mightily by God in the next couple years.”

Kenneth is a first-generation college student at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, on a full-ride, full-need scholarship! Throughout COVID-19, he has also served as a mentor for students at Hope Academy and in the city.

Thanks to the prayers and generosity of financial partners—who together provide 90% of the cost to educate our students—hundreds of children like Kenneth have access to a remarkable, God-centered education in Minneapolis.

And, the opportunities are growing! Through HopePATHs at Hope Academy, students are enjoying new, hands-on experiences in technology, robotics, coding, construction, and the arts; and gaining a stronger vision for life and a career after graduation. This fall, we’ll add more vocational paths in business, teaching, and healthcare for our growing high school.

If you are looking for a high-quality, private K-12 education in Minneapolis, at a price your family can afford, the Hope Academy Admissions Team would love to connect with you!  Go to or contact La’Toyra White-Tanner at 612-540-2092.

To each person who is praying, encouraging, and investing in the lives of our students and families – thank you! We also invite you to share Hope with a friend, to help us serve more children in the city.

A Private School Other People Pay For?

Every parent wants the very best for their child – a bright future full of opportunity and hope. But for many families, a high-quality education can feel out of reach.

“I was very surprised that there were people who were willing to donate their money so that other families could afford a private education. It was amazing!” shared Ady, one of our parents.

At Hope Academy, we take a different approach.

Together, our families pay 10% of the total cost to educate our students. Hundreds of financial partners sponsor the rest. This allows us to provide the very best private, Christian K-12 education in Minneapolis, at a price that’s accessible to all.

“I have a son who graduated from Hope Academy…he’s in his third year of college. My dream was always for him to be able to go here but I knew we couldn’t afford it. And they were like, “Well Karen – they have sponsors, they have partners who will help you!”

Our staff works together with each family to determine a tuition amount that’s affordable. This is sometimes as little as $75/month for all children combined to attend Hope Academy!

Since 2000, we’ve grown to serve 590 students annually—and no child has ever been turned away for lack of funds.

Even though Hope Academy is growing, students and parents continue to say that it feels like a family. Our teachers and staff work so hard to provide a classroom and community where every child is known, loved, and able to pursue his or her best; and where families from all different cultures and backgrounds feel welcome.

Each year, our students are growing and thriving academically—beating national norms in reading and math, and graduating at remarkable rates (96% across all classes!). One in six of our graduates has been awarded a full-tuition college scholarship. Many other graduates have received significant scholarships to places like the University of Minnesota-Carlson School of Management, the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, and the University of St. Thomas.

More than anything, we’re grateful to see students and graduates placing their hope in Jesus, and walking faithfully with him as they love and serve their classmates, families, co-workers, and communities.

This is only possible because of the generosity of hundreds of donors, who sponsor 90% of the cost to educate our students each year.

One parent shared: “I almost cried the other day at tuition conferences, when they told me how much money was going to be gifted to my family next year. To see the radical generosity of these people—it just blows me away. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life.”

With support from financial Partners, we’ve also launched new opportunities in technology, robotics, coding, construction, and the arts—to help students gain a strong vision for life and a career after graduation. This fall, we’ll add more vocational offerings in business, teaching, and healthcare!

If you are looking for a high-quality K-12 education in Minneapolis, at a price your family can afford, the Hope Academy Admissions Team would love to connect with you!

We also invite you to share this post with others who may be interested in learning more about Hope Academy.