Congratulations To Alumni Award Winner Heather Otto ‘97

heather Otto '97Nate Bander ’09 spoke with 2020 Alumni Award winner Heather Rose Otto ’97 about her Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit, See You at the Summit.

Tell us more about your role as founder of See You at the Summit. How did that idea come about and what was the journey like to establish your organization?

i was working in the field of wilderness therapy and i actually attended an international conference where i heard a canadian speaker share more about what they were doing to improve the psychosocial health of teenagers undergoing cancer treatment. i realized that there wasn’t anything like this happening in the united states, so over the course of 15 years, i developed and founded see you at the summit. i went back to school to get my bachelor of science in nursing (bsn) and spent years researching and presenting to the medical community to get their buy in. now there are 18 hospitals in the pacific northwest hoping to get involved in our organization.

see you at the summit takes eight kids ages 13-18 who are undergoing or have just completed cancer treatment and brings them on a nine day wilderness trip, followed by 21 days of additional programming. so far, we have done backpacking trips but we are adding white water rafting, snow shoeing and dogsledding trips as well. we bring a team of 20 volunteers including physicians, nurses, child psychologists, porters and program facilitators and we’re able to provide the trips at no cost to the teenagers and their families.

going on a see you at the summit trip helps this underserved group develop self-esteem, make friendships, build resilience, tell their story, and just learn how to be teenager, all skills that are much harder to develop from a hospital room. this is so important because teens with cancer experience depression and anxiety at a 30% higher rate and are four times more likely to attempt suicide. through our trips and programming, we give them the tools to navigate a very challenging part of their lives.

体育比分网we are researching the long and short term outcomes of our work as well. we believe that teens who experience a see you at the summit trip will have better cancer recovery and mental health outcomes. we hope that our research provides the medical professionals who care for teens with better ways to provide social-emotional support as well.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today and your work as the founder of a nonprofit?

i am an mpa lifer and i am so grateful for my time at mpa, it really was a great education. looking back on it, i especially appreciated the small class sizes because i always felt heard and respected.

in particular, four teachers had a special impact on me. my second grade teacher, mrs. thacker was one of them. she actually adopted a puppy from the animal shelter and we cared for it as a class. i also remember my fourth grade teacher mrs. zimmerhakl really fondly. she was teaching us about privilege, equity and inclusion in the late 1980s, before most people were incorporating that into the curriculum.

体育比分网from my upper school days, mr. meacock and mrs. conway were of course teachers that made a lifelong impact on me. they stand out because their classes were filled with hands-on experiences. they were teaching about life just as much as the subjects they were responsible for. after mpa, i attended north park university in chicago where i studied theology.

What’s next?

i am continuing to build this program. as i mentioned, there are 18 hospitals in the pacific northwest, and more emerging on the east coast, who want to be involved. i am looking to do even more fundraising so that we can support more kids to go on our trips. for anyone looking to get involved, we are always in need of sponsors for our teens. for more information, visit .


MPA Community Members Are Rehabilitating Campus Gardens

working on the outdoor garden areasAfter the completion of the new Martin Lenz Harrison Library at MPA, current MPA parent Michelle Mick had a vision for a beautiful Panther Garden in the adjacent outdoor space. Thanks to the help of Samantha Forgosh Class of ‘22 and Jaeden McFarland Class of ‘19, it is well on its way to achieving this vision. These volunteers and many others are helping to remove sod, prepare the ground, and create beautiful sanctuary gardens with sustainable wildflowers and plants, as well as vegetable and produce gardens which will be used in the MPA kitchen next year.

体育比分网jaeden, samantha, chef doug, and mpa parent volunteers tim and michelle mick continue to be hard at work volunteering to rehabilitate several outdoor spaces on mpa’s campus, already having cut and removed all the sod of the 120 by 40 foot-area, rototilled the entire space, and continue to remove the weeds and rake.

at first glance, the soil underneath was unusually sandy and barren. but after tim rototilled the soil, which means using a tool that breaks up and tills the dirt, plenty of healthy worms and lots of other interesting bugs popped out! they found the area just beyond the library soaked after a night of rain, which michelle was able to help drain by adding rocks.

体育比分网this week, new mulch will be delivered, and the group will be moving it (while socially distant) from the drop off zone in front of lower school to the new gardens. we are so grateful to have volunteers in our community making these gardens happen! a special thank you to jaeden, samantha, doug, tim and michelle mick, and all who continue to volunteer!


MPA Students Named NASA Scientists For A Day

gigi and bryanCongratulations to rising MPA ninth graders Gigi and Bryan! The two students were named the NASA Scientist For A Day 2019-20 Winners for Grades 7-8 on the topic of Miranda.

体育比分网“humans are driven to explore. to question. to wonder. wishing to further our understanding of the universe beyond earth. so that someday, the impossible might just become possible,” gigi and bryan wrote in their final submission. “miranda, the fifth largest moon of uranus. some would refer to it as the frankenstein moon. many speculations have been made about how the moon came to be. but we don’t truly know for sure. with a variety of textures, grooves, craters, and fractures coating its surface, you cannot help but ask, ‘how were those created? would it be the same on the other side of miranda? or would it be different?’ we won’t know unless we look deeper. this unusual discovery is something worth learning more about.” !


Students Continue The Conversation

upper school SCC and RJEC meeting on zoom体育比分网The MPA Upper School Social Consciousness and Racial Justice & Equity Clubs are continuing their conversations throughout the summer.

students (and faculty) involved in the clubs are partaking in a summer book club, where they we will be reading “how to be an antiracist” by ibram x kendi. they are also setting club goals for the next few months, and are making individual efforts to research and address topics like, “what are viable non-policing methods for security at school dances? are mental health professionals an available resource for substance abuse concerns at school functions? are school resource officers funded by the state?”

体育比分网scc and rjec will also continue to share recommended resources for allies with all of their upper school peers throughout the summer, such as podcasts, films, articles, and updates on our community actions and initiatives.


Summer At MPA

Kids playing outside体育比分网We are thrilled to have students in grades K-6 join us back on campus for summer fun at Panther Camp! While our time together is going to look a little different from previous years, our program goals remain the same: provide our campers with a high-quality, joyful, and engaging program in the context of a safe and healthy environment.

体育比分网panther camp will run june 15-26 and july 6-august 14 from 8 am-5:30 pm out of the gallery and nicholson theatre spaces. you can register for daily, half-day, and weekly options. during camp students will explore nature, science, art, play, and do so much more.

体育比分网to register for weekly panther camps, use the “create an account” or “login” tab and follow registration instructions. see additional information under the “fees and policies” link. camp confirmation and details will be sent out upon registration.

体育比分网because of covid-19, here are some of the changes we’ve made for a safe return to campus. please know these measures are designed to provide the safest environment possible and are subject to change due to the evolving nature of the pandemic. they are based on recommendations by the minnesota department of health and the cdc.

Panther Camp Operations in Response to COVID-19

No-contact drop-off: When entering through the Gallery doors, a staff member will greet campers and run through the symptom checklist with parents, including a temperature check. Once completed and cleared to enter camp, staff will direct campers to their area in the Gallery or Nicholson Center.

Area Assignments: Campers will be assigned to a consistent spot within the program space for indoor learning & activities. Campers will also be given an individually labeled materials bin for their supplies (markers, scissors, glue stick, etc.). Read More


Maintaining Connection Through Virtual Learning

6th Graders with ChickenAs the MPA community transitioned to distance learning, Dr. Jenn Milam, Middle School director, wanted a fun way to keep Middle School students and teachers connected and supported during the rest of the school year. Enter We-Connect Wednesdays!

“Wednesdays will be a time to connect individually with teachers for academic support, to gather in small groups with each other for projects and social time, meet with Dr. Nolan, school psychologist, or Ms. Cooper, school counselor, and offer enrichment and social opportunities for social and personal connection in fun ways,” wrote Dr. Milam in her message introducing the new plan to the students. Read More


Building A Better Future

pairing assembly activities in the libraryby Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

“Together, we are building a better future. By cultivating critical thinking, creative inquiry, and social responsibility, we inspire and empower our children to improve an ever-changing and sometimes, challenging world. We do that though a rigorous, yet joyful, education delivered by an exceptional faculty dedicated to fostering caring relationships with their students.”

Those were my words in my first Panther Post message of the 2019-20 school year, on August 29. As construction finished on our new Family Commons and Martin Lenz Harrison Library, I seized upon the metaphor of building as a theme for the school year, challenging ourselves to provide the vision, blueprints, tools, and materials our students need to realize our mission, fulfill their potential, and positively impact our world. I could never have imagined just how prophetic the theme would turn out to be.

the world is, indeed, ever-changing and challenging and our lived reality this spring and early summer has made that abundantly clear to all of us. the covid-19 pandemic accentuated the strengths and flaws of ourselves, our institutions, and our society. and yet, our students emerge stronger, with the resiliency, flexibility, and independence that might not have otherwise been cultivated if not for the pandemic. our exceptional faculty were able to pivot quickly while never losing hold of the caring relationships they have with students. families have been supportive and understanding as difficult decisions have been made to keep our community safe.

体育比分网the raw, visceral murder of george floyd and ensuing unrest and violence has laid bare the fissures of society many gloss over or choose to ignore. yet through critical thinking, creative inquiry, and honest conversation, our young people hold the promise of change where our generation, and generations before us, have failed. the mpa curriculum, grounded in character education and the humanities, in concert with the sciences, provide the tools and materials necessary to build a better future, to “stir the human spirit, stand for justice, and shake the world.” indeed, building a better future requires our students to dream big and do right.

thank you for entrusting your children to mpa—i am grateful for your partnership this school year. we are united in our shared belief that education is fundamentally an act of hope and that by investing in our children, we are indeed building a better future. i am confident that the strength of our community will carry us forward to a new day. have a wonderful summer and i look forward to coming together in august.

PS: Please know you will hear from me on a regular basis this summer, as I share more information about plans for the fall. Our next communication is scheduled for Tuesday, June 23. Do not hesitate to reach out to your division director as questions arise!


Five Class of 2020 Members Receive Graduate Certificates of Distinction

Jordan akers working in sustainable farmingFive MPA seniors received and presented on their Graduate Certificates of Distinctions last week. For the first time in MPA history, three seniors were STEM recipients: Misk Khalif, Jordan Akers, and Annie Portoghese. Two seniors were Fine Art recipients: Charles Grimes and Solveig Svenniveg-Brosi.

graduate certificates of distinction are designed with the belief that upper school students can be architects of their education. the program recognizes students who have a passion within a discipline that drives them. these students are exploring their passions while staying committed to a balanced education. all mpa upper school students are eligible to work toward a single certificate of distinction in one of three areas: fine arts, global, or stem.

Misk spoke on her role as founder and executive director of the STEM Center For Girl Innovators, where she manages operations such as tutoring, science experiments, coding, and mentorship programs. She is a passionate advocate for gender and racial equity in the STEM field, which is why she founded the Center for Girl Innovators early in her STEM career. With hopes to pursue a degree in medical research, she centered her final project on Gut-Brain Axis, which is the biochemical reaction between the nervous and gastrointestinal systems. Read More


Mental Health During Virtual Learning

middle and lower school students on campus with parentsAt Mounds Park Academy, our community is built upon shared values, strongly committed to freethinking and collaboration, diversity and connection. Right now, our shared commitment to each other is helping us collectively get through today’s uncertainty with understanding and compassion. Our whole-child approach that attends to the intellectual, social and emotional growth of our students is apparent now more than ever, even though we are not physically together.

MPA’s distance learning classes are continuing to challenge and engage our students intellectually (see example at Innovation & Student-led Learning Enhance Online Science at MPA). At the same time, our students are connected to each other and their teachers—and to our school counselors, a critical lifeline to both our students and parents who are guiding us on how to persevere during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our connected community, built on our small classes, means that our children are known and understood, which is critical given current levels of stress, fear and uncertainty, as is our collective creativity to meet the social, emotional, and intellectual needs of our students. Read More


Violence & Unrest: An Important Message From Dr. Jules Nolan

by Dr. Jules Nolan, Mounds Park Academy school psychologist

体育比分网your children may be asking questions about the events in minneapolis and st. paul that have evolved over the past week. it can be difficult to talk to them about racism, violence, social injustice, and unrest, but it is important to do so. here are some tips for talking about these difficult issues.

For Lower School Children
First, help them feel that you and your family are safe. We do this by managing our own strong emotions of fear and anxiety, and co-regulating with them. When we feel calm, it helps them to feel calm.

体育比分网answer questions directly, but don’t give them more information than they are asking for. if they ask about the protests you could say, “people are marching and carrying signs because some people are being hurt because of the color of their skin and protesters are asking for it to stop.” turn off media and watch what you say in front of them, even if it appears that they are not listening. they hear everything.

this is a good time to develop emotional vocabulary by naming feelings. remind your children that while it doesn’t feel nice to be afraid or sad or worried, they are strong enough to have these feelings and still be okay. then talk about the things they like to do that help them feel better. help them manage their own feelings by modeling managing your feelings.

体育比分网you can talk to small children about racial injustice in a simple way, for instance by saying that some people are mean to other people for no reason and that we stick up for people who are treated unfairly. talk about times they helped others who were hurting or sad. then help them to participate in some benevolent action, donating food, cleaning up neighborhoods, making cards, and other acts of service. if you would like to act locally, .

For Middle School Children
They also need to be assured of your family’s safety and we co-regulate with our children in this stage too. While they may seem more oblivious to our emotional states, they can “feel” it when we are tense, angry, worried, sad, etc., and it may make them feel agitated even if they don’t know why. Practice calming yourself. Read More