Minnehaha Academy Blog

A Letter from a Student

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 30, 2020

Untitled design (5)-1We are continually blessed by our students on a daily basis in big and small ways. The letter below was sent by an Upper School student last week and provided encouragement to us all. Especially in times like these, acts of kindness do not go unnoticed. May this be an encouragement to us all to show kindness and grace to those in our lives. It matters.

To the teachers, staff, and faculty of Minnehaha Academy,

I hope this email finds you well in this crazy time in history. I also hope that you and your families are all healthy. For those who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet, my name is Rebecca from the junior class. 

I know this is a very unprecedented time for everyone, which frankly no one has control over. I wanted to write personally, and informally to everyone to try my best to lift some spirits. Not to brag, but many of my hockey teammates have looked up to me for positive energy. Many of us have differing opinions on just about everything in today’s world, which you can add this pandemic to the long list. However, I’m here to find the middle edge of a coin and shed some positivity. 

As educators, you all were given an extreme challenge, one that is very frustrating, stressful, overwhelming, and seemingly impossible. I cannot imagine the stress and pressure that has been put onto you these last three weeks. In saying that I would not trust anyone else in the world to help the students get through this than the current faculty and staff of MA. I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most passionate teachers I’ve ever had, and have come to know many of you on a more personal level these last three years. The amount of resiliency and determination I have found in this staff alone is overwhelming. 

I understand I am only a seventeen year old girl who hasn’t lived much life yet. As cliche and cheesy as it sounds, I have full faith that everyone can make it out of this. You will need to work harder than ever before to help your students get through this too. But, like I said before, I don’t trust anyone else more than I trust you. It is absolutely going to be hard, but welcome to delayed gratification. I know you have all been through so much so far, but I’m asking you to keep going. Keep planning, keep re-writing those lessons, keep answering emails, keep re-working schedules, keep making selfless sacrifices, keep finding that small thing in life that keeps you going. You have worked so hard already and I just want you to know that there is at least one student who sees that. I am forever grateful for everyone who makes Minnehaha what it is. Lastly, I love you all. I hope this helped a little. 

Something that has helped me through this is a prayer I say everyday: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

From Junior,


Topics: Upper School, Caring Community, Online Learning

Blessing Jar: A Family Activity

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 24, 2020

IMG_5111 copyMany of us now have more time with our families and are looking for activities to keep our kids busy. One activity we recommend is creating a blessing jar. Not only is it a fun daily activity for families, but is also a good way to teach children to look for blessings and things to be thankful for, despite the circumstances. A blessing jar can be a daily reminder of what we do have. 

How To Make A Blessing Jar

  1. Find a jar or container.
  2. Cut up paper into small strips.
  3. Pick a set time each day (perhaps at a meal) for each family member to write down one blessing from the day on a small piece of paper.
  4. If they'd like, each person may share what they wrote with others.
  5. Write the date on the paper.
  6. Place the paper in the jar.
  7. Continue doing this each day.
  8. When you need a reminder of your blessings, reach in the jar and read a few of the notes. 

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Topics: Caring Community, Online Learning

Tommy Boyd '10 Goes Beyond Comfort

Posted by Amy Barnard on Feb 20, 2020

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"I'm a very introverted person, I don't even like leaving St. Paul," says Tommy Boyd, '10. And yet, in 2017, this self-proclaimed homebody found himself peeling potatoes in a co-operative refugee community in Athens, Greece, alongside men from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

"Of that time spent in the kitchen 75% of it was spent dancing. Just dancing in the kitchen, just gaining friends. You know, genuine friends," says Boyd.

That winter, Boyd was part of a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) team that landed in Athens, Greece, with few connections and a hope that somehow they could serve the refugees there. The group soon found themselves connected with Khora, a humanitarian co-operative foundation unlike anything most of them had ever encountered.


By Refugees, For Refugees

Khora formed in response to the European Refugee Crisis, an influx of individuals fleeing war, violence, or persecution from their home countries. Many of these individuals and families pay smugglers or flee on foot of their own devices and make the perilous journey through Turkey to a handful of Greek islands that have become primary entry points for migrants to Europe.

As refugees and migrants made their way from these islands into Athens, entry to the rest of Europe became increasingly difficult. Surrounding countries began shutting their borders, even as thousands continued to flood the islands of Greece, many losing their lives along the way.

A handful of NGO volunteers as well as refugees the volunteers worked with wanted to find a way to give those stuck in Athens a place of refuge, services, and skills to help prepare them for any new doors of opportunity that might open.

Without work permits or visas, many of the refugees Khora serves have left the camps to live as squatters in abandoned buildings or on the streets, struggling to make it from day to day.

"These are some of the most educated people from their home countries; they are the ones who had the resources to get out," Boyd says, "so you're looking at individuals who went to medical school and taught in universities."

Boyd arrived at Khora with a handful of YWAMers to discover an eight-story, formerly abandoned building bustling with life: On one floor, a kitchen serving 800 meals a day. On another, attorney advice for those trying to sort out passport and asylum issues. Other areas provided language classes, childcare, dental services, and basics like clothing and toiletries.

The refugees themselves often teach classes at Khora in their areas of expertise. Often these are language classes, an attempt to give individuals greater success once (and if) they finally leave Greece.

In spite of the dire circumstances these people faced, Khora offers an atmosphere of warmth and hope.

"When you volunteer you sign up for things you're good at—volunteers even give music lessons—and then weekly they send out an agenda saying who is where at what time. I'd say probably 98% of my time was spent in the kitchen. So, peeling potatoes, washing dishes, all of that," says Boyd.

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Unlike most refugee camps where volunteers and refugees separate into the servers and the served, Khora empowers refugees to help run its programs and make decisions for the community.

"[It's] crazy the amount of ministry you could do in there because you're seeing the same people everyday," Boyd shares.

First Culture Shock: Minnehaha Academy

Boyd himself never had great aspirations of becoming a potato peeler in a refugee community; nor did he expect to step into the ministry of friendship with men from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria through dancing.

His first big culture shock happened in ninth grade when he transferred to Minnehaha Academy.

Students freely leaving backpacks in the hallway or on tables without fear of theft was as much of a surprise to him as were the chapels, where modern worship music combined with students who would clap or even raise their hands contrasted with his more formal religious upbringing.

But Boyd says that the Minnehaha culture of doing the right thing "without it being written on the wall, but because it was the right thing to do" had a life-long impact on him and gave him a vision for the type of person he wanted to become.

He also shares that while during his first years at MA he generally kept to the fringes during chapel and stayed seated when possible, "by my senior year I was standing up and I was singing...I was buying into the culture, little by little."

Although intense on the basketball court or football field, former classmates comment that Boyd's intensity was tempered by a kindness and warmth off the field.

"He was never too big or too cool to take time to connect with younger kids," says classmate Matt Pryor '11. "He was friends with everyone."

Boyd went on to study physical education at Bethel and then worked for two years in the small town of Zimmerman, Minnesota, teaching health education, strength and conditioning, first aid, and coaching basketball and football. This was a move sparked by his time at MA.

"Josh Thurow was one of my favorite teachers...I don't know if he knew it or not but he influenced me to be a teacher," says Boyd. He also says that he felt compelled to "pay it forward," noting that his life could have taken many courses, but the teachers who poured into him helped nudge him on track.

Called to Serve

In 2017, Boyd was working in Zimmerman and married to his former Bethel classmate Kailey, also a physical education teacher. While they both loved teaching, each began wondering whether or not God might be calling them to another type of service.

"At the end of that second year of teaching for me, the end of her first year, we went in to resign from our jobs because we were going to go do mission work with YWAM," Boyd says. The school district offered the Boyds another option: take a year-long leave of absence and then revisit the discussion.

And so, in September of 2017 the couple found themselves in the Manoa Valley of Honolulu at a YWAM base for Discipleship Training School (DTS).

Three months later, they arrived in Khora, a ministry environment unlike anything they had been part of before.

In this moment, Tommy and Kailey found themselves in the unique situation of ministering not as hosts to foreigners in their own land, but as foreigners themselves walking alongside other foreigners in an unfamiliar place.

And for Tommy, this meant peeling potatoes and washing dishes with men from across the Middle East and Central Asia.


It was here that Tommy taught his co-cooks the dance to Darude's Sandstorm.

Soon the group was exchanging dance moves. At one point, a Palestinian man whose wife and daughters were still waiting in Palestine, jumped in, hefted Tommy over his shoulders and started spinning.

"I'm 6'4" and 235 pounds. That was really high off the ground in a slippery kitchen. I was honestly kind of afraid," Tommy says, laughing.

Throughout these weeks the men became progressively closer.

"Now I can definitely say I have friends from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq; really close friends that I still talk to today. And it all came from just dancing in the kitchen."

In spite of the camaraderie the Boyds felt with many at Khora the experience did have its tense moments.

Khora sits squarely in the heart of Exarcheia, also known as the anarchist zone.

"They had very frequent riots going on, so there would be times that we had to shut down early because a riot was planned." The Boyds also spent a few days visiting an abandoned building-turned refugee squat run by a faction of the Greek mafia. Leaders made it clear that they were watching the YWAMers and didn't want to see any overt ministry.

In spite of these restrictions, the couple developed friendships throughout their time in Greece that continue even two years later, thanks to social media and the ability to text across the ocean. These interactions offer opportunities for ongoing ministry and sharing of Christ's love.

Tommy and Kailey hope to arrange a trip in the coming year to visit these friends in the various places they have landed, many now scattered across Europe.

The couple also took part in a concerted effort to reach the Greek community during a three-week outreach that multiple other YWAM groups attended.

During the outreach, the teams handed out over 400 Bibles, nearly 200 individuals expressed a desire to commit to a walk with God, and upwards of 50 were baptized.

With just a few days left after this outreach, the Boyd's team took the opportunity to visit a refugee camp on the outskirts of Athens.

"That was probably the most eye-opening, impactful experience of the time, and we only went there for two days," says Tommy. "It was really cool to see how God was working in those relationships."

Six hours of basketball that first day lead to friendship with an Iraqi doctor that continues to this day. "We still talk at least two or three times a month, just checking in."

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Service In Athletics

The Boyds came home and initially returned to teaching, but Tommy felt unsettled. He wanted to use both his physical training and spiritual passion to serve others, but he wasn't convinced he was in the right field.

Ultimately, Tommy went back to school for a master's degree in strength and conditioning in order to do focused work with high school athletes.

"I really want to use this as a way of showing young people that they have so much value beyond their athletic ability." Boyd says that he faced a crisis of identity when his athletic career came to a close, and he wants to help students find their identity in Christ instead of their sport.

"That's the driving factor behind everything I do: how can I help people see that Christ is the best thing that you can possibly find your identity in?"

Boyd sees these three seasons life—first as a teacher, second in Greece, and third in strength and conditioning—as three expressions of God's call to serve others and point them towards Him.

"[It's] planting the seed knowing full well you may never see the tree," he shares, reflecting both on his friendships from Greece and future work with athletes. "It's not us in the end who saves, it's whenever Christ decides they're ready."

Topics: Alumni Stories, Caring Community

A Caring School Environment in the Twin Cities

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Feb 7, 2020

2019-LS-MS-Pep-Fest-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-50Making sure your children get an excellent education is important for their future success. However, it is the school environment and culture that makes a child excited to go to school each day and have positive memories of their school experience after they graduate.

8 Things to Look for in a School Environment

How do you know if a school community is a positive one? Here are eight things to look for when you are considering a school for your child.

  1. Teachers appear happy to be there. When you are touring a school and talk to the teachers, do their eyes light up when they talk about their students, education, and learning? Teachers that enjoy teaching children are creative, innovative, and love to learn themselves. They are engaged in the learning process and are always looking for new ways to inspire children to learn. 

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  2. Teachers demonstrate attention to each child. Children know when their teachers care about them as a person. When there are strong relationships between teachers and students, students put in more effort and look forward to attending class each day. Teachers who care about the children they teach are interested in learning about each child's particular hobbies. By understanding each child, they can teach to that child, encouraging them to develop their talents and uncover their true potential. 

  3. Words of kindness are heard in the hallways and classrooms. As you walk through the school you are considering, look for kindness and caring in the interactions you observe. Are you greeted in the halls with a smile or "hello"? Do faculty and staff greet each other as they pass? Do students say "hello" to you or give a friendly smile? These small gestures tell a lot about a school culture and how people feel about each other.

  4. Children are kind to each other. When you watch children interact with each other are they kind to each other? Do they greet one another and seem to care about the other child they are interacting with? Look for kindness in big and small ways. From a conversation to a hug to helping another student who may have dropped a book or notes, these are all ways children can show each other that they care about one another.

  5. Hallways and school classrooms are lively but not chaotic. Children exude joy and happiness naturally. In any given day, there will always be a lot of interaction happening between students at a school, but the overall feel in a school should not be one of chaos.

  6. Children demonstrate respect adults. Observe how children talk to adults such as teachers, faculty, and parents. Do they answer when a question is asked of them? Do they listen and do what is asked of them? Children respect adults when they feel safe, secure, and confident in their surroundings.

  7. Teachers and staff demonstrate respect children. A culture of kindness and respect is mutual. Adults also need to show respect to children, just as children show respect to adults. As you watch teachers interact with children do they show respect to each child by listening to each child as they speak? Children are very perceptive, and they follow the behavior that is modeled for them. By modeling positive behaviors and being a role model, adults provide a template for a child's behavior. 

  8. Teachers, staff, and students are happy. While you can't ask each person that you see if they enjoy attending or working at the school you are touring, you can get a general sense of how people feel about their environment if you observe their behavior. Genuine happiness can be contagious, so if you find yourself feeling your mood lift as you tour a school, chances are that others feel the same way as you. 

These intangibles are hard to pinpoint, but make a world of difference in the day-to-day life of your child and your family. If your child is happy at school, the entire school experience can be elevated from ho-hum to exceptional.

If you're in the Twin Cities and looking for a private school be sure to check out Minnehaha Academy. It's impossible to describe, but when you and your family walk into Minnehaha Academy, you'll feel it. Students and parents say that our culture of kindness and care is what makes us unique. 

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Topics: Cultivating Potential, Caring Community

Discover a New Story: Building Empathy Through Cultural Field Experience

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jan 16, 2020

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Packing donated clothes for the children's home.

Last spring’s Cultural Field Experience (CFE) trip to Roatan wasn’t Abbi Slininger’s first cross cultural venture. At seventeen years old she’s already made her way to Costa Rica, Europe, and Bora Bora with her family.

In spite of this, Abbi's trip to Roatan impacted her in ways these previous excursions didn't.

"I realized that I want to live my life so that I give back...It will make me a better person and impact others if I’m not just thinking about myself," Abbi explains.

Abbi joined ten other students along with Principal Jason Wenschlag and science teacher Nancy Cripe in Roatan, a little island off Honduras, to volunteer at a children’s home this past spring.

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Abbi teaching a student at the home she spent a lot of one on one time with how to make friendship bracelets.

The group helped children in the home with homework, assisted in setting up the new tilapia farm (a source of both food and income for the home), taught crafts, painted walls, and joined a local church in their outreach to some of the poorest families on the island.

While there, the students also heard the children share the various and often difficult journeys that brought them to the home.

"I was surprised that some of them were willing to share, and that they still wanted people in their lives [after what they had experienced]," Abbi shares.

She says getting to know the children and the time she spent meeting people during the church outreach made her aware in a new way of the needs of others, as well as the very different stories that make up the tapestry of our world.

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Testing water quality in preparation for the small tilapia farm that alum Randy Bevis '87 prepared for the home. MA students brought additional materials and taught the older children at the home how to test water to keep the farm healthy.

These are exactly the glimmers of understanding that CFE Director Jessa Anderson hopes to see increase in the coming years at MA.

"We want something deeper than traditional service learning for CFE," she says. "We want students to be developing empathy, building relationships, and learning to be better global citizens."

This is a tall order. In a world where "service learning trips" face increasing scrutiny, at times seen as little more than badges to stick on a college application, or (hardly better) as a chance to feel good about doing something nice, Ms. Anderson wants more for MA students.

"It’s not just going and serving in a place and leaving," she explains.

Instead, she wants students to learn about the places and people they serve in ways that deepen their respect and empathy, as well as help them feel connected to people who may be very different than themselves.

For Anderson, this isn’t simply a matter of theory or nice ideas she learned in a seminar on social justice. As a small child, her family moved to an economically depressed neighborhood to be part of a church plant and serve the community. In a later season of life, she heard people’s stories in Northern Ireland and South Africa while serving on a peace-building and reconciliation ministry team.

These encounters changed how Anderson sees the world and sees individuals.

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Paint rollers drying after MA students helped with bathroom renovation. 

The question facing her today is this: How do you help an entire school prepare for CFE in a way that might facilitate these mindset shifts?

This year Anderson is preparing empathy-building activities for students to use during team meetings and then take on the road and into their CFE encounters.

In keeping with the year's theme—"Discover a New Story"—teams will discuss the value of learning each other's stories and discuss how to ask good questions while avoiding those that might not be so helpful. From there, a pack of conversation starters will help them draw out their teammates' stories.

Once students arrive at their CFE sites team leaders will encourage them to use these new skills to learn from the people they meet.

Whether playing bingo at a veteran's home, repairing a house in rural Kentucky, or working with an environmental conservation group in Guatemala, Anderson hopes that hearing the stories of others will bring a greater sense of connection to the wider world.

For 2019 CFE participant Langting Deng, helping immigrants improve their English at the International Institute opened up just that type of connection.

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MA students at the International Institute helping immigrants with their English.

Langting shares that she stepped into the experience with no small amount of hesitancy: herself an international student, she wasn’t sure how much she had to offer these adult language learners from Ethiopia, Chile, and other nations that seemed so far removed from her life back in China or her days at Minnehaha Academy.

But sitting alongside them at simple folding tables in the Institute's classrooms, Langting was surprised to find that her own experience as a second language learner gave her common ground with these adults. That common ground then opened doors for deeper revelations.

"I realized that there are a lot of people in the world who are similar to me; each person has their own struggles and each person is working very hard, even harder than I am sometimes."

"When we have the opportunity to go out and see people in different settings it stretches us and it broadens our view," says Anderson.

"It’s really easy to live in a bubble where you’re comfortable...When we actually see and experience [different settings] we learn to respect those realities and to empathize with people’s stories."

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Nicholas and student at the home building a model airplane.

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Topics: Upper School, Cultural Field Experience, Caring Community

Selfless in a Selfie World

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jan 7, 2020

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It’s mid-September. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows of Mr. Sauer’s third floor classroom you can see the first flickers of fall color speckling the green canopy below. Class is over, and senior Peter Shaffer grabs his books, ready to move on to the next class.

"Shaffer," Mr. Sauer stops him. "I have something for you."

Kris Sauer, English teacher and assistant cross country coach, slips a white envelope into Peter’s hands. "I don’t know what’s in it," he says.

Peter looks at the envelope, confused. It’s a letter from former cross country and track teammate, Chris Schold, written four years earlier and filed away in Mr. Sauer’s cabinet for safe keeping. Today Chris studies economics at St. Olaf and is preparing for his upcoming position at Optum, but during these four years the letter made a trek from the rubble of the old building, to Mendota, and finally to Mr. Sauer’s new classroom.

"What is this about?" Peter wonders.


Peter Shaffer just before qualifying for State.

Later that evening, when Peter opens the letter at home, he understands. Mr. Sauer often gives his students the opportunity to write a letter to their future selves. Four years after they graduate, he mails those letters back to the students so they can see and remember the wishes they had for themselves on the cusp of leaving MA.

Chris Schold, however, chose not to write to himself, but to write to Peter, who was just in eighth grade at the time.

Now a senior, Peter opens the letter to find words of encouragement and an exhortation to continue forward in excellence. "I was surprised at how much he noticed about me in seventh and eighth grade, and that he thought to write to me about it," Peter shares, adding that he felt humbled to be on the receiving end of such a gesture.

For his part, Chris considered just doing the assignment and writing to himself, but, "I started to think about how this assignment could actually be used to bring greater good to the team."

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Peter's positive attitude and willingness to "stick with it" when things got tough impressed Chris throughout their time in cross country. "I wanted to let him know that he was a great student and athlete and it was a pleasure to get to know him. It seemed like a good way to finish out the year and make an impact on someone else."

Chris’s decision exemplifies a key value that staff and faculty at MA hope to nurture throughout the community: Considering the needs and feelings of others, and how you can be part of making someone else's life better.

In a world where popular media and culture often glorify self promotion, faculty continually challenge students to consider how their actions and choices impact not only themselves but also those around them.

Class Constitution

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Each teacher has his or her own way of offering this challenge throughout the school year. If you step into fifth grade teacher Nichole De Haven’s class early in the year, you might catch her working on the Class Constitution with her students.

"How do you want others to treat you this year?" she asks her students. "What are your hopes for the ways others do or don't interact with you?"

The students brainstorm a list together that goes up on the whiteboard.

"Do you notice anything interesting about this list?" Ms. De Haven asks the group.

Inevitably students start to recognize that their peers hold similar hopes and values (kindness, truth telling, etc.) as themselves. This revelation plants seeds of empathy and nudges students to consider how their words or actions may impact their peers.

Fifth grader Katie Jane shares this realization: "It’s important to hear other people’s ideas and what they have to say. I don’t want someone to ignore me when I’m talking, so I should respect them when they are talking."

As they work through these values, the students develop a Class Constitution—a series of agreements they make for how they want to treat each other.

"It’s really helpful to have their wording, not just mine," says De Haven, noting that the process gives the students a sense of ownership. The class then agrees as a community to "uphold the Constitution" that they’ve created.

Random Acts of Kindness

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Middle School Counselor Sarah Rothstein also works hard to reinforce the community values on campus. Herself a transplant to Minnehaha with experience in two public school districts, she shares that she’s witnessed firsthand the uniqueness of the Minnehaha culture.

"I’ve never worked in a school where for the most part kids tell you the truth, and when they make a mistake and they own it," she says.

Rothstein is quick to clarify that Middle School students at MA aren’t perfect, and they definitely aren’t immune to the many quirky friendship dramas and behavior issues adolescents are famous for, but, she says, "As a whole the kids here really want to do the right thing. Although they make mistakes, they own them; although they have friendship troubles, they want to work them out."

Wanting to reinforce the good she already saw happening as well as broaden students’ ideas about serving and loving others, Ms. Rothstein instituted the Random Acts of Kindness board. Each year she writes out cards that recommend ways to serve others or help others feel safe and included in school. Over the course of a number of weeks, students chose cards from the board and then report back on what they did.

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Some examples include:

  • "I let someone go in front of me in line."
  • "I told someone that I was thankful for her because she always makes me laugh."
  • "I helped babysit for my neighbors."

Serving Others With Our Bodies

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Even in the more unexpected places, like physical education class, instructors work with students on developing an awareness of others.

On a blustery Wednesday morning in October, fourth graders from Jordan Fitch’s phy-ed class toted rakes as big as themselves into a yard just a few blocks from the school. After a brief prayer for their time together and the family who owned the home, the students got to work pushing leaves into piles and then bagging them up.

In all, students served six neighborhood families through raking this fall.

"I’ve been trying to teach our PE students that our bodies aren’t just here to serve our needs alone, but that we are called to serve God and serve others with this gift that we’ve been given," shares Mr. Fitch.

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Students praying for the people whose yards they would be raking that day.

Before raking he shared this scripture to help set the tone:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Mathew 25:35-36)

While Fitch loves sports and loves the growth that comes from learning to be part of a team or to push oneself physically, underneath everything he wants students to connect their faith with all aspects of life.

"I would love students to see everything they do in PE as an opportunity to serve God and to honor Him," he says, reaffirming that a primary way we serve God is to serve others. "Raking was a unique experience to do that."

Full Circle

While these examples are just a few of the many ways faculty encourage students towards an awareness of and empathy for those around them, they typify an undergirding mindset seen in classrooms across campus.

Upper School Spanish instructor Anne Calvin notes, "Ultimately it’s about being the body of Christ. We call out the good in our students but we also name the things that are undesirable such as, 'that doesn’t have any place here.' The desire is to have an environment that is Christ-like, where the Holy Spirit is present. It’s not just a poster on the wall, but it’s rooted in something much deeper and more profound in how we view one another, that we do bear the image of God."


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Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Caring Community

Bitya Tefera: Home Again

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 14, 2019

Bitya for Blog

Baccalaureate Speech 2019

Students and Faculty, let me begin by thanking each and every one of you all for impacting my life for the better for the past two years. You all have impacted me in unique ways whether it be through friendship or the experiences we’ve shared and I will be forever grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and people I have met.

From kindergarten till 8th grade I attended Minnehaha Academy.  

I began my high school career at Eagan High School. Freshman year, I guess you could say I was a little naive. I just wanted to clock in and then clock out. I didn’t want to be a part of the community or get to know people. I just wanted my diploma. I did everything possible to stay under the radar. I didn’t talk to people unless they spoke to me first, and I tried my best to not let people think I was trying to make new friends because I truly wasn’t.

For the first year, it somewhat worked.

As fall of sophomore year progressed, I got a little lonely. I started to notice everyone in my classes knew at least one other person but I was the weird kid who just sat in their chair with a blank stare on her face. I knew I didn’t want to make new friends, but I didn’t want to seem like the weird kid of the class.

So I attempted to try and make new friends. I made a few friends here and there but nothing came close to the friendships I had at Minnehaha. I realized that even after I made friends at Eagan High School I still wasn’t really comfortable. I wasn’t weird anymore but I couldn’t seem to really connect with anyone. As sophomore year ended so did all of those “friendships” that I had made.


Then at a fourth of July picnic with my family, my mom asked if I would like to go back to Minnehaha. I said no because I didn’t think there was anything left here for me. Instead I asked if I could attend Hope Academy. My mom and I made a deal. We would flip a coin and if it was tails, I could go to Hope, but if it was heads I had to at least consider going back to Minnehaha. It was tails. I went to Hope Academy to visit and I liked it a lot. I even made friends on that day. I already had a group of girls that I could sit with for the next year, but then my mom told me that I had no choice and that I had to go and retest to get back into MA. In my mind I was a little disappointed but I didn’t have a choice in the matter.

Then August 2nd happened.

I’d been to the North Campus as a child when we had concerts but I never experienced it the way you guys did. It wasn’t really home for me. It was where all the big high schoolers were. So when it exploded, I didn’t really know how to feel. I thought I was supposed to be grieving but I didn’t think I should because I didn’t have the same connection you guys had to it. I decided to just be there for the people who needed it because I knew I was fine.


Coming Home

As junior year began, I was scared that it would be awkward trying to make my way back into the community but it wasn’t hard at all. You guys welcomed me as if I never left. Some of you even forgot I left. Junior year was full of fun memories. Whether it was managing football, being on the volleyball team, managing the girls' basketball team, or just being in different classes with you all. I was always laughing and always smiling. I felt at home and like I had never left. I ended junior year feeling great.

Senior year was really hard. Not only academically, but emotionally. You see, everyone getting into colleges and I started to realize that we’re not gonna be here next year. One thing I will say that I really enjoyed is leading chapel. As embarrassing as it was at times, it was really fun because the seniors are in the front row and they actually get into the songs.

Me personally, I went through a lot changes this year. As senior year comes to a close, I have been reflecting on my high school experience and I realized that while I thought I was in control of everything, God had a plan all along. There is an old Yiddish proverb that says “We plan, God laughs”. My plan was to go to EHS for four years and graduate. My plan was to leave Minnehaha and never look back. God must think he’s really funny. Even though as an 8th grader, I didn’t shed a single tear or give a single thought to leaving, I leave now with a much heavier heart.

You all mean so much to me and have really changed me for the better. I’m glad I’m graduating with this group rather than the 635 kids from Eagan. Especially because my last name starts with a “T” and that ceremony would been rough. All jokes aside, I want you to know that I truly wouldn’t be standing here if God didn’t have a plan.

To end, I’m gonna leave you with this, I think we are a senior class that will make big changes for the world. Our grade is going to leave a mark on this school for all other seniors that come after us to see. So I might be becoming a Bethel Lion next year, but I will always be a Rowdy Redhawk.

Rowdy Redhawk

Topics: Upper School, Caring Community

Anna Pickerign: Faith in the Bigger Picture

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 13, 2019

Anna Pickerign for blog

This content is from recent Minnehaha graduate Anna's baccalaureate speech.

I am a visual learner and because I am a visual learner, I brought a prop with me today. You probably can’t see it because it’s super small. It’s a seed, and I brought this seed because it reminds me of one of the things I love: gardening. Every summer my mom, my sisters and I all work on our plot of land within a community garden and plant seeds. We plant things like zucchini, carrots, and kohlrabi. 

Sometimes, if we are successful, the seeds grow into plants and we have a lot of fun trying to find recipes that will use, for example, three bags of radishes. Sometimes, however, despite our best efforts, the seeds just won’t grow. So you are probably wondering why I am up here talking about gardening. I am talking about gardening because I think all of us are like gardeners and we plant seeds wherever we go.

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Being a Small Part


This past summer, I had the opportunity to go on a trip with my church to Roach, Missouri. My sister went with me on this trip and together we jokingly called it, Roach, Misery. It was about as nice as it sounds. Despite the pouring rain and flash floods that accompanied most of the trip, there was one day that we were able to accomplish the project we set out to do: we formed a bucket brigade to help pave a hiking trail at a state park. A bucket brigade is a line of people who pass the buckets down the line from one person to the next. The thing about bucket brigades is that, while they are very effective, you only get to see a smaller part of the bigger picture.  My station on the bucket brigade was situated at the very bottom of the trail. For the entire day, I walked up and down the same twelve stairs over and over, sending buckets of gravel up the brigade to pave the trail.

Because I was at the bottom of the trail, I didn’t get to see the broken, worn out parts that needed to be fixed. All I knew was that I kept sending full buckets up, and the buckets kept coming down empty. Honestly, it was a little frustrating.

It can be hard to keep working when you don’t really know what you’re working towards. And, truthfully, I have felt this way about a lot of things in my life.  Sometimes, I still do. At times I feel like I keep coming back to care for the garden and nothing seems to be growing yet.

After many long hours of working at the bottom of the bucket brigade, a man came down the trail. He looked at us and said, “You know, they don’t even make prisoners do that kind of work.” My youth leader gave us a look that read something like, “Oh, no, what am I doing to these kids?”  

Faith for What We Can't See

What I didn’t expect after that man’s comment was to see him hike back up the trail with a bucket of gravel in each hand, telling us that if we could do this, he could do it, too. While this surprised me at first, it became clear to me that our group had planted a seed of encouragement in this man. I don’t know if or how that seed grew, but it showed me that God works in ways we don’t always expect, and that even if we don’t see the fruits of our labor, that doesn’t mean God isn’t using our everyday encounters to impact others and encourage growth.

One of my favorite verses is John 13:7: “Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”  

This verse is important to me because life can get ugly sometimes. Sometimes we hit rough patches and can’t find an explanation. During some of the uglier parts of life, I’ve gotten caught up in the fact that bad things are happening that I don’t understand. I think it’s really easy to be shaken when things happen and we don’t know why. Last year, I felt this way when multiple people close to me were sick and in the hospital at the same time. It’s hard to understand when bad things happen to people we care about or when disaster strikes our very own community.

I still don’t understand, but I’m learning to be okay with knowing that God is growing things that I might never see. During my church’s time in Roach, I looked forward to finally seeing the top of the hill. I never did. I was, however, able to take my seat on the bus, feeling content that I didn’t have to see the final outcomes of our work for it to be real or for it to be impactful.

Better Things

When I returned home from my trip, my mom, my sisters, and I went to work in our garden. Tiny plants were budding out of the seeds we had planted earlier. The garden reminded me of the importance of trusting in God and remaining faithful even when I don’t initially see the good work God is doing.  

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith for us:  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  The chapter goes on to tell of many people in the Bible who remained faithful to God. Some of those people were able to reap the rewards of their faithfulness, but some of them didn’t.

The story doesn’t end there.  Hebrews 11:40 states, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

This means that God is still using those people and their faithfulness for good and for us.  So, when you don’t see the seeds that you’ve planted growing, have faith that God is growing a better and more beautiful garden than we could have planned ourselves.

graducation and latin group

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Topics: Upper School, Caring Community

Matt Doty: A Community of Unusual Love

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 11, 2019

Matt Doty for Blog

Baccalaureate Speech 2019

Good evening everyone, my name is Matt Doty. When Dr. Crafton invited me to speak at this ceremony I was admittedly apprehensive at first. I didn’t know that I fully understood the prompt, nor did I know if I had anything to say.

I quickly realized that the issue wasn’t whether or not I would have something to say—I rarely run into that problem—but whether or not I could string together words with enough freshness and depth to strike a chord with a group of high school students. This task seemed far more difficult, and the thought of it rattled around in my head for a few days.

Until one weekend, with the date of my speech closing fast and my mind completely blank, I had a conversation with a friend from another school that kinda grabbed my attention. My friend and I walked through a small wooded area in Minneapolis and reminisced about high school.

A Tale of Two Schools

2018-HC-Saturday-Court-Minnehaha-Academy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-8[My friend] told me of all the things he would miss about home, like his father’s guitar playing upstairs and the line of stores down the block that he frequented in his middle school years.

He told me of all the things that he wouldn’t miss, like the cold winters of Minnesota and mosquitos and simply the routine that he had found himself in. I was surprised to hear, however, that on the same list as the mosquitos, my friend placed his high school.

He’s a social guy with lots of friends, yet, he explained to me that he felt as though his school (referring to faculty as well as the student body) had never encouraged students to grow and follow their interests, and as a result, he said, most of them were far too worried about pleasing those around them to become their own person. He said “Matt, I like the people at school, but my class is just a group of kids”. It was in this moment, during this nonchalant remark, that I realized the importance that Minnehaha has had in all of our lives.

I grew up at Minnehaha. It was my first introduction to community. So please excuse me. For a lot of my life I took for granted the type of love that goes on here everyday.

In classrooms, teachers encourage us to ask questions. In our advisor groups, we are lifted up with school counseling. At sports games athletes play until their lungs burn and the fans in the student section cheer them on until theirs do too. In the hallways we greet each other with a smile every day. This is a community based on encouragement. There is nothing complex or extreme about our love for each other. It's rooted in the tones of our voices and the way our laughter carries, not some wild exclamation. We raise each other up high and we do it happily because this is how we’ve seen the most success. No place is perfect, no group of people is perfect, but I am so proud to see that this class has loved each other, whether we knew it or not, without compromise year after year.

It was only in this type of love and encouragement that we’ve all been able to grow and prosper. The writers of our grade, backed by incredible English teachers, have precise pens capable of soft beauty or sharp articulation. Our musicians get to explore how to communicate through song. Our leaders start clubs, our athletes win championships. We have all obviously done well in this atmosphere.

Greater than the Parts


But looking behind me today, I see something far greater than Ki Albinson, or Evalin Olson, or Bennet Theisen or London Donohoe. We have created a community based on the love that we are taught about in the Bible. Like a piece of music that plays on the counterpoint of multiple melodic lines to create something new or a great writer’s weaving of character relationships to add an extra pop to their story, we are individually beautiful, but it is only together that we truly shine.

So, yes our grade can be looked at as individual students, and we would be satisfied because we have some absolutely incredible students. I think we would be remiss, however, to not look at our grade as a whole. As something far greater than the sum of its parts.

And so something incredible was created. I’ve seen this class change every year since Kindergarten. I’ve watched each and every new student turn into an old student. I’ve watched as the group accommodates for new kids and they accommodate for us. In these long thirteen years, starting with the fundamental truth that we must make our decisions based on an unconditional love, we’ve done nothing if not grown through it. Every person has added their own application of that truth to make this group more deeply rooted and diverse.

Bring it With You


And so, as we move on from Minnehaha, I challenge us all to bring the love and encouragement that is so present here to wherever you may be off to, because God has shown me how strong it is.

Next year, when we go out and offer this unconditional and unrelenting love to those around us, we can’t always expect it in return. We’ve seen it work, so we have to be confident that if we put love into the world, we are doing the right thing, regardless of whether or not people show us the same love back. Our job is to love and we must delight in it.

Like any community, we aren’t perfect and we have had our differences. But I know that just like you all have, knowingly or unknowingly, I need to start and end with love.

So for the rest of my life, as I go on to make new friendships and relationships, it is every one of you that I will be thinking about, and the sometimes subtle though constant undercurrent of love that you’ve all shown me and each other. In my thirteen years at Minnehaha, God has taught me that it is love for each other that sets us free to grow and be happy, and it is that growth and happiness that makes a community beautiful. Thank you all so much for helping to teach me this lesson.

Topics: Upper School, Caring Community

Leadership Class Leads By Serving

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Jan 25, 2018
"Have you ever pulled up to a stoplight and made eye contact with a homeless person holding a sign asking for help and not known what to do?" This was a recent question posed by Upper School teacher Mr. Quinn. 
As an answer to Mr. Quinn, the Upper School Leadership Class stepped into exploring this challenge by partnering with Allan Law ('62) and the Minneapolis Recreation Development Organization, Law's organization that provides outreach services to the homeless
Thanks to donations and the work of students and staff, the Leadership Class presented Mr. Law with 125 sandwiches and 100 care packages of socks, granola bars, Chapstick, and other necessities, to hand out to homeless in the Twin Cities. 
Leadership Class Project.jpg

Topics: Upper School, Caring Community

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