Green Tea Conversations
Hope Academy: Nurturing Minds for a Remarkable Future with OQuba Duressa, Tony Morales and Anaya
August 29, 2023
Get ready for an inspiring journey into the heart of education as we bring you a captivating episode of Green Tea Conversations. Join us in discovering the transformative power of Hope Academy, a private, faith-based, and Christ-centered institution dedicated to providing urban youth with a God-centered education. Founded with a vision to foster hope and empower the next generation, Hope Academy stands as a beacon of opportunity, offering faith-based classical education, discipline, high expectations, parental involvement, accountability, and a unique partner funding model that opens doors to all. With insights from Student Recruiters, OQuba Duressa and Tony Morales, as well as first-grade student, Anaya, we explore the school's programs, values, and the impact it has on shaping young minds and hearts. If you're seeking an educational experience that nurtures academic excellence and spiritual growth, this episode is a must-listen.
[00:00:00.180] - Candi Broeffle
Good morning and welcome to Green Tea Conversations. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle. And today we have the privilege of hosting two special guests from Hope Academy in Minneapolis, OQuba Duressa, and Tony Morales, who are both admissions recruiters here at Hope Academy. Hope Academy, founded in 2000, stands as a beacon of opportunity and transformation in the heart of Minneapolis. With a Christ-centered and classical education approach, Hope Academy has been the driving force in equalizing opportunities for urban youth. The mission of Hope Academy is to foster hope in God within the inner city neighborhoods by providing a God-centered education that equips students to become servant leaders in the 21st century. Welcome to the show, OQuba and Tony.
 
[00:00:59.400] - Tony Morales
Thank you so much, Katie.
 
[00:01:01.660] - Candi Broeffle
We're so glad to have you here. So the first thing I always like to do is I always like to ask people to share what brought you to what you're doing today. So what brought you to Hope Academy and what was your background? Why was it important for you to be here? So, Tony, I'm going to ask you to start us out with that.
 
[00:01:19.660] - Tony Morales
Yeah. So first of all, I just want to say, religious to be honest with you. And so before I was doing this, I was actually working at Bethlehem Baptist Church as the lead administrative assistant. And I learned a lot about church and how church function. So it was exciting. One of the questions that I always wondered like, okay, the church is doing this to help the people spiritually and in all aspects of life. But the kids, they're essentially in school for such a long time, how can we help kids also spiritually and academically walk with them through life? And then there was an opening in Hope Academy. And I was like, Yeah, I'd love to learn more about how school functions, how it runs, and how to bring children and to teach them. And then I applied and they said yes, I was excited. Yeah.
 
[00:02:22.590] - Candi Broeffle
Now you're here today.
 
[00:02:23.810] - Tony Morales
Now I'm here today. Yeah. I mean, part of me have seen Hope Academy for a while, and It just get excited about the mission that they have, especially here in this neighborhood where many kids, they're not getting a good education. And I don't think it has to do with like, Oh, the public schools are not doing a good job. I think that's the wrong way of thinking about it. I just think it's just hard. Teaching kids is hard. And I think Hope Academy has a good way of going about in teaching the children to such a point where there's an 88 % retention rate and there's a 96 % graduation. Wow. So that's exciting to see.
 
[00:03:03.210] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah, we're really excited to be here and to be able to talk to you about what Hope Academy is doing. And of course, I'm a big proponent of public schools, and I just want to say that. But there's also a place for all schools and for all kids. So that's why we're doing this interview today. So OQuba, tell us about your story because yours is a little bit more personal, even.
 
[00:03:24.690] - OQuba Duressa
Yes. Well, first and foremost, I'm also honored to be here. But yes, my background is a Hope Academy staff now. But in the past, I am an alumni for Hope. I went to Hope Academy and attended Hope Academy from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade. I finished my senior year and went off to college, and then there was an opening position, decided to come right back. I didn't think I would come back, but here I am.
 
[00:03:52.000] - Candi Broeffle
All those years that you were thinking, Oh, I can't wait till I graduate. Now here you are again.
 
[00:03:59.060] - OQuba Duressa
Yes, indeed. And it's been an honor. It's been a wonderful experience as a student and as a staff as well.
 
[00:04:04.590] - Candi Broeffle
Well, we're really glad to have you here and I'm excited to ask you some questions because you're going to give us a very unique perspective on this as well. So we're going to get started. And, OQuba, I will start with you. Can you share the story of Hope Academy and its mission to foster hope and God within the inner city neighborhoods of Minneapolis?
 
[00:04:24.230] - OQuba Duressa
Yes. Well, as a co-founder and starter of Hope Academy, Russ Greg, who is our principal as well, the head of the school. I believe it was founded back in 2000. We had no teachers, no students, no financial support. But something that Mr. Greg always states is that he had a vision from God. The way that Hope Academy even started was that he had this passion and the heart to serve the community and to help the students here. So one thing that he shares is what we did have was clear conviction that God cares about the youth of our city and he calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is the root of all.
 
[00:05:08.020] - Candi Broeffle
Thank you so much. So, Tony, how does Hope Academy's faith-based, classical education approach set it apart from other educational institutions? And how does it contribute to the student's overall development?
 
[00:05:21.750] - Tony Morales
Yeah, those are good questions. We don't shy away from our Christian identity. We actually think that's a wonder what our attractions. When we're thinking about classical education, we're thinking about going to classical literature, looking at best practices, and we want our students to engage with old, tried, tested, true material. We want them to see beauty and understand beauty and be captivated by it. In the classical model, we want them to go through three stages of learning that they're going to be doing the rest of kindergarten all the way up. The first one is like the grammar stage. We want them to, when they're reading, What are you really reading? We want them to understand what they're reading. Then secondly, we want them to make connections, so that's the logic stage. After they've read the material, then they'll make connections. If this means this, that means that. Then after that, the third one is rhetoric. It's not enough for them just read, write, and make connections. They're going to be in front of people one day. They're going to speak to people for a job interview. So we're thinking about that job interview for the five-year-old.
 
[00:06:42.060] - Tony Morales
They're going to be speaking in front of crowd. We want them to be able to express their ideas. So we focus that in the rhetoric since we even have a student senior thesis where they present in front of all the student body. So we want them to be able to communicate that. It also serves, too, and at the dinner table. Whenever they're at home, moms say, So what did you learn? A lot of our kids are like, I don't know, nothing. We just play. We don't want them to answer that. We want to give a good answer. That takes time, though. But that's the classical model. And through our faith-based classical, we just want to say that God loves them. They're made in the image of God, that they have value. They have value, not because, let's say, we say it or they feel it, because sometimes we don't feel it sometimes. And sometimes there's bullies out there who say bad things. We just want them to know just because you exist, you have value.
 
[00:07:46.710] - Candi Broeffle
Let me ask you this. Is this like any certain denomination? Is it non-denominational? How would you share as far as the faith-based education goes?
 
[00:08:00.040] - Tony Morales
Yeah. I would say we're pretty evangelical in the sense of our identity. We do have parents who go to Catholic churches and they want to bring their kids here. We do have some Muslim families who bring their kids here, which is great. We like that about that. But as a denomination, we're not necessarily a denomination. We love churches. We want to partner with churches and help churches. But at the same time, we just want to be known as a Christian school.
 
[00:08:32.450] - Candi Broeffle
Okay, good. So, OQuba, how does the approach, the classical approach, really helps shape students' critical thinking and problem-solving skills?
 
[00:08:41.680] - OQuba Duressa
Yes. Especially for our upper school students, mainly middle school and high school. A couple of things that are cooperated in the curriculum are Socratic seminars and Socratic debates, as well as spoken word, in which I actually loved about. Another thing is ultimately it's to help students expand their thinking, expand their speech, to expand and to enhance their speech. Enhance how can you do well in a large crowd? How can you speak in a crowd full of people? At the end of the day, I think it teaches you and gives you an idea of what college may look like and what the real world may look like. So I think this is a really nice way of critically thinking at a very young age and then slowly developing into it.
 
[00:09:35.760] - Candi Broeffle
So you guys have how many students here?
 
[00:09:39.640] - Tony Morales
Yeah, we currently have over 570 students. We're actually looking to grow more. We just bought a property that is adjacent to us, connected to us, the Line of Health facility, and that's going to provide us to be able to multiply to double in size in 10 years. So our hope and desire is to be able to reach 1,200 within 10-year period. Yes, but currently right now we're at 500.
 
[00:10:09.260] - Candi Broeffle
Okay. What is the diversity ratio about?
 
[00:10:13.850] - Tony Morales
Yeah, so God has been good to us. It's not like we're necessarily planning for it to be this way, but it's just in the neighborhood of Minneapolis, there is so much diversity. Wherever you go, people are speaking different languages. We want to say to all of them, there's a school for you and you can bring your child here. Yeah, it's like half of our population, like African-American, black communities, they're here. And then we have a big chunk, like 25 % or more of Latinos and Spaniaks. Then we have Caucasian students, another 25 % or 20 something %. Then when we just have this little home, there's all other races, nationalities. We do not want to ever discriminate at all. We want to just whoever wants to come, who wants to receive this education, we want to help.
 
[00:11:16.740] - Candi Broeffle
Well, we have to go into a break right now. When we come back, we're going to continue our conversation. But for people who want to learn more about Hope Academy, visit HopeSchool.org, and that's H-O-P-E school.org. To read the online version of Natural Awakenings Magazine, visit NaturalTwinCities.com. You can find the podcast of this show on AM950Radio.com, on Apple and Google podcasts, and anywhere you get your podcasts. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM 950, the progressive voice of Minnesota. And we will be right back.
 
[00:11:58.710] - Candi Broeffle
Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle. And today we're talking with OQuba Duressa and Tony Morales, admissions recruiters at Hope Academy in Minneapolis. Just before the break, you guys started to give us some background information about Hope Academy. I wanted to ask, continue on that same vein as far as the curriculum goes about how is the faith-based approach influence the curriculum and your learning experience for students in terms of subjects like history, science, the arts?
 
[00:12:49.580] - Tony Morales
Yeah. With the arts, when the teachers try to show them, we're going to create something beautiful and we're going to make it excellent and they're going to help them along the way. They're not going to expect them to do it on the first try. They're going to be shepherding them, helping them along the way. When it comes to the sciences, we want them to know that this world that you live in has order, it has meaning. We spending our time going through the curriculum, it has value added to it. Because of our excellence that we put to it, we want to make sure that they're not just getting superficial learning. We want to make sure that they're challenged, that they do their best. I think that's part of the faith-based conviction of it. If God wants us to do our best, we want them also to do their best at learning, and especially with the teachers. The teachers have a high standard that we want them to have. We also don't want to shame them. Our faith and convictions help us to come alongside them and to love them through this process of learning.
 
[00:14:09.240] - Candi Broeffle
That is awesome. I am curious, and I'm going to have a couple of more questions for you too, as we go along, OQuba. But for now, the five core distinctives at Hope Academy include faith-based classical education, discipline, parental involvement, accountability, and partner funding model. Tony, how do these distinctives work together to create a unique and successful educational environment?
 
[00:14:37.610] - Tony Morales
Yeah. So our core distinctives, they're so helpful for parents to see, okay, who are you? How can you help my family? We talked a little bit about classical faith-based education. I can move on to the next one. The other one would be accountability and support. So by that, we mean is we want the students to know that everyone is going to be held accountable. From the institution itself to the teachers and the students and even the parents, we want them to feel that. That's this water in which they swim in. That's going to help the students. When they grow up, they're out of high school and they're in college, people are going to expect accountability from them. We want there to be a moral, like a standard for them. That's very helpful for these kids to have these parameters. It's not just accountability, it's like supporting them. We also want to know, okay, why are you acting this way? Why are you doing? Then try to help them along the process. Then the next one would be our excellence and high expectations or discipline and high expectations. With this one, I've had parents who when they talk to me, they're like, I'm glad that you're focused on this discipline aspect of this because it's not necessarily just telling the kids that they're wrong or just being mean to them, shaming them.
 
[00:16:11.550] - Tony Morales
No, it's definitely trying to provide a level of, here, we want you all to thrive, but we need all to be on the same page. When one of us started getting off track, we want to come alongside and help you. And then with this discipline, high expectations one, we also believe that some of these kids, they just need someone to believe in them. They just need someone to just push them a little bit. Sometimes they don't get the I believe in you statement or I know you can do it, or in Spanish, [speaking Portuguese]. Sometimes they don't hear that stuff. So we want to say, Yes, you can. We want to help you. And then, yeah, family partnership.
 
[00:16:55.940] - Candi Broeffle
This really just brings up for me, everyone makes mistakes, right? We make decisions that maybe are not the best decisions. But we also need to know that there's consequences to the decisions that we have. And that's really what you're showing kids. You're giving them the rails to say, Here's what the expectations are. When you go outside of those expectations, we understand you made a mistake. We understand you made a wrong decision, but there's still going to be accountability for that. You're still going to haveā€¦ There's still going to be a consequence to that decision, but it's not about shaming them in it. That's so important. I think we've somewhat lost that in our society to a degree. It's nice to see that that's a part of your curriculum here as well. OQuba, when we talk about parental involvement as being a core distinct of that Hope Academy, can you elaborate on how parents are engaged in their students education and how the partnership support students' growth?
 
[00:18:01.520] - OQuba Duressa
Yes, absolutely. I think looking back as a student and as a mother of a child or a child of a mother, I think one of your best supporters, or if students have any close family, friends or guardians or just people or mentors simply, the best supporters are those people. The best supporters are your parents. The best supporters are your guardians. The best supporters is really the people that you live with ultimately. I think here at Hope Academy, they really emphasize how parents should be involved and how can they be involved. We actually have events where parents can come and where there's even a parent involvement day where the parents will actually come into the school and they will sit with their child and experience all the classes that they go through. Wow. It's a full day of let's be a kid again.
 
[00:18:58.980] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah, that sounds like fun.
 
[00:19:01.520] - OQuba Duressa
Absolutely. It's a parent and the student together and they have all the classes that a student usually takes. It's a fun Saturday. Another way that parents are involved slash teachers is home visits. So this is a unique, quite different, what makes Hope Academy actually stand out is where the teachers actually come to check out your home. And it's nothing regarding academics. It's not regarding your grades. It's not regarding Oh, your student is doing good or bad in school, but it's simply to get to know you and your family. It's simply to get to know, Hey, what does your room look like? Hey, what dog do you have? Those type of questions just to build that strong connection, strong relationship with your teacher and your teacher with your parent. In that way you have a better education.
 
[00:19:51.940] - Candi Broeffle
And is that something that they do every year? Yes. As a student. So how was that when you were a student? How was it to have your teacher show up at you? Yes.
 
[00:20:01.050] - OQuba Duressa
I mean, truth be told, as a student, you wouldn't really like that. You're embarrassed. Right. I have to clean the house.
 
[00:20:16.240] - OQuba Duressa
But then it's not all bad. It's actually fun because they try and taste the kinds of food that you eat at home. There's a specific cultural food or there's a specific cuisine that they've never tried. It's nice to see how your teacher will react to the spices or to the food that's provided. And it's also fun to see like this is my home environment. This is where I do my homework. This is where I study.
 
[00:20:47.990] - Candi Broeffle
Do you remember any year that it was more hard than any other? Let's say, as a teenager, was it harder than a grade schooler?
 
[00:20:58.440] - OQuba Duressa
Honestly, I think they were all the same.
 
[00:21:00.580] - Candi Broeffle
Okay.
 
[00:21:03.190] - OQuba Duressa
They were pretty brief. When teachers would come home, my mom would get nervous, so she'd have to move our things around. But it was maybe like 30 minutes. Okay. But they were just in and out and in pretty brief. Brief conversations.
 
[00:21:21.780] - Candi Broeffle
Just to get an idea of the environment and who your family members are. Exactly. That's really cool. Exactly. So Tony, in what ways does Hope Academy nurture servant leadership amongst its students and empower them to be leaders of the 21st century?
 
[00:21:39.840] - Tony Morales
Yeah, I've seen ways that they do that. They try to foster a lot of leadership opportunities for these kids. We have in our upper school what we call house system, in which these kids are divided into many groups, houses. There they can have a time where the older kids can start leading the younger kids, and it could be just games, tournaments. It could also be leading and other sure activities. And it can also be through our PCEO courses in which they can also be teachers assistants and they can receive college credits. Through that, it's just giving them opportunity to lead. Because what we've seen is that there's some kids, they're just board leaders. So we can be from kindergarten being line leader. I'm line leader. I'm line leader, to okay, now you're leading your whole entire house and you are going to win the tournament, the championship. Then there's just going to be many ways to inculcate that servant leadership. I think that's where our Christian identity comes in. We believe that our savior came to serve us and not be served. That's the line we're following. We also want to serve others. Then if God wants it for one of those days for us or the kids to be leaders, people will want to follow them because they're serving.
 
[00:23:13.750] - Tony Morales
That's the messages we try to give them. Be a servant if you want to be a leader.
 
[00:23:21.740] - Candi Broeffle
Yes, so important. Well, we're going to go into another break. When we come back, we have a really special guest that we're going to be speaking to. But for people who want to learn more about Hope Academy, visit HopeSchool.org. That's Hope, H-O-P-E school.org. To read the online version of Natural Awakings Magazine, visit NaturalTwinCities.com. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM 950, the progressive voice of Minnesota, and we will be right back.
 
[00:23:59.870] - Candi Broeffle
Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle. Today we've been visiting with Acuba, Deresa, and Tony Morales, who are both admissions recruiters here at Hope Academy. But right now we have a super special guest. This is somebody who I am more excited to talk about than I think any guest I've ever had on this show. I think you guys are going to feel the same way once you start to hear what we have in store for you. So I want to introduce you all to Anaya. Anaya is a first grader here at Hope Academy, and she has come in to share with us her experience of being here. So Anaya, welcome to the show. Thank you. We're really excited you're here. So can you tell us what you like most about going to Hope Academy and being in the first grade?
 
[00:25:01.110] - Anaya
I like story time because I learn about the Bible and I learn about God.
 
[00:25:07.130] - Candi Broeffle
Nice. Do you have a favorite story?
 
[00:25:11.060] - Anaya
When Jesus was born.
 
[00:25:12.710] - Candi Broeffle
That's an important one, isn't it?
 
[00:25:14.360] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah.
 
[00:25:15.970] - Candi Broeffle
So you had kindergarten last year. Yeah. What was kindergarten like?
 
[00:25:21.190] - Anaya
Big.
 
[00:25:22.160] - Candi Broeffle
Kind of unusual to go from home, where you're home all the time with mom and dad and maybe siblings and then going into this classroom, you have all these people that you get to meet. Was it pretty exciting?
 
[00:25:35.090] - Anaya
Yeah, it was pretty exciting.
 
[00:25:37.750] - Candi Broeffle
Did you make a lot of friends?
 
[00:25:39.280] - Anaya
Yeah.
 
[00:25:39.870] - Candi Broeffle
Did you? Friends are an important part of being in school. Can you tell us about a friend that you've made at Hope Academy and something fun that you've done together?
 
[00:25:49.210] - Anaya
Play together. It's pretty fun to have time with each other.
 
[00:25:54.060] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah. What is your favorite thing to do to have fun with your friends?
 
[00:25:59.490] - Anaya
Play in the park.
 
[00:26:01.140] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah. Do you guys have a big park here?
 
[00:26:03.560] - Anaya
The back one is pretty big, but the front one is big and small.
 
[00:26:08.890] - Candi Broeffle
Not quite as big as the other one. It is fun. Parks are really a fun place to be and it helps because then you get to work out all your wiggles.
 
[00:26:19.170] - Anaya
Yeah.
 
[00:26:20.560] - Candi Broeffle
What is your favorite thing to do to learn about?
 
[00:26:24.490] - Anaya
Toys that are really cool because every time my teacher puts new toys every week.
 
[00:26:31.500] - Candi Broeffle
Really? So you never get bored with them? You get something new to look at and play with. So what about lunch? Lunch is an important part of school. Do they have good lunches here?
 
[00:26:43.380] - Anaya
Yeah, they do.
 
[00:26:45.230] - Candi Broeffle
What's your favorite lunch that you get to eat?
 
[00:26:47.330] - Anaya
Mac and cheese.
 
[00:26:48.420] - Candi Broeffle
Mac and cheese? Not green beans?
 
[00:26:51.220] - Anaya
No, I don't like green beans.
 
[00:26:53.960] - Candi Broeffle
Green beans are not any fun. But Mac and cheese sounds really good. So, Tony, I'm going to ask you just quickly. Speaking of lunch, are your lunches here catered in or are they...
 
[00:27:07.560] - Tony Morales
Our lunches are made here. We have a really amazing team who makes the food. We also have fresh salads for the kids to have every single day. We don't serve any peanuts either for allergies. But other than that, yeah, these kids have some good lunches. We, the staff, sometimes get to eat some of that.
 
[00:27:29.850] - Tony Morales
But it's pretty good.
 
[00:27:34.590] - Candi Broeffle
Do you get to eat lunch with your friends?
 
[00:27:36.700] - Anaya
Yeah.
 
[00:27:37.420] - Candi Broeffle
Then do you get to go outside or have recess?
 
[00:27:40.900] - Anaya
Yeah, we do.
 
[00:27:42.310] - Candi Broeffle
In the wintertime, do you have recess in the gym?
 
[00:27:45.630] - Anaya
Yeah, in the wintertime, yeah.
 
[00:27:47.550] - Candi Broeffle
What is your favorite thing to play in gym?
 
[00:27:50.030] - Anaya
That's a tough.
 
[00:27:52.510] - Candi Broeffle
There's so many options.
 
[00:27:54.220] - Anaya
Mostly hide and see because we have a lot of objects to hide in.
 
[00:27:58.950] - Candi Broeffle
Oh, fun. Do you like to be the hider or the seeker most?
 
[00:28:04.610] - Anaya
Hider.
 
[00:28:05.460] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah. Seeking can sometimes be stressful.
 
[00:28:11.680] - Anaya
Yeah, sometimes you don't find the person that you want to find.
 
[00:28:15.230] - Candi Broeffle
When you were in kindergarten, did you learn how to write your name?
 
[00:28:19.760] - Anaya
Yeah.
 
[00:28:20.590] - Candi Broeffle
How was that?
 
[00:28:22.020] - Anaya
Good. I never knew how to write my name in pre-k.
 
[00:28:25.990] - Candi Broeffle
So that was something that you learned. What else did you learn?
 
[00:28:30.940] - Anaya
I learned about habitats.
 
[00:28:34.260] - Candi Broeffle
Habitats? What can you tell us about habitats?
 
[00:28:37.510] - Anaya
Animals get inside when the seasons change. Yeah. They go inside their homes.
 
[00:28:44.770] - Candi Broeffle
They get prepared for winter. Some of them even take really long naps, don't they? Yeah. There's so much to learn. Do you like going to the library?
 
[00:28:53.990] - Anaya
Oh, yeah.
 
[00:28:54.980] - Candi Broeffle
I always love the library. Are you starting to learn how to read?
 
[00:28:59.150] - Anaya
Yeah, I'm starting to learn how to read.
 
[00:29:01.200] - Candi Broeffle
Do you have any younger sisters or brothers?
 
[00:29:03.950] - Anaya
I have a brother.
 
[00:29:06.580] - Candi Broeffle
Is he younger than you?
 
[00:29:08.210] - Anaya
He is younger.
 
[00:29:09.480] - Candi Broeffle
And so do you read to him ever?
 
[00:29:11.610] - Anaya
Sometimes.
 
[00:29:13.070] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah. Well, what do you want people to know about Hope Academy?
 
[00:29:19.950] - Anaya
That it's the best school.
 
[00:29:22.080] - Candi Broeffle
It's the best school. You're really happy here, huh?
 
[00:29:25.980] - Anaya
Yeah, I'm really happy.
 
[00:29:27.530] - Candi Broeffle
Well, good. Well, Anaya, we appreciate you being here with us today, and I hope you had fun in this interview. Thank you. So we're going to let you go ahead with mom if you want, and we'll talk to you after the interview, okay? Okay. Thanks, Anaya. Well, it was so nice to have Anaya in here. I wanted to introduce everyone to Anaya's mom, Leslie Cajas, who is also the admissions coordinator here at the here at Hope Academy as well.
 
[00:30:03.000] - Leslie Cajas
Yes.
 
[00:30:03.890] - Candi Broeffle
So we wanted to take a minute just to ask you. I mean, she is very impressive, your Anaya, and very fun to talk to. And just curious to you, what did you see as some of the changes that Anaya went through from starting kindergarten to graduating from kindergarten? How did that impact?
 
[00:30:26.680] - Leslie Cajas
Kindergarten was such an amazing year for her. I think that she grew not only academically, like she said, she learned how to read and write her name and count, but she also was exposed to the values here at Hope Academy and grow deeper in her faith. I know that sounds, I don't know, like for a five-year-old to grow deeper in her faith, but it's true.
 
[00:30:59.050] - Leslie Cajas
They are exposed to a God Christ-centered education. She learned the Bible, she learned stories. She would lead prayers. Wow. Things that we didn't see before in her. She grew socially. Her teacher was amazing, and I think she just helped develop her character and her social abilities.
 
[00:31:29.820] - Candi Broeffle
I think it's really neat to see for someone who's an Iah's age to be able to come in and have that conversation with me on a radio. That's pretty scary. It goes back to, Tony, what you were saying about teaching students how to really be able to show up publicly and have that ability to speak in front of groups and speak with all different ages and all different lifestyles, people. I know you guys are recruiting right now for kindergarten, your kindergarten time to get people signed up. So tell us about kindergarten and about what people could expect if they bring their children here to start with kindergarten.
 
[00:32:14.400] - Tony Morales
Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for that question. So we do have a lot of openings right now for kindergarten. We do want to maintain the small class sizes, and that is a reality. But we are growing. We want to grow. We want to continue to grow and add more classes. It's not like we're going to add more students to one class. We're just going to make more classes. So that's one of the desires, and that's part of our 10-year goal. But what a parent could expect at our school is that their child is going to have holistic teaching. So teaching not necessarily just the intellect, but their character and their mind, body. They're going to have stuff like purposeful play. They're going to have engaging with nature, with the sciences, trying to really dig deep as to the why. Our kindergarten teacher said to me that they want the kindergarten to love to learn so they can be lifelong learners. So kindergarten, they're just going to be tasting little things here and there like math, reading, writing, write your name, and then so the building blocks. So they're just building little by little.
 
[00:33:32.120] - Tony Morales
And it's so exciting whenever they're starting off because they really come fresh. Yes. With just this like sponge. They're just really wanting to absorb everything.
 
[00:33:45.390] - Candi Broeffle
Just to be able to make those social connections and to have that time to be around other people, to be around all ages. I mean, it's really cool here too at the school because you guys have kindergarten all the way through 12th grade. Though there is some separation between the schools, they still get exposed to students of all ages. How many students are in a classroom in kindergarten?
 
[00:34:09.150] - Tony Morales
So we try to limit it to about a max of 18 students per class. Our teachers are very firm about that, too. That's a good thing. That's a good thing. And Candi, I also wanted to mention one more thing. In kindergarten, we want to call them. They're called acorns. They're little acorns, and we want to make them into oaks of righteousness. One of the ways that we do that is they get to feel what it may be like high school. They get to see that. So the high schoolers are the oaks of righteousness and the kindergarten are the little acorns. And they're just growing. They're growing. We want to teach them. Right now you're growing. It's okay that you don't have all the answers. It's okay that you're just beginning. So we see that. And then we have this graduation ceremony for kindergarten.
 
[00:35:07.060] - Candi Broeffle
Everybody gets to celebrate.
 
[00:35:08.770] - Tony Morales
Yeah, of course.
 
[00:35:10.840] - Candi Broeffle
Well, we have to go into a break right now. But thank you, Leslie, for being here. Again, thank you, Anaya, for being here and for sharing with us your experience. It sure has meant a lot to us.
 
[00:35:22.780] - Candi Broeffle
But for people who want to learn more about Hope Academy, visit HopeSchool.org, and that's H-O-P-School. Org. To read the online version of Natural Awakenings Magazine, visit NaturalTwinCities.com. You can find the podcast of this show on AM950Radio.com, on Apple and Google podcasts, and anywhere you get your podcasts. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM 950, the Progressive Voice of Minnesota. We will be right back.
 
[00:35:58.360] - Candi Broeffle
Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle. Today, we're talking with OQuba Duressa, and Tony Morales, who are both student recruiters here at Hope Academy. But boy, that was fun to have Anaya here resting up. Yes. She's pretty impressive young lady. I know you guys are actively recruiting for kindergarten, so we want to let people know about that. If they're interested in learning more, go to HopeSchool.org, and then they can set up a tour. We'll get into more of that here at the end of this interview. But I think it's pretty impressive to see just the development of Anaya, as you can see going into the first grade, how poised she is and how comfortable she is having a conversation.
 
[00:36:48.550] - Candi Broeffle
This is scary for adults to be in on a radio show. To have a first grader be able to come in and speak so eloquently is pretty cool. But as we're moving on, Tony, I'm just curious. We talked about kindergarten, we talked about your K-12. Give us an idea of what are some of the points of different educational levels? What are the things that make it stand out, make the education that you guys provide stand out, the different opportunities at different levels?
 
[00:37:20.750] - Tony Morales
Yeah. One thing I'd like to let your listeners know is that it is a rigorous education. We're always prepping them for next year. We want them to be a grade level higher in their academics. They're going to be, when they're in sixth grade, they're going to be touching seventh grade material. They're going to be learning each of these curriculum. One of the things that teachers do here is teaching for transformation. Some people may know, but it's more of the aspect of character-building in the academic rigorousness of it. We also try to do retreats and field trips, taking them to places to see, interact, the touch, and the feel, engaging where they're at. Some students like to learn a little bit more in the touching aspect, some of that in the seeing and the hearing. We want to think about that as well. In the lower school, it is a lot of building blocks. That's what it is. This is a lot of building blocks so that in the upper school, they're fleshing out those ideas. In the lower school, which is interesting about the classical curriculum, we do teach them Latin because we want them to interact with the classical literature.
 
[00:38:42.020] - Tony Morales
We do Socratic methods, Socratic debate. In that they get to, when they're hearing, we want them to think critically. They're like, Okay, so the teacher says something. We don't want them just to receive it. We want them to ask questions. Then in the upper school, we have what we call HopePaths. In those, they have communities to serve, HopeServe, and that's where they get a college credit for serving within the classroom itself. Like HopeArt, they get to do news production, film production, painting, drawing, mixed media and help biz. This is pretty cool. One of the students at help biz, they brought their parents' business idea and then they start fleshing it out. Okay, thinking about accounting, thinking about marketing, thinking about all that entails because some students, they don't want to go to college. That's just the reality. We want to help them think, okay, if you're going to go to business, what would that mean? Or a trade and top tech?
 
[00:39:47.110] - Candi Broeffle
That just has my heart, I have to tell you because helping children learn about entrepreneurship is so important. So many families are entrepreneurial anyway as a part of just surviving. It's what do we sell? What services can we provide? They don't look at themselves as being entrepreneurial, but they really are. You're showing kids how they can actually make that a business and make it something that they could be thinking of.
 
[00:40:16.020] - Tony Morales
Yeah, and they get to give a business pitch to a panel of our Twin City entrepreneurs. So they'll give this business pitch and just like a shark tank, I think that's what it's called. Yeah. So it's exciting to do that. Yeah. And then we also do like Hope Tech, where they do Lego robotics, they do construction, woodworking, being innovators and developers. We have quite a few 3D printers in which they're just really cool. 3d printers are really cool. I like to have one of mine. But yeah, they get to do that and go in competitions. And then we do Hope Med. Hope Med, this school where we're at used to be a hospital, and there is some hospital settings. So we want to lean on that. We also connect with other healthcare agencies so that they can learn what is nursing, what are those medical fields, or even training when they're doing sports. We do emphasize a lot of sports and how to take care of your body, healthcare, fitness, and medicine, fitness for athlete courses as well.
 
[00:41:26.000] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah, I think it's really interesting because you guys are touching on a lot of things that were available when I was in school that are not necessarily available now in public education. Being able to have more of the trades and more of the business and just healthcare to be able to have that within the school here is really interesting. OQuba, I know a lot of families are interested in extracurricular activities, and I know we just briefly touched on that a minute. But can you share some of the examples of the extracurricular programs and opportunities that students can take part in?
 
[00:42:06.560] - OQuba Duressa
Absolutely. We have a variety of activities that students can choose from, such as cheer team, debate team, like what Tony had said, the first legal robotics league, a fun way, fun challenges. There's also a math team for any students that love to be a part of a math, mathletics.
 
[00:42:30.130] - Candi Broeffle
I was on the math team in high school.
 
[00:42:32.440] - Tony Morales
That is so cool.
 
[00:42:33.890] - OQuba Duressa
Look at that. Look at that.
 
[00:42:36.410] - Candi Broeffle
Not long, but I was on it.
 
[00:42:40.320] - OQuba Duressa
Yeah, we also have also youth groups, Revive Youth Group, Young Life Youth Group, and then there's an annual spring musical. Oh, yeah.
 
[00:42:51.930] - Candi Broeffle
This year you guys had a mini, correct? We did, yeah.
 
[00:42:55.990] - Tony Morales
That's amazing.
 
[00:42:57.490] - OQuba Duressa
The year before, I think it was the Lion King.
 
[00:42:59.710] - Candi Broeffle
Wow.
 
[00:43:00.030] - OQuba Duressa
Yeah, and then Technovation, Worship Team, Lion Singers, that sort.
 
[00:43:09.190] - Tony Morales
We also have a mentor group, and I think you're also a mentor of a couple of kids. Because what we notice is that they listen to teachers and they listen to parents, but sometimes they just want someone else, someone else, another mature adult who can just they could just talk about life. That in and of itself helps them when they're thinking through life, books and everything.
 
[00:43:34.920] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah. Tell us about if people are interested in learning more about having their kids come here, tell us how they would go about doing that.
 
[00:43:45.610] - Tony Morales
Yeah. We ask families to, if you'd like to come visit us, you are more than welcome. We have tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11:00. Every now and then we'll have an evening time. But if you just go to Hope School. Org/tour, you'll get to see our tour available times. Another way of doing that is just come to our building. We're located at 2300 Chicago Avenue and just come in and then we'll be there, we'll receive you at the door. Also, I know some parents like to do that or just give us a phone call or our phone numbers on the website as well.
 
[00:44:25.390] - Candi Broeffle
So when we were talking before the show where we were talking about what we were going to talk about.
 
[00:44:32.420] - Candi Broeffle
You did mention that you want to make sure that people understand that no one's going to get turned away because they can't pay.
 
[00:44:41.290] - Tony Morales
Yes. Thank you, Katie, for bringing that up. We want to let families know that a private Christian education is affordable for you. The thing that many parents don't realize is that here at Hope Academy, it's affordable. When you're thinking of private Christian, you're like, Oh, that's thousands of dollars per month. It's not like that here. We have a partnership model, and in this partnership model, each of the kids get partnered with the sponsor, and they pay for the majority over 90 % of tuition. The parents only pay a portion of that, like a percentage. The majority of our families, they pay about $75 to $100 a month. Wow! I get some calls from parents, Can you tell me how it's going to cost me? I can't really answer that at the moment, but what I can say that we are on sliding scale. If you make a lot, we're going to ask, Hey, can you pay a little more? If you make a little bit, we're going to say, Hey, don't worry. We'll help you out. We'll make sure that we try to get you in the door by providing a good affordable education.
 
[00:45:49.430] - Candi Broeffle
Now, with this partnership model, you guys also accept donations, I imagine?
 
[00:45:54.030] - Tony Morales
Yes, thank you so much for asking that question. Our marketing team is going to be so happy.
 
[00:46:01.130] - Tony Morales
So we're always looking for partners. Some can give first time, one time. Some can say, You know what? I'd like to pay for the tuition of one student. I'd like to pay for this. We have partner events. Our partners can even... We have a partner day where our partners will come to the school and they'll be able to interact with the student that they're helping and they'll get to see our vision and our desire to provide a really good remarkable education here in the Minneapolis area. So yeah, we're always looking to partner. In our website, it's going to have two big things to see, which would be the inquire for new families and to partner for those who would like to partner. Yeah.
 
[00:46:56.670] - Candi Broeffle
So being able to make private education affordable and accessible for anyone in the Minneapolis area.
 
[00:47:06.170] - Tony Morales
Yes.
 
[00:47:07.020] - Candi Broeffle
Awesome. But you guys, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today, and thank you for being with us. It's exciting to hear about what you're doing here at Hope Academy. Do you want to tell our audience? We are actually here at Hope Academy. I usually do this remotely, but you guys have such a great sound room that we decided to do it here. Thank you. Thank you guys so much. For people who want to learn more about Hope Academy, visit HopeSchool.org. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950, the progressive voice of Minnesota. I am wishing for you a lovely day.