Is There Hope for Minneapolis?

COVID-19 cases are declining, mask mandates have lifted, and businesses are opening back up again. Summer in Minnesota feels more hopeful this year, doesn’t it?

Many of us are seeing loved ones we haven’t seen in months. We’re celebrating graduations, birthdays, reunions, and simple pleasures like eating at restaurants. Kids are playing sports, and enjoying programs and camps. We’re excited to embrace normal life again.

But, for many of our urban neighbors—especially in Minneapolis—it’s going to be a longer road to recovery. After nearly a year of distance learning only, social disconnection, and inconsistent support, thousands of youth in our city are heading into a new school year unprepared. With fewer resources and supports, low-income children of color have been impacted more severely —suffering up to a full year of learning loss, according to the latest national estimates by McKinsey & Company in December 2020 [1].

The compounded effects of last summer’s rioting and unrest–plus near-record levels of violent crime this year—have continued to deeply impact urban families. So far in 2021, there have been more than 3,000 violent crimes reported in our city, including 46 homicides (City of Minneapolis, July 2021) [2].

What’s the solution?

Education seems to be the logical answer. People with a high school diploma or advanced degree are much more likely to have higher earnings and to avoid incarceration. In America, the median annual income for a full-time employed young adult (age 25-34) with a Bachelor’s degree is nearly two times higher than the median annual income of a young adult with no high school diploma (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019) [3].

Sadly, in Minnesota state prisons, only 29% of inmates have a traditional high school diploma (MN Department of Corrections, 2021) [4].

In 2017, The Alliance for Excellent Education estimated that, across the Twin Cities metro, higher graduation rates for just one  high school class would lead to millions of dollars in additional earned income, millions of dollars in public healthcare savings, substantial job growth, and a stronger overall economy [5]

Academic achievement plays an important role in financial success, and can serve as a powerful deterrent from crime. But, as parents and educators, we have to be careful not to focus on teaching head knowledge at the expense of shaping values and character.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

At Hope Academy, we focus on feeding both the hearts and minds of our students. We believe every child was made in the image of God and is capable of achieving great things.

Through a classical, Christian K-12 education, 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.

Our goal is to teach students how to think, not just what to think—to help students discern what is true and false, and what to treasure as they engage with the world around them. One of our teachers shares more about classical education at Hope Academy in this video.

“Our hope is not just to elevate our students’ understanding or status, we want them to come to know their Savior, and we want to raise disciples."

Hope Academy Teacher

Teachers and staff also seek to model Christ to their students daily, and encourage each child to grow in faith and the H.O.P.E values of honor, optimism, perseverance, and excellence. Students pray and worship together, mentor younger peers, and serve in the community. Report cards measure growth in both character and academics.

In our 21st year as a school, we’re beginning to see more of the long-term fruit of this work as students graduate from Hope Academy, pursue higher education, advance in careers, and grow as followers of Christ.

Kenneth graduated from Hope Academy in 2018 and is now a first-generation college student at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, on a full-ride, full-need scholarship. During the 2019-20 school year, he and several Hope Academy alumni mentored younger students through a local youth ministry, and served our South Minneapolis community following the devastating riots.

Israel graduated this spring and will become a first-generation college student in the fall, on a significant scholarship to the University of Minnesota-Carlson School of Management.

Aaleyah also graduated from Hope Academy this spring on a full-ride scholarship to Hillsdale College. At our graduation ceremony, Aaleyah shared:

“In a time when political, ethnic, and ideological divisions are tearing our communities apart, our time at Hope has taught us the truth… We have learned the values that are essential to righteously fight for justice: human dignity, sacrificial love, and forgiveness.” 

We’re so grateful to see Hope Academy students living out these values and fostering hope in God throughout our community. For more encouraging stories, take a look at our Annual Report here:

If you’d like to take a deeper look at Hope Academy, we invite you to watch our Hope in a Half Hour video story—to see how a remarkable, Christian education is bringing hope to Minneapolis at time when it couldn’t be more needed.

[1] Dorn, E., Hancock, B., Sarakatsannis, J., & Viruleg, E. (2020, December 8). COVID-19 and learning loss–disparities grow and students need help. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/covid-19-and-learning-loss-disparities-grow-and-students-need-help.

[2] City of Minneapolis. (n.d.). Crime statistics dashboard. Police Crime Statistics Dashboard – City of Minneapolis. https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/government-data/datasource/crime-statistics-dashboard/.

[3] National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Table 502.30. Median annual earnings of full-time year-round workers 25 to 34 years old and full-time year-round workers as a percentage of the labor force, by sex, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment: Selected years, 1995 through 2018. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d19/tables/dt19_502.30.asp.

[4] MN Department of Corrections . (2021). (rep.). Minnesota Department of Corrections Adult Prison Population Summary. Retrieved from https://mn.gov/doc/assets/Adult%20Prison%20Population%20Summary%201-1-2021_tcm1089-467125.pdf

[5] Alliance for Excellent Education, December 2017. Retrieved from http://impact.all4ed.org/Infographics/MSA/Minneapolis-Saint%20Paul-Bloomington-MN-WI-MSA-GradEffect-Infographic-FINAL.pdf