SPP Student Recognized in NYC

After countless hours of hard work and dedication to creating art, SPP student, Hee Soo was recognized as a National Scholastic Gold Key Artist on June 1st in New York City. Just a junior at St. Paul Preparatory school, Hee Soo’s artwork gained state recognition at the state competition winning three gold keys, one silver key and one honorable mention. From there, her gold key artwork advanced onto nationals where one of her pieces was selected to win the national gold key award. The national awards dates back to 1923 with noteworthy roster of past winners including Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Richard Avedon, and Robert Redford. On May 31st Hee Soo and Ms. Woolever flew out to New York City to attend a weekend of events and ceremonies.

We were warmly greeted by the gold glow of the empire state building as it was lit in gold to honor the National Gold Key Artists for the weekend.  Truly the city that never sleeps, we found ourselves falling into the same pattern: racing from artist talks, workshops, and art galleries then squeezing any extra time in for sightseeing. We were exhausted by the end of the day.  We also took part in college visits at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons New School of Design, though part of Parsons was closed to film the show Project Runway, which was also exciting!

The awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall was a big highlight! Walking into such a historical building was amazing and to top it off I looked up at the stage and there was Hee Soo’s colored pencil drawing blown up on a big screen for all to see. I have never been more proud! As if our energy wasn’t bursting enough, the guest speaker for the night was actress Meryl Streep. The night was filled with cheers, new friendships and reflection.

To end our extraordinary time in New York City, we attended the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. The play was outstanding and to make it even better, we ran into musician Aretha Franklyn as we were exiting.

Both Hee Soo and I wanted to say thank you to everyone who made this trip possible for us! We both agree it was the trip of a lifetime and we are so thankful for all we have learned, friends we made and experiences we will never forget. Thank you so much St. Paul Preparatory!

-Ms. Woolever

Prom 2012

As Minnesotans we know that our weather can be unpredicatble and extreme at times, and this year’s prom fit in that profile nicely. The day began overcast with the sun peaking out allowing the attendees to enjoy photos with friends, family, and teachers on Harriet Island.

As the 115 students began to board the Betsey Northrup paddleboat, it began to sprinkle and within 30 minutes or so the weather turned stormy and the students on the upper deck, covered but not enclosed, hurried down to the first level of the boat. There was a torrential downpour accompanied by hail for about 10 to 15 minutes. The DJ switched to dance music and the party began.

Students enjoyed a dessert bar of various cakes and fruit toppings.

After voting was held for the prom king and queen, it was announced that after a close vote that Alexander Radokovic and Tassya Resende received the honors. Crowns were made by Kara Redding, who also drew caricatures of students and the king and queen.

Thank you to parents and host parents for providing transporation to students. Thank you also to the teachers and their spouses who helped chaperone: Dr. Mawk, Mr. Walker, Ms. Larson, and Ms. Redding.

-Peggy Spurgeon

Schools On Stage at the Guthrie Theater

This spring, a group of St. Paul Preparatory students had the opportunity to participate in the Guthrie Theater’s Schools On Stage program. This artist-in-residence program allows school groups to work directly with Guthrie teaching artists, giving students the opportunity to explore themes of the Guthrie productions and then work with Guthrie teaching artists to create original, ten-minute theater pieces.

Students will present an encore performance at
St. Paul Prep’s Spring Arts Showcase
Wednesday May 23, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

The Guthrie Theater, founded in 1963, is an American center for theater performance, production, education and professional training.

St. Paul Prep teacher Jessica Hovey applied to the Guthrie Theater’s Schools on Stage six week program. Twenty one SPP students joined five other high school groups from across the metro area. They worked with Guthrie teaching artists to create original theater pieces which they performed on the beautiful Guthrie stage in April.

The Schools On Stage experience has had a lasting impact on SPP students. St. Paul Prep parents shared their students’ excitement and confidence after the weeks of work at the Guthrie. They’ve noticed their students who had been struggling with their English abilities are now more relaxed when speaking, communicating more often and with greater ease.

Hours of intensive theater games and acting exercises culminated with each school’s final performance.

“I learned a lot from Schools on Stage.  It was just an amazing experience that I will never forget. I loved working with Adam and Laura.  They were absolutely amazing. Performing at the Guthrie made me more confident – now I will always have that with me when I perform.” ~Jennah (U.S.)

“It was really fun, having this.” ~Tusmo  (Kenya/US)

Everyone improved their acting skills and grew more confident on stage.

“School on stage was an amazing experience, I am glad that I had a chance to be part of it. With the program I was able to develop my acting skills and also show my potential and creativity, which I could hardly do otherwise. I hope that more students have the chance to be part of this great Guthrie’s initiative.”  ~Lucas  (Brazil)

St. Paul Prep students felt validated by the warm reception given to their theater piece. They were glad their story was accepted, even though the themes and outcome weren’t necessarily happy.

“What I will always remember from this amazing experience is how everybody changed during our work days.  It was so fun to watch the others and myself coming more and more out of ourselves. Some days we just didn’t care anymore how stupid our games and exercises would look for those who don’t know what we were doing… because we knew… and we had so much fun!!!” ~JoJo (Germany)

“I feel extremely lucky that I had the opportunity to get to know Laura and Adam, because they are amazing. I loved their games we played, the special approach they used to vivify our script, and their skill to make us enthusiastic about anything. I will never forget these classes.” ~Sará  (Hungary)

Teacher Jessica Hovey’s thoughts about the Schools On Stage experience:

Schools on Stage: How the Guthrie’s Educational Program Illuminated the Hope, Fears, and Camaraderie of Students from Around the World

When I applied for the opportunity to have the Schools on Stage program at St. Paul Prep, I had the greatest hope and smallest expectations of actually being chosen for the program.  I had an even smaller idea of how it would take shape and visibly form the group of participating students.

You see, St. Paul Prep is an international school with about 180 students from 24 different countries.  The 21 students in the program represented Kenya, Haiti, China, Hungary, South Korea, Germany, France, Spain, Vietnam, Brazil, Romania, and the U.S..  Of course, if you account for the diversity of our U.S. students, there was an even broader range of diversity represented through culture, ethnicity, and religion.

A few students asked to join because they wanted the experience to try acting, an impossible dream within their home country.  Other students just wanted to have fun and to try something new while meeting students from different countries.  And many students were hoping to improve their confidence or their English speaking abilities.  The Guthrie’s program did all of these, and so much more.

Over a 6 week period, we met for eight three-hour workshops lead by two incredible Guthrie Theater teaching artists, Laura Esping and  H. Adam Harris.  In these workshops, the students played games to help with focus and concentration; they learned to project their voices, to carry themselves with confidence and purpose; they wrote creative, hilarious, and heartbreaking scenes and monologues; they learned to work together to create something bigger than themselves.  And, using themes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a jumping point, they created a short play—from their own ideas, and images, and writing—a play that spoke to them, a play that involved them all, a play to make you laugh, a play to make you weep.

I won’t say it was polished, it wasn’t.  It was powerful. Over spring break, five students came in to school to spend a full day writing the script.  Looking through what they had written, the students gathered lines and developed a story.

The short play they wrote followed the life and decisions of a man made old by his own missteps and lost dreams.  There is love, dreams, coercion, denial, rejection, a mob, a long-lost child, and a too-late regained memory.  As the old man wanders through the fluid human set—a sea of languages and cultures—watching scenes replay from his life, we see his story unfold.  His story seems to unfold the hopes and dreams and fears we have all had, but also those of the students.  In an exceptionally visceral moment, we see them—on the brink of their own un-knowable futures—reach out and gasp as the old man falls back from the edge of the train.

His fall marks something profound.  I say “something” because it is different for each person, but it is there, and the goose bumps are tangible.  For some, it was a release, a willingness to let go, a freedom; for others, it was an escape, a death, a tragic suicide; and for still others, it was a hope, a dream of returning, or—perhaps more poignantly—a tender, heartrending display of love.

After his fall, the “old man’s” body is gathered and carried; his dreams, his memory, his hopes eulogized, and we are left with a brief glimpse of his “daughter” rising.  Hope, dream, and future all before her.  What an exhilarating, terrifying place for this girl and all the students to be.

Of the six schools participating in the Schools on Stage program, St. Paul Prep was 5th to perform.  This spot did nothing to mollify the frazzled nerves of the students.  During the break between performances, the students kept approaching me, worried that their performance was nothing like the bold, outgoing, sometimes humorous performances of the other schools.  They were worried no one would understand them, that they weren’t actors, that their story wouldn’t be understood.

Their performance was met with an outpouring of love and admiration. Audience members mentioned how they got goose bumps, how they cried, how they loved all the languages used. The students were more in shock than they were delighted as they left the stage. But they came back with something more forceful than their play: they came back with confidence, they came back with belief in their own self-worth, and they came back with a real sense of solidarity. And they came back knowing that their place on the edge of independent life in the greater world is individual, but secure; that there will be people from all over this globe to lift them up, to grasp their hands when they fall.

Jessica Hovey , English, ESL, Social Studies Teacher

“I gained a lot more of confidence when I act. Like I am able to put my self into the character. I think that it was just such a great opportunity. It was a once in a life time experience.” ~Wilhelmina (U.S.)

St. Paul Prep International Potluck

St. Paul Preparatory held its first annual International Potluck this last Friday. It was a huge success! Well over a hundred SPP students, staff and families came together to share a meal. We heard a wonderful performance by the choir. Many students were honored for their participation and achievements in clubs and activities.

The food was surely the most diverse in potluck fare this side of the Atlantic (or Pacific.) Some memorable dishes included several different varieties of fried rice, fried plantains with bean paste, Haitian meatballs, sushi, wild rice casserole, homemade humus, Cuban chili, curry dishes and potato pancakes.

Here’s what some attendees had to say about the event:

Nice space to have a gathering. The singing was terrific! And the food, of course, was delicious. – Jim Walker, teacher

It was a wonderful evening spent recognizing our students, talking with their parents and host parents, and sharing foods of our different cultures. I give it an A+. – Peggy Spurgeon, teacher

It was nice to see all of the families get together for this event and the wide variety of food was awesome! – Meredith Arbuckle

The potluck was a great success. I was able to try all sorts of foods that I have never had before from all around the world without even leaving the building. The event was so well attended and I was glad for the chance to hang out with students and host families in a more casual setting. – Kara Redding, teacher

It was a wonderful evening full of great international food, entertainment and the opportunity to spend time talking with students, faculty and parents. – Cathy Bauman

The first-ever potluck was a very enjoyable event. The setting was very pleasant, and there was a great variety of food to enjoy! We thought it was great having the choir perform, and seeing all of the students who had been active in extracurricular activities get recognized was terrific! – Teresa and Mark Manzella

Fantastic array of global cuisine — not your typical Minnesota pot-luck fare! – Jon Gamble

It was a smashing success – so upbeat and chatty! And so many unique and fascinating foods presented by students, some shyly beaming over them as though they were little art treasures, which they were. Wish I had had room to sample them all! The program had just the right amount of entertainment and the awards were a nice touch. – Seaneen Brennan

We are already looking forward to the second annual International Potluck!

St. Paul Prep Students Visit the Capitol

Yesterday I took a group of 40 government students to the Minnesota state capitol. We were there not only to tour the building and get a sense of how the state government runs, but we were also to observe a political rally garnering support for non-public schools.

Because of the bad weather all over the Twin Cities that day, very few of the other schools scheduled to come to the rally arrived. This opened up the opportunity for one of our own – Adrianna B – to play a short, impromptu piano concert as people arrived to the rally. Other highlights of our day:

  • we loved the tour guide, he persisted in asking everyone their opinions of America and its foreign policy;
  • several students accidentally met Governor Mark Dayton before he was preparing to speak at the rally;
  • we ran into Representative Gauthier at lunch, who spoke to our classes not two weeks ago; and of course,
  • we got our picture all together in front of the capitol building

-Ms. Redding, Social Studies