Advisor’s Angle: #MeToo Campaign and International Students

Janel Cook 2017cropBy Janel Cook, Student Advisor

Sexual harassment is uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student).

The hashtag #MeToo has become a social media phenomenon lately. By using this hashtag on social media, women are sharing their stories of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse. As #MeToo has gained momentum, we are witnessing that many women have experienced these incidents. It is important to remember that boys and men can also be victims of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse. Cultural norms for men place them in a position that causes embarrassment in vocalizing that they too can be victims.

International students may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment or abuse for several reasons:

  • Initially, a lack of close and familiar relationships
  • Place a lot of trust in adults caring for them
  • Spotty understanding of the English language
  • Cultural differences in body language, physical boundaries
  • Are unfamiliar with their host communities

Sexual harassment is often difficult to identify because encounters such as simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents, can seem harmless and minor. When this type of behavior becomes frequent or severe, it can create a hostile or offensive environment. It is considered sexual harassment because it interferes with a student’s concentration, comfort level, and feeling of safety in an environment.

If a student experiences sexual harassment or the like, they are strongly urged to speak with a trusted adult as soon as possible. This could be their host parent, a teacher, a coach, or their coordinator. Please note the importance of a local adult being made aware of the situation before the natural parents are notified. Students can also call the national office 1-800-622-3553 at any time.

Students are recommended to take precautions for their own safety while on program such as walking in groups instead of alone and not being distracted by devices when out in public so that they are fully aware of their surroundings.

While the majority of students have a positive experience on program free from sexual harassment, it is still important to be knowledgeable about the topic. Knowledge leads to prevention and early detection.

We fully acknowledge that this is not an easy topic to discuss but also acknowledge that that does not make it any less important. We are all stronger when all genders of all ages enable one another to be kind and respectful of personal boundaries.

Questions or comments? Email


Advisor’s Angle: All Americans Live in Mansions

Janel Cook 2017

By Student and Host Family Advisor Janel Cook

A stereotype is defined as a non-factual assumption about individuals or a group of people. Stereotypes can be positive or negative and can pertain to race, religion, gender, occupation, age, culture, and more.

Everyone around the world holds stereotypes to some degree. Some are conscious and some are subconscious. Many factors influence stereotypical thinking, including: culture, communities, religion, advertising, movies, TV Shows, music, celebrities, news, etc.

For example, some commonly held stereotypes about Americans are that we are loud and arrogant, we eat a lot of fast food (particularly McDonald’s and pizza), and everything in the U.S. is large compared to other countries (i.e. houses, streets, cars, yards, food portions, and people).

Pop Culture Collage

St. Paul Prep students are influenced by American pop culture well before they arrive on program. They have probably watched American films or TV shows, listened to American music, and read about American celebrities and/or politics. That exposure has most likely influenced their ideas of the United States as a whole.

One of our goals is to foster international understanding between cultures. Every student who decides to participate in one of our programs is deciding to live in the U.S., which means they will come face-to-face with the reality of life in the U.S., and therefore, with any stereotypes that they hold about Americans and the United States of America.

Host Families are in the same position. They volunteer to host a student from a specific country. The student arrives and perhaps it is different than expected. Ultimately, both sides are faced with the realities of each other and must learn to allow one another to be who they are as individuals. Sometimes reaching full cultural understanding takes a while, depending on how strongly assumptions are held by each party.

Cultural exchange is a wonderful opportunity for students, Host Families, and SPP staff to challenge what we think is true, which is an important factor in breaking down stereotypes. Through these experiences, we grow more knowledgeable to the realities of cultural exchange. What an enriching experience to share with one another!

What’s Your Specialty?

One big reason students choose St. Paul Prep is the opportunity to earn an American high school diploma, which makes acceptance to an American university that much easier. At SPP, we take things one step further.

Our students have the opportunity to choose a specialized diploma, meaning students take classes in a specific area. At SPP, we offer STEM, Visual Arts, Global Leadership, and International Business specialized programs. Below is a breakdown of what students can expect from each field of study.




Want to master your critical thinking and problem solving skills? Already an expert in these areas? Then our STEM option is for you! This rigorous course of study will prepare students to succeed in a 21st century workforce, at college and beyond!

Featuring advanced classes in math, science, engineering, and technology, this diploma option is open to all students.

International Business


This diploma specialization introduces students to the complexities and relationships between different countries’ political, economic, and business practices and policies. Courses in this diploma path look at everything from the impact of international business to ethics to import/exports.

The curriculum prepares students for university-level business courses, and gives our students a leg-up on the highly competitive and constantly changing global economic environment.

Visual Arts


Art Dimploma Presentation 007.JPG

Create products with a purpose with the Visual Arts diploma specialization. Featuring a studio, kiln, local and national art competitions, art lab, and an expansive art curriculum, our art program is a standout in the established art community in downtown St. Paul.

Open to students of all skill levels, this option assists students in preparing an art portfolio, help students discover new art mediums, and learn the history and techniques of different art forms.

Global Leadership


The newest specialized diploma, the Global Leadership option provides students with an advanced look at oral and written language, cultural understanding, and the commonalities and differences throughout various cultures of the world.

This option prepares students for further studies at the university level in majors such as International Relations, Diplomacy, Education, and more. The Global Leadership special diploma gives students a head start on success in a global society.

One Clean Field Trip

Why are these students dressed like this?


Last week, SPP Summer School students toured the Nanotechnology Lab at University of Minnesota, which required that everyone wear protective suits. The tour was led by Professor James Marti. He showed them how the lab creates smaller and smaller microchips for our endless array of electronic devices.


After a brief talk with Dr. Marti, it was time to suit up!


As Mr. Wiggin put it, “(The suits) are to protect the work, not the students!”


Since the beginning of July, we’ve had students participating in our Summer School, which is a partnership with Nacel Open Door’s Short Term Program. Many of the students are from groups from France and Taiwan, though we have a few SPP students in the mix as well.


Want to see what else the Summer School Program has been up to? Read about it here, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

Summer STEMmin’

While our regular student body is off exploring every nook and cranny of the planet and spending the summer with their families, there’s still plenty happening around the halls and classrooms of St. Paul Preparatory School.

During the month of July, we’ve got students from Taiwan and France taking part in a Summer School Program at SPP as part of Nacel Open Door’s Short Term Program. Students have been experimenting in the lab, learning in the classroom, and taking part in field trips around the Twin Cities.

Noodle Towers

One of the first lab challenges of the STEM class was building towers out of noodles in order to hold up a single, fat marshmallow. Students could use tape, but couldn’t anchor their towers to the table. The highest tower was over 100 centimeters!


Interstate State Park

Located just 49 miles from downtown St. Paul, this state park is known for it’s “potholes” formed by glacial meltwater at the end of the last Ice Age, along what is now known as the St. Croix River.



Back in the lab, students had to make a “rollercoaster” out of foam tubing, marbles, and duct tape, with requirements that the coaster have one loop-de-loop and a second hill. Gravity and physics won the day!


SPP Journalism: Students Dislike American Food

SPP Students give American food Two Thumbs DOWN

These articles were written by St. Paul Prep’s Journalism class.

SPP students do not like American food, because of its awful taste and excessive use of chemicals, according to the interviews conducted at SPP.

Although SPP students vary in cultures, political views, and religions, they have one opinion in common: American food seems unhealthy and not as tasty.

Fabrizio F., a junior from Venezuela, seems to prove that point.

“The first thing I think about American food is not very good, very unhealthy, and not very well prepared,” he stated. “It usually comes from a different culture also. It’s usually trashy food like hamburgers.”

Jeanne A., a senior from France, listed the multiple ways that American food is different from food in France.

“Serving size, which in America is so much different [bigger], GMOs are illegal in France; the quality of the food because meat here is not that good and not sustainable or anything,” she concluded. “We eat way more veggies and bread, but good bread, not the smushy bread that is nice looking for two months.”

Wuttikorn “March” K., a senior from Thailand, made it clear that chefs in his country prepare food in diverse ways, and something like that does not exist in the United States.

“They are a lot of differences. We use herbs, we use spices from India, and China and India influence Thai food,” he claimed. “We use a lot of seafood stuff that makes it kind of a little fishy, but it just tastes the best.”

Interestingly, American SPP students have the same view on American food. Hayla O., a junior from the United States, completely does not really enjoy it, so she finds different foods to consume.

“I eat a lot of Colombian and Mexican food. I love Thai and Chinese food!” she confirmed.

Living away from their families and having a new experience with regional food makes SPP students miss home more.

“I miss my food more than my family, to be honest,” March lamented.

Guest Blogger Aleksander: Tabula Rasa Part 2

IMG_1513I hope you’re all familiar with the term “butterfly effect.” If not, it is a concept that theorizes how small causes can have large effects, such as the flap of the wings of a butterfly in Rio de Janeiro changing the weather in Chicago. Let that sink in for a moment.

This post will be a rather positive example of this theory. I want to tell you all how the trip to the USA saved my life. Literally, not just figuratively.

Test day

The air in the room was very dense. We sat at tables and looked at each other in terror. “What happens next?” – everyone thought.

It’s not an excerpt from a horror book. It’s simply an accurate description of how the test day went down. It was the day when we were given the tests to asses our knowledge of math, English, etc. I remember that very first day I met the person who altered my life: Margaux. Long story short, thanks to her I have identified depression, anxiety, and OCD in myself. Now, three years down the road, I am in the middle of therapy, that I’ve started last year.

What would have happened if I wouldn’t have met her in America? Or rather – what would have happened if I would not have talked to the representative of the American Embassy in Poland? I could have been dead by now. While of course, that’s just my interpretation, many other bad things could have happened, too.

What else saved me? The Mobile Jazz Project. This project changed my life. Let me explain:

It is a project where young people interested in making and/or playing music (not necessarily talented; of course there were some brilliant musicians, but talent was not necessary) could do what they wanted to do – transform their thoughts into language understood by everyone on earth (music). Every week we listened to a short musical performance. Then there was a time for questions for the performing artist/band. After that, people could split into dedicated groups. I remember that I was in a “tech” group which created music from scratch in Pro Tools. At the end, I recorded my take on “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. I was very inspired by Stevie Wonder’s pop/funky sounds and Jimmy Ray Vaughn’s cover of the song, so I decided to combine these two styles.

Right now, in my bedroom, I have a MIDI keyboard, an electric guitar ,and Ableton Live installed on my PC. Music was an escape during my dark days. If you want to hear some of my jams, go to my soundcloud profile. It also led me to publish my pictures on the internet. If you want to see some of them, go to my society6 profile. The Mobile Jazz Project showed me that if I want, I can be an artist, too. It’s up to me. I actually liked the idea of becoming a music producer so much that I went on a tour of a college where I could get MA in music production. I loved everything except for the price. So I am studying in Warsaw instead. That’s another one of these things I still regret.

I wish you actually realized how different the teachers I met in SPP were from my teachers in Poland. Teachers in Poland would MOSTLY (not all) destroy your grades. They would bomb you with everything until you just couldn’t take it anymore. The teachers at SPP were so much different. They encourage you to learn. They praise you when you have done a good job. Ms. Larson showed me that math can be bearable. Ms. Stormont showed me that I also can be a good writer. Ms. Redding showed me that democracy in a classroom works.

If you are going to get out one thing out of this article, then let it be this: if you feel that you need a change, go and make it happen.