The Magic of Mrs. Gregg

Whether its for a parking pass or a chromebook, a lunch card or a school picture, a prom ticket or tardy slip, Upper School students know where they can go. Whether the Upper School director needs a point by point schedule for her busy day or teachers need dry erase markers; whether parents need to schedule conferences or teachers need a dinner break on a late night of work, they go to the same place.  On the heels of Administrative Professionals Week, PA takes time to appreciate the Administrative Staff for all they do for the school. One person in particular keeps the Upper School running:  Mrs. Kate Gregg. 

The Upper School would not be the same without Mrs. Gregg. She supports everyone whether that means helping to solve a problem in the administration office or taking attendance to make sure that each Upper School student arrives at school safely every day.  

“Mrs. Gregg is basically my right hand,” glowed Mrs. Kelly Harrington, Director of the Upper School. “She is my go-to for everything from planning to problem solving.” 

Gregg works on responding to emails from parents as she wraps up for the weekend last Friday.

Gregg has not always worked in Administration. Over the years she has taught preschool, first grade, been a stay-at-home-mom, and also opened two restaurants. One could argue that her vast and varied resume prepared her–albeit, in a roundabout way–for the multitude of tasks that await her on a daily basis in the front office.

Mrs. Gregg has big jobs to complete throughout the day like making Mrs. Harrington’s schedule and working Athletic Director Mr. Daren Messmore on schedules for athletes who require early dismissals. But, she also always has everyone’s back, whether it be having all the answers to everyone’s questions, keeping supplies in stock for teachers, or replacing the printer paper. 

“When I first took this job as the Upper School Administrative Assistant, I was a little hesitant about working with older students,” remarked Gregg. “But over the years, I realized how much I really love them and they make my days.” 

Students return Cromebooks to Mrs. Gregg at the end of the day on Tuesday, April 27.

She is the inspiration for everyone around her to work hard and do their best every minute of the day. 

“Mrs. Gregg has taught me balance,” reflected Julia Dailey ’21, who was given the task of reading the announcements written by Gregg each morning during second period. “In watching her, I have learned to juggle different demands, even though it is so hard.” 

Gregg has been at Providence for nearly a decade and has loved every crazy second of it. Throughout these years her job has changed, especially since last spring. From the beginning of distance learning in March of 2020 to the hybrid model currently in place, Gregg’s duties have expanded and shifted to keep students equipped for their work and accounted for, even if logging from home.  

This hasn’t been a typical year, but, for Gregg, that’s par for the course, since no day is typical.  But her joy in serving students and staff remains constant, as does their gratitude for you.

Portable Prayertime

It is no secret that miraculous things happen during each and every mass.  Jesus becomes present in the Bread, venial sins are forgiven through the Penitential Act, and periodically, sacramental grace is granted during weddings or baptisms.  This year, thanks to COVID, mass at PA has donned a new ability: taking place in rooms all around the building.  This school year, students and teachers have worshipped in the chapel, in the Performing Arts Center, and even a gym.

Upper School students kneel for the consecration in Gym A on Tuesday, December 8. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Kelly Harrington.

In order to follow social distancing requirements, students  celebrate mass in smaller groups.  Seventh and eighth graders worship together, as do ninth and tenth graders, as well as eleventh and twelfth graders.  Meanwhile, Lower Schoolers celebrate mass in two groups that include a spectrum of grades.  In order to be able to sit a full six feet away from each other, all students gather in the Performing Arts Center, or PAC.  The only exception to this is sixth graders, who have a grade small enough to safely fit into the familiar chapel. 

Father Michael McClellan, the school chaplain, commented on this transition, “I have celebrated the mass in many different places over the years, and the PAC is one of the best temporary churches I have ever been in.”

While the Performing Arts Center is indeed beautiful with its grand spaces, brilliant chandeliers, and ornate decorations, Providence had to look elsewhere in order to hold mass this past Tuesday, December 8th, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Providence normally marks this day of obligation with an all-school mass, where nearly all grades gather in the Great Room for worship.  Gathering the entire student body in one room may have been unattainable, but Providence was determined to do the next best thing: having three distinct services: one for the entire Lower School, one for the entire Middle School, and one for the whole Upper School.  

Even with the school divided into three sections, PA needed a bigger location.  Gym A, the largest gym PA has to offer, ended up fitting the bill.  With socially distanced chairs and an altar transported from the opposite side of the building, everything came together, with Lower School celebrating mass at 9:25 a.m., Middle School at 12:35 p.m., and Upper School bringing up the rear at 2:25 p.m..  

“This is a historical moment,” Father McClellan remarked during his homily. “For the first time in Providence Academy history, we are celebrating mass in a gym.”

The 70 year old altar had to be moved from the PAC to Gym A for the three Immaculate Conception masses this past Tuesday, December 8th.

This historical moment came with challenges.  Saying mass in a new place is difficult on its own, but PA also had to be sure to preserve the holy and prayerful atmosphere of worship in these makeshift chapels.  Thankfully, this challenge was met, in no small part thanks to a twelve-foot-tall altar new to the PA community.

This 70-year-old altar, with murals of Jesus elegantly painted on the sides, was scoured from the closing St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in early August, so that Technical Director Mr. Dominic Bissonette could begin fixing it up. 

“It needed some minor fixes, mostly paint, a few touch ups on trim, and some old electrical wires that needed to be removed,” Mr. Bissonette explained. “The major thing that it needed was the altar stone. This required cutting a hole in the table top of the altar and then adding new supports under the hole to support the thick piece of consecrated marble.”

All of this tedious work was worth it to transform regular rooms into reverent places of worship.  William Wehmann ‘22, reflected that despite the changes, “I loved having all Upper-School mass on Tuesday. Looking around and seeing all of my classmates partaking in the mass was an incredible experience.”

Introducing Zoë

Self discovery. These two words play such a big role in our experience as human beings. With college decisions to be made and essays to be written in particular, senior year is one of the more pertinent times to be asking these questions as to better shape one’s future. However, when tasked with pursuing these abstract, complicated questions alone, it can seem daunting, even unattainable.

Luckily, Providence Academy college counseling has found a way to alleviate any stress that may come with the adventure of self discovery by introducing a brand new personality software to the college curriculum; Zoë.

College counselor Mr. Estrada commented on Providence’s decision to integrate Zoë into college counseling curriculum. “Making the right choice in life, especially in college, is a very risky thing that people don’t want to make the wrong choice in. Zoë helps to alleviate some of this anxiety by making strengths and aptitudes more apparent to the students.”

Zoë is a software developed for the purpose of discovering more about oneself through a series of interactive quizzes and elaborate descriptions. By identifying your three core values as well as your top five Clifton strengths, which boil down personality to five concrete traits, Zoë helps people find direction by suggesting paths of study as well as things to pursue in the future that play to each person’s inherent strengths.

The Values finder, one of the first steps of the Zoe process, starts the brave adventurers on their journey. (Photo Courtesy Val Fish ’21)

 

Curt Hinkle, one of the creators of the software, summed up Zoë’s purpose to the seniors during the informational meeting held over the summer by saying, “This interface is different from most softwares like it because instead of giving the answers, it gives more of direction towards what is to come. In that way, Zoë’s like a toolbox that can be used to get somewhere like college or beyond.”

Another value that the Zoë platform pushes for is their users to find their “northish”, or rather which direction they want to go. It doesn’t have to be a definite direction or a solid answer; instead, it gives a good beginning to one’s journey.

The senior class of 2021 was the first ever class to take Zoë as a part of the college search experience. After beginning the Zoë journey during August boot camp and working on the exercises throughout the beginning of the school year, senior students were invited to partake in some commentary regarding the program as well as some sweet treats in the ARC. They shared their positive experiences with the program.

“I think it was a very creative and introspective experience, and it provided a lot of unique insight,” Michael Collins ‘21 commented.

By incorporating Zoë into the college counseling program at Providence, students come closer to discovering their purpose in life, and  make a meaningful contribution to society.

Ella Flynn, ’22 begins her journey into self discovery by opening up her Zoe profile. (Photo courtesy of Val Fish, ’21)

Letters of Love Spreads to PA

Showing love towards others is crucial within Providence Academy. Along with the addition of many other new clubs this school year, PA added Letters of Love to the list, creating a place where students can come to make cards to send to children in hospitals, with hope that something as simple as a kind card could brighten their long days.

A few cards created by students within the PA community to help brighten others’ days.

Christina von Dohlen ‘22 said, “It is meaningful to me that people receive support while going through hard times, and Letters of Love allows students to do this.”

Letters of Love is a well-known organization among many schools. It was started in 2018 at Orono High School, just a few miles down the road from Providence. President Stephanie Momanyi, senior at PA, and Vice President Grace Wikenheiser, junior at PA, took the initiative to bring the organization to Providence Academy. After seeing the success brought to other schools, Momanyi and Wikenheiser knew it would be a great addition to PA.

Wikenheiser commented, “It is so cool to be part of a global nonprofit while still benefiting people within our own community.”

Anna Heaney ’22, Maria Counts ’22, Kate Allerheiligen ’21, Emma Ryan ’21, and Izzy Ryan ’21 stop for a picture while making cards at a Letters of Love event.

The club is deeply rooted in love and care towards others, whether towards a friend or someone you’ve never met. Grace Berbig, founder of Letters of Love, made this a key aspect of her life. As a graduate of Orono High School last spring, Berbig left her legacy behind. During her junior year, she wanted to make a change in the lives of children fighting illnesses. She says, “After my mom died of leukemia when I was 10 years old, I was inspired to create good and help people who are going through something similar as my mom did.”

The hospital was a familiar place to Berbig throughout her childhood, as her mom spent a considerable amount of time there while battling cancer. Berbig always remembered how depressing it felt, and wanted to change this. In remembrance of her mom, she created the club to emotionally support kids who spend much of their childhood in the hospital.

Founder of Letters of Love, Grace Berbig.

She began the club as a small organization with her friends and peers. Two years later, the club has grown in ways never expected. Berbig said, “In one year we have gone from 0 to over 500 members at the Orono chapter (over half of our student population), started branches of the club at 19 other schools in Minnesota, and are in the process of beginning clubs in three other states as well as other countries such as Poland, Italy and Austria.”

Students at PA cannot wait to learn more about the club. The club hit the ground running, and has already held a few events. The first activity Providence held was making cards for teachers at the school. Students made cards for Señora Ramierez, Señora Hope, and Mrs. Hejna, and enjoyed the opportunity to get a further understanding of where the club is rooted and what it consists of.

Beginning in January, Letters of Love will meet every third Friday of the month in the atrium. It is an easy way to hang out with friends, receive volunteer hours, and brighten others’ days all in one place.

William Wehmann ’22 concluded, “Letters of Love is a good way for people who are sick or struggling to know that even if they think they are at the lowest of all lows, there is someone there for them. It’s such a good feeling to know you are going to make someone’s day by taking five minutes to make a card, and I’m so excited to see how much Letters of Love grows within PA.”

A New Page for the Library

This year changed many things, the school library taking a couple of hits in the process with the retirement of a loved librarian Mrs. Commers, her storytimes, and much more. The library was closed for a while trying to figure out how to deal with the new accommodations but recently reopened to students and faculty.

“I talk to Mrs. Commers periodically and she sends her love to the school and is enjoying her time with her two young grandchildren and the rest of her family. She too, always is immersed in a book,” says part-time library helper Mrs. Batina.

The biggest change that came with the absence of Mrs. Commers was the weekly readings. She would read to the students for half an hour and had a “set curriculum” of books each year. No one has taken up the job so the students just browse and read for a bit instead.

Fifth-grader Vivienne Martini described, “It really is upsetting that we don’t have Mrs. Commers to read to us especially because it would have been my last year because we don’t get this in middle school.”

This section of the library is looking lonely without the usual readings.

With the beloved Mrs. Commers gone, there is no official new librarian taking her place for Covid reasons. Instead, there are a couple of part-time people helping out, 2 part-time staff workers and a volunteer. 

Mrs. Batina and Mrs. Cadwallader have both been working in the library with Mrs. Commers for a while, Mrs. Cadwallader for 7 years, and Mrs. Batina for 15 years. 

They both have a love for books, Mrs. Cadwallader even having a degree in Library Science and working previously as a professional librarian. She worked here to be involved in the Providence community and liked the idea of being in a library again although this will be her last year as her daughter is now a senior. 

Mrs. Batina, on the other hand, served as a President of the Board of a suburban Chicago library and is a board member of the Friends of the Wayzata Library. She has also been a volunteer and staff assistant in the Upper and Lower School Libraries throughout the years.

The staff workers have already taken steps to keep the library running as normal. For example, the library is still open to small groups of students wishing to check out books and to help teachers laminate, keep late fee records, and help find materials for classroom subjects and products. 

The shelves are looking extra spacious because of all the books being quarantined after being returned.

Mrs. Cadwallader notes, “The changes in the Library this year have been significant due to the Covid environment, but we are striving to return to normalcy as much as possible.”

Everyone is very thankful that with so many changes going on in everyone’s daily routines they can still go up to the library and grab a book to enjoy.