What Makes a Remarkable Teacher

It’s been the hardest year of school for so many teachers. Of thousands surveyed across the US, 55% have said they are more likely to leave the profession early.*  

That’s why I’m so encouraged by the patience and perseverance I see in our teachers at Hope Academy. These men and women are continuing to push through COVID fatigue, extended school days, and countless other challenges to help children in Minneapolis succeed—giving extra time to: 

  • Connect with students outside of class to build trust and authentic relationships. 
  • Help children catch up in reading, grow in friendships, and gain other life skills. 
  • Coach athletic teams, and lead student mentor groups and mission trips.  
  • Have more, in-depth conversations with students, to understand needs and provide support. 
  • Partner with parents through calls, texts, visits, and other meaningful connections throughout the week. 

 Again and again, we hear students (and parents) say:

“The staff at Hope are like family,” and, “I know I am loved and cared about at this school.” 

This kind of care would be impossible without God. When we see and experience His love, it impacts everything—from the way we think about ourselves and others, to how we interact with staff, students, and families. That’s why dependence on God is so important, and is a core value at Hope Academy. 

Every day, teachers are praying, reading the Bible, and trusting Him for help to model Christ to their students. Staff are encouraging children to think of how Jesus showed kindness, love, and grace—and how they can show this to each other. Students are memorizing Scripture and learning to answer questions based not just on what they think, but on evidence they find in the biblical text. Through classroom instruction and discipline—and activities like chapel and mentor groups—teachers are helping students reflect on deeper heart issues and thinking patterns, look to Christ, and experience an authentic, growing relationship with Him. 

With God’s help, seeds of faith are being sown in the hearts of our students, and hundreds of lives are being transformed.

One of our graduates, Collin, shared: 

“Looking back, I realize just how important Hope Academy was in sowing seeds of faith in my life. Hope was the community God used to sow seeds of faith, and to build an inner strength, Godly character, and give me hope in God above all else.”

We invite you to pray for the teachers at Hope Academy as they continue loving and serving the children and families of the city.

We also invite you to write a note to encourage and thank a teacher, and send it to  [email protected]. 

Thank you for supporting these remarkable men and women and the mission of Hope Academy. See more of the impact. 

*Results from a January 2022 poll of ~3,600 members of the National Education Association. 


On Sunday, we celebrated the most hopeful event in history. Jesus, the Son of God, rose from death to life—making a way for us to experience true and lasting life through Him.  

Without Easter, school would be a lot different at Hope Academy. Children would learn to do what the people of Israel did when they had no king: “whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6).  We could teach our students to follow a set of rules. Though, without a common moral standard, it would be hard to define these rules (and to agree on many other decisions). Through discipline, we could try to modify behaviors. This would only produce outward, temporary change.

Throughout Minneapolis, there would still be crime, injustice, poverty, broken relationships, and other effects of sin—but no real solution.  

This is why redemption is so important—and is a core value at Hope Academy.

We are passionate about God’s transformational work to redeem all things through Christ. “Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever,” explains pastor and author, Tim Keller. 

With this incredible hope, we can approach teaching in a different way. We can tell our students that there is a King! We can point children to God—the One who transforms hearts and minds, giving us both the desire and the ability to change.  

At Hope Academy, hundreds of students are learning what Easter really means for their own lives, their families, and all of creation. Children are experiencing the love of Christ, choosing to follow Him, and finding true freedom and hope. With God’s help, they are growing in love and using their knowledge and skills to bless others.  

Parents are also gaining hope in Christ, and families are being strengthened.

Wayne, a parent with five children who have attended Hope Academy, shared:  

“[When I moved to Minneapolis], I had no GED, with school having felt more like a prison than a place of learning. Selling drugs was the best job I knew, until my neighbors introduced me to some honest work that I did on a part-time basis.

I was just beginning to see that there might be a way out. I also had a young son out of wedlock, and a hard heart towards his mom. She was a single mom of three in her early 20s, scared and doing the best that she could.

After hearing a man named Jeff Bird share at her church, she decided to put her oldest daughter at a tiny new school called Hope Academy in South Minneapolis.  

God has used that decision—and the people associated with this place—to completely change our lives. I married that woman, and her children became our children. It’s hard for my wife and I to express what this place means to us, how much of an oasis it is. Neither Kim nor I came from strong families. To be honest, we’d never even seen a healthy family up close. So, to be exposed to that at Hope Academy was truly mind-blowing.

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.”  

Today, Wayne is the Associate Executive Director of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul-Twin Cities and a member of Hope Academy’s Board of Directors. He and his wife, Kim, have two children who currently attend Hope Academy. 

We’re so thankful to see God’s redeeming work in our students’ lives and families; and that we can look to a day when He will completely renew all things (Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 21:1-5).

May God fill you with even more joy and hope in this amazing promise!


Over the past 13 years, a group of Hope Academy staff have travelled with sophomores on a weeklong mission trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. Sadly, New Orleans suffers from extremely high poverty rates and is still recovering from the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Ida. Just last week, a devastating tornado swept through the region, causing severe damage to more than 150 homes and buildings. 

We’ve been so grateful to return to New Orleans each year (with the exception of delayed trips due to COVID-19), to serve needs in this community, and to build long-term relationships with local ministries. Students have helped with construction, yardwork, and other improvement projects; tutoring children through an after-school program; and providing food and other basic needs in the neighborhood where we stay. 

Through this trip, students have a great opportunity to depend on God as they try new and challenging projects and work together with our ministry partners. It’s also a great time for staff to connect with students as they worship, serve, share meals, and explore a new city together. 

Each year, we send our 8th, 10th, and 12th graders on mission trips to help them grow in servant leadership focused on blessing those around them, while building friendships and trust in the process. And through the years, many students have deepened their commitment to Christ during these times of self-sacrifice! 

With the faithful support of many partners, hundreds of low-income youth are able to attend Hope Academy year after year, and to access these and other life-changing opportunities.  

We invite you to watch our Hope in a Half Hour video to learn more about the mission and impact of Hope Academy in Minneapolis. 





An Important Question About Income and Achievement

Earlier this month, I read an interesting new article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) called A Faithful Way to Learn.

It begins by asking: “What kind of child does well in school?” and shares some common characteristics of high achievers: “respect for authority, an ability to get along with fellow students, a stable family, exposure to responsible adults, and a feeling of hope”—characteristics we typically see in children from higher-income families.

But, then the WSJ asks, “What if there were one particular element in a child’s experience that could foster such characteristics in everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status?”

God, Grades, and Graduation—a new book by Ilana M. Horwitz—suggests an answer to this important question.

From analyzing a decade of national survey results and hundreds of interviews, Horwitz 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.”

Horwitz calls these teens “abiders”—emphasizing the role of both faith and community in academic achievement. She says children must “believe and belong.”

This is exactly what we see every day at Hope Academy. For six hours a day, five days a week, students are enjoying a healthy, structured learning environment and connecting with caring staff. Children know they are loved by God and the people around them.

“Kids like coming to school. They feel safe here,” says Mr. Gillespie, our Head of Family Ministry.

Hope Academy students are also learning about God and His Word, and growing in virtues like kindness, diligence, and respect.

Like Horwitz explains in God, Grades, and Graduation, all of this helps non-affluent children gain “social capital” and achieve higher academic performance. Here is just one example:

One of our students has significant family challenges. But, for years at Hope Academy, he has been impacted by loving teachers, high standards, and high accountability, and gained extra support to thrive. Now, he is showing a true desire to improve his grades and prepare for high school.

At Hope Academy, hundreds of urban youth are persevering through a pandemic, violence and chaos in Minneapolis, and other trauma, and becoming true abiders in Christ. Students are continuing to grow academically and personally, and to achieve remarkable graduation rates (96% across all classes – 1 in 6 on a full tuition college scholarship!)

With the prayers and financial support of many partners, children are gaining hope and lives and futures are being transformed in Minneapolis. I invite you to watch our Hope in a Half Hour video to see more of the impact.

Russ Gregg, Co-Founder and Head of School

See God’s Remarkable Work in Our Seniors

We’ve experienced a lot of challenges in Minneapolis over the past two years. But, Hope Academy seniors have shown incredible perseverance.

Last spring as juniors, these young men and women had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana, where they served alongside Hope Academy staff and ministry partners. Students worked hard all week to meet needs in the community, grew in friendships with classmates and adult mentors, worshipped together, and daily heard the Gospel. Many committed their lives to Christ!

“After the New Orleans mission trip, several young women were excited about continuing to learn more about the Lord,” shared Mrs. Hoilien, our Director of Student Support. “So, we started doing a Bible study. The women were committed to coming in two hours before school started on Friday mornings. I’m seeing students who are eager to spend time with the Lord. That has been so encouraging.”

COVID-19, violence, cultural divisions, and other enormous challenges have shaken our Minneapolis community and left many feeling hopeless. But, hope in God has kept our seniors moving forward.

“Our class is so full of joy and a hunger for Christ,” shared Nakila.

From tutoring and mentoring to leading in sports and on mission trips—these men and women are becoming lights for younger students, their families, and our city.

“Many of my classmates take time out of their mornings to come in to school and tutor other students,” shared Nathanael. “There are many captains who have really sought to push their teams forward and show what it means to be a leader.”

We’re so grateful for the many parents, teachers, staff, and partners who have invested in a remarkable, Christ-centered education for the students at Hope Academy.

Year after year, hundreds of urban youth are beating the odds, growing in excellence, and spreading hope to their families and our community.

See more of Hope Academy’s mission and impact in our Hope in a Half Hour video, and learn how you can partner with us in this work for Minneapolis children and families.

MLK’s Vision Alive at Hope Academy

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a nation where, one day, his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  

Reflecting on his life and vision, I’m reminded of the importance of God’s work at Hope Academy. We believe that who our students become is just as important as what they achieve; and that God is our source and model of true character. 

Our goal is to point children to Christ—who “came not to be served, but to serve” and to “lay down his life for his friends.”

That’s why the Gospel is so central to everything we do. Each day at Hope Academy, hundreds of urban youth learn about God and His Word; are treated with dignity as His image bearers; and experience His compassion and grace.

“As the excellence of steel is strength and the excellence of art is beauty, so the excellence of mankind is moral character. An honest man is the noblest work of God…” – A.W. Tozer

Through instruction, discipline, and heart-to-heart conversations, teachers encourage children to grow in faith and the H.O.P.E. values of honor, optimism, perseverance, and excellence. Students are challenged to seek goodness, truth, and beauty as they learn about God and His Creation, study Latin, read the Great Books of Western Literature, memorize our school’s creed, and think critically during Socratic discussions and debates.

Students also pray and worship together at weekly Chapel; and have the opportunity to lead and serve as mentors, team captains, on mission trips, and at other events throughout the year.

Despite the division and hostility in our world today, Hope Academy students—from different ethnicities, income levels, zip codes, and experiences—are growing together in faith and Christ-like character.

“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We invite you to watch students recite Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

See more of Hope Academy’s mission and impact in our Hope in a Half Hour video, and learn how you can partner with us in this work for Minneapolis children and families.

A School Like No Other

We all need community and support, especially during difficult seasons. A few years ago, Mikayla found this at Hope Academy.

“I feel like people care here,” she shared in a powerful testimony this fall. “When there’s struggles and there’s times of hardness, they push through it with you and that gives you hope.”

Since coming to Hope Academy, Mikayla has been consistently supported, encouraged, and pointed to hope in God. She’s grown in her classes and friendships, and gained confidence in knowing that “in every situation, there’s God.”

Mikayla’s mom has also found support and community here.

“I know that if I needed anything, that I could call out on them and that they would help me,” she shared. “The financial support that Hope has offered me has been very helpful and very affordable; and came into my life at a time that I really needed it…To know that Hope Academy is right here centered in the middle [of Minneapolis] to help us pull out from all the sadness and tragedies that are going on here—it’s nice to know that Hope Academy is right here.”

All of this reminds me of God’s promise in Isaiah 43. He says:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

With the prayers and support of financial partners, hundreds of children are experiencing God’s love, growing in faith, and pursuing excellence at Hope Academy. And, hope is spreading to their families and communities. Thank you for helping us make a remarkable, Christ-centered education affordable to all!

Finding Hope Again

For DaShawna and her siblings, growing up in Minneapolis wasn’t easy.  

“All of our life, our mom struggled with drug addiction. The neighborhood we lived in was gang affiliated, and sometimes there would be shootouts. A lot of the things that were happening we just kind of bottled inside, because we didn’t want to look weak.”

But, at Hope Academy, DaShawna experienced something radically different. Year after year, God used the love of teachers, staff, and students to sow deep seeds of faith in her life—faith that has helped her overcome incredible challenges, and produced beautiful fruit decades later.  

DaShawna was one of our very first students, attending Hope Academy from second to eighth grade. Looking back on this time, she described her teachers as joyful and patient. 

“They didn’t just comfort me, but they also instilled things in me like confidence. ‘You are a child of God, you are loved, you are important to me, and you are important to God.’”

Though she continued to face severe trials in high school and college—walking far away from God for many years—DaShawna knew that Hope Academy was a place where she would always find love and support. 

“Shortly after having Levi, I was introduced to the moms from mom’s group [at Hope Academy]. It was so nice to be back in this setting with safe adults that I knew loved me and had my best interest at heart.”

Since then, God has continued to do a remarkable work in DaShawna’s life. Today, she is a wife and mother, actively involved in a church community, and working with teens at Young Life! 

“Now I get to work with kids in West St. Paul, reaching those furthest out kids and reintroducing them to Christ and showing them—yes, you can come from very rough backgrounds, but that doesn’t have to define who you are or your future. Going back to those core values and those principles that were instilled at such a young age [at Hope Academy], if I had not had that, I don’t think that I would have had a desire to be any different than what I knew.”

When DaShawna first came to Hope Academy in 2000, we were serving 35 students K-2. By God’s grace, we’ve since grown to serve 590 students K-12! At our annual gala earlier this month, DaShawna’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Brown, shared:  

“That first year, there were five of us sitting around a table, excited about the mission of Hope Academy, and every day clinging to Jesus…We were just clinging to him to show us how to build this school, how to help the students, how to connect with families. Just last week we had a staff development day…it was that same feeling of people loving the mission of what they are doing here and pouring themselves out for it, and really clinging to Jesus every day to move forward and connect with families and students in ways that are meaningful and that have a great impact.”

Each year, Hope Academy partners with donors to provide a remarkable, God-centered education to children who wouldn’t otherwise have access in Minneapolis. Together, financial gifts provide for 90% of the cost to educate our students—keeping Hope Academy affordable to hundreds of low-income families.  

Would you consider a year-end gift to Hope Academy, to help us serve more children and families and navigate the challenges of this school year together? 

Your gift would help provide for 45 additional, new students, and increase the support and opportunities for all of our 590 students to thrive.  


A Beacon of Hope in 2020-21

Millions of students across the US—particularly low-income children and children of color—have fallen months behind in school during COVID-19. But by God’s grace, urban youth at Hope Academy have continued gaining ground.

While COVID-19 and other challenges threatened to cancel school, you helped Hope Academy remain open for the children of the city.

When children were struggling, we didn’t lower the standards. Instead, teachers and staff leaned in to provide extra support and encouragement. 329 students received extra support!

Combating COVID Learning Loss

Our students and families rose to the challenge—showing remarkable perseverance in the face of adversity.

Growing in Faith

Students learned about God and experienced His love daily from their teachers. Each child has memorized priceless truths about their identity in Him. “We will display a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” – Hope Academy Declaration, Ref. Isaiah 61. Families have been strengthened in a supportive, Christ-centered community.

Hope Academy has been my rock. They show me that they’re not just a school—they’re like a family. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and you’re not alone.
– Lydia Thompson, Hope Academy Parent

Building Foundational Skills for Life and Work

Through our new HopeTECH Initiative, students gained hands-on experience in technology and other growing trades.

Students also practiced teamwork through House tournaments, athletics, the arts, robotics club, and many other enriching activities throughout the school year and our 4-week summer session (mandatory K-8).

Becoming “Oaks of Righteousness”

Seniors showed remarkable unity and strength of character as they prepared for graduation and life after Hope Academy. We’re thanking God for:


Hope Academy graduates are pursuing higher education, growing in careers, and serving as volunteers and mentors in our community.

I’ve been able to mentor Hope Academy students with other fellow Hope Academy grads. To be able to do that all together and for it to stem out of the place that I love so much…it’s such a beautiful thing.” – Kenneth Granados, Class of 2018

Partnering Together

When COVID hit, we began asking God to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine for the youth of our city – and your investments have done just that. Thank you for praying and giving so generously to provide this remarkable, God-centered education in Minneapolis. “We love Hope Academy and all it does for those in the inner city: giving hope, faith, love of the Bible, a remarkable education, and the role models for an abundant life. More than ever today, our cities and country need all that Hope Academy provides!”– John and Sherry Swanson

Each year, 90% of our costs are paid for by donors like you – making Hope Academy affordable for all!

See more of the difference you’ve made at Hope Academy in our 2020-21 Annual Report:

The Power of a True Education

Remarks adapted from Russ Gregg’s Partner Day address Fall 2021 

Learning is rarely easy; it almost always comes at a sacrifice. 

C.S. Lewis described the challenge of learning during World War II like this: 

“There are always plenty of rivals to our work…If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come… We must do the best we can.”  

Conditions  have been anything but favorable in urban education. 

The stress of doing school in the midst of a pandemic has been exhausting for our families, students, and staff. This summer felt like we were finally coming to the end of swimming a marathon, only to be told in August that we weren’t just swimming a marathon—we were competing in an ironman triathlon.  

An explosion of violence has amplified this stress. Carjackings, armed robberies, gun violence,  and assaults—all are up significantly in Minneapolis this year. In September, 12 year-old London Michael Bean was shot and killed on our North Side after a dispute with another 12 year-old. 

Trying to make sense of this senseless tragedy, StarTribune columnist, Myron Medcalf, put his finger on the core of the problem–the absence of hope. He said, 

“The gun is not the first problem. It’s just the last and most pivotal problem. It starts at the beginning. Young people, of any background, become more reckless when they are offered few reasons to believe they have bright futures.” 

He went on to say, 

“Too many Black kids in our city do not believe there is anything better behind Door No. 2. And if that’s not addressed, then the list of 30 children under 18 who have been shot this year in Minneapolis will grow.” 

Mr. Medcalf then asked city leaders and his readers if anybody had a plan to instill more hope in a city where it was clearly waning for urban kids. 

Well, my answer, Mr. Medcalf, is, “Yes, we do!” And it lies in what we at Hope Academy call “true education.” 

NY Times columnist, David Brooks, contends that the problems we face today—the collapse of trust and the rise of animosity and the loss of hope—stem not from our lack of facts, but from our nation’s schools’ failure to instill moral knowledge in our youth. 

Over the past decades, we’ve cut education in half. We’ve focused on developing reason and critical thinking skills to the exclusion of the all-important moral knowledge. Christian education is foremost about the formation of a certain kind of heart—a heart that loves God and what God loves. This is true education.

Here’s an example of what this looks like in a Hope Academy classroom. When students mistreat others, either physically or verbally, we help the offenders own up to their sin and apologize, instead of blaming and avoiding responsibility. We also have a message for the ones wronged. Instead of retaliating and taking vengeance, students are encouraged to forgive and show mercy, just as God has lavished mercy on them. This fosters a culture of humility and grace.  

The Scriptures also teach about two kinds of wisdom—heavenly wisdom and earthly wisdom.  

The Apostle James says,

…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18) 

How does this heavenly wisdom play out at Hope Academy? It means we will believe the best of one another. It means we will give one another the benefit of the doubt. We’ll be quick to listen and slow to speak. We’ll seek to forgive offenses from the heart and speak the truth in love. 

True education fosters solution-oriented approaches vs. blame-oriented approaches. It pursues unity instead of nurturing division. It fosters the kind of hope that our city is crying out for, the kind of hope that our youth are dying without. 

And, even in unfavorable conditions, it bears remarkable fruit. Hope Academy students are learning to love God and find their identity in Him; to seek wisdom from above; to humbly ask for and extend forgiveness; and to pursue excellence, knowing that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  

In some of the largest urban school districts nationwide, math and reading proficiency rates for African-American 8th graders are down in the teens and single digits—such as Detroit where as little as 5% are proficient in math, and only 6% in reading (The Nation’s Report Card, 2019). By God’s grace, a majority of Hope Academy’s students of color are proficient in both math and reading.  

Hope in God changes everything. Thank you, and God bless you for helping to make a true education affordable for everyone. 

We invite you to watch or share our “Hope in a Half Hour” video to learn more about the impact of a true education, and how you can join in this beautiful work.