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

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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

A Stable Miracle & Giving at Christmas

by Russ Gregg, Head of School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing Jim Stigman

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

Dear Hope Academy Supporters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly,

Russ Gregg, Head of School

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

Sophomores in Photo, smiling

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

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

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

Join us in thanking God for:

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

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

 We praise the Lord as well for:

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

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

Blessings,

Russ Gregg, Head of School

Student Testimony (Dashon – 10th Grade)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Character, Poverty, Health & The Gospel

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

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

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

The Gospel & Character

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

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

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

   Ultimately, he believes character is developed by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel & Poverty

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel & Healthy School Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eight Commitments of the Hope Academy Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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