Woot Woot for WolfRidge!

For the first time in two years, Middle Schoolers were able to participate in the much-anticipated trip to WolfRidge, so it makes perfect sense that this was also the largest group Providence Academy has sent. 

“I didn’t really know how it was going to go”, explained Yuvraj Singh ‘28. Since hardly any of the present middle schoolers had gone during the pandemic, it was hard for the kids fully get a sense of the weekend’s activities. 

Although some were a little hesitant at first, they ended up loving the trip, largely because of much everyone could tailor the weekend to their interests. Each student got a choice of an itinerary for the day, roommates, bus mates, and clothes. 

“I think Wolfridge exceeded a lot of people’s expectations, it was more fun than I thought learning could be.” Singh remarks after looking back on his weekend.

The group having fun around a campfire they helped build!

Even if a student who has a chance to go in the future is a little skeptical, Mason Gregory ‘28 says, “Be open to everything, you never know what you might like.”

A lot of kids were wary about being away from home in a new environment, especially on Mother’s Day, but Vivienne Martini ‘29 regrets staying back, “After hearing how much fun everyone had, I do kinda wish I had just gone, but now I know for next year.”

From flint and steel to tree types and ages and a little historical background of the land, students learned quite a bit academically. However, they didn’t expect to discover more about their peers, even though teamwork was a big part of the weekend. Jada Lynn Preston-Harris ‘28 explained, “You should go with people you are comfortable with because it is a lot of fun with friends, it’s like a camping sleepover!” 

Students imagine what paddling around would be like if the lakes were warm enough to do so.

Although the lakes were too frozen to canoe, students got an opportunity to zipline, hike, and take many classes including ropes, Voyager History, geology, mammals, and astronomy. “I was worried it would be like school but pretty much everything we did was not just learning, it was fun too. It was a good balance” Preston-Harris follows. 

It’s safe to say that what they learned will stick with them for a long time, Melia Cmiel ‘26 recalls her time at Wolfridge a few years ago, looking at fossils and getting stuck on the zipline. Even this year’s group shares a distinctive memory: Matthew Tomashko ‘28 thinking a large rock was a bear at 2 am and waking everyone up with his fear-filled screams. 

The group collectively has one word of advice for future goers: “Don’t wear white crocs on a muddy hike- better yet- don’t even bring them!”

Honoring Our Lady: Annual May Crowning

“Mary is everyone’s mother and she deserves to be crowned,” altar server Henry Hilberg ‘29 explained.

This is the sentiment of many at Providence. The Statue of Mary is the first sight one sees when entering the building, standing quite literally at the heart of PA. And with a temporary outdoor shrine while the school awaits the construction of a permanent grotto, the PA community clearly holds a special devotion to the Mother of Jesus. So when Our Lady’s month of May rolled around, the Providence Lower School celebrated Our Lady in a special way with the annual May Crowning. 

Altar Servers William Robbins ´29, Benjamin Uzelac ’29, and
Anders Kaufman ´29 hold Mary’s crown during the May Crowning ceremony. PAW Photo Courtesy of Mrs. Kelly Roles

In front of the temporary shrine by the gates of the school, fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Kristine McElroy led students and teachers in singing “Bring Flowers of the Rarest” and “Immaculate Mary” and chanted The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Chaplain Fr. Michael McClellan led the students in prayer, blessed Mary’s crown, and two of the First Communicants from earlier this spring, David Lewin ‘32 and Alex Ellison ‘32, placed the blessed crown on the statue of Mary. 

The tradition of praying Marian devotionals and crowning a statue of Mary began in PA’s very first year.

Fifth-grade teacher and founder of this tradition Mrs. Beth Reopelle recounted the story behind May Crowning at PA: “I was able to start the tradition in my founding year, remembering my own time at Catholic school and wanting to pass that on to students here.” 

She continued, “We’re teaching them devotionals because we learn a lot of intellectual things, but it’s something for the kids to put into practice.”

This tradition proved to be very beloved. McElroy reflected, “My favorite part is just looking out at all the students surrounding our Blessed Mother with the beautiful flowers, with children singing and praying and honoring Her and giving all their prayers and love to Mary. I just think about how we all surround Mary and give that praise to Her.” 

Students bring in flowers to place in front of the Statue of Mary for May Crowning last Friday, May 5.

In addition to the ceremony, Lower Schoolers prayed the rosary in their classrooms beforehand to honor Mary and ask for Her intercession. Students also brought bouquets of flowers to place in front of the Statue of Mary in the front entrance of the school as more gestures of love. 

McElroy reflected on the day, “It’s a special way to honor Mary and I hope they remember that tradition as they grow older and continue their years through PA.”

The Great Gatsby Gala of 2022

The gala’s Bruno (bouncer) stands guard at the speakeasy entrance, making sure no “snitches” are allowed in.

“I like large parties. They’re so intimate.” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1925 novel, “The Great Gatsby.” This year’s annual Gala truly was a large party, with a record 370 guests attending the event that embodied the spirit of America’s “Roaring Twenties,” fitting for the 20th Gala.

From the black and gold decorations, champagne flutes, jazz music, and even a Juice Joint, the school’s mezzanine level and great room were decorated to dazzle like all things during the Jazz Age. All in attendance brought out their Glad Rags (party clothes) and came to celebrate with good company and a tasty dinner…sources say there may also have been some Giggle Water thrown into the mix.

This year’s gala planning was organized by the Gala Chair, PAPA representative and PA mom, Nichole Schelitzcke, and Providence’s Director of Development, Mr. Josh Anderson. 

Mr. Chris Wrede, Manager of Annual Giving and Events Faculty and PA dad, was Anderson’s right-hand man throughout the whole planning and execution of the gala. He remarks: “ I worked with silent auctions, donations, sponsorships, minute-by-minute needs of the day. It was a lot of setting up and closing shop afterward.”

All of the hard work and planning paid off, Wrede continued. “I would say this is the most successful gala we’ve had in the history of this school.”

After a night full of silent auctioning and live bidding, two fund-a-need projects: remodeling of the admissions and health office and a new serving station for Chef Morris´ ever-popular grill line, were accomplished.  The PA Headmaster, Dr. Todd Flanders, remarks in his Headmaster’s Blog post on May 2nd that: “Early returns show that the Gala brought in over $630,000 in gross proceeds, substantially more than any other PA Gala.”

Mr. Wrede and Mr. Anderson pose for a quick picture before rushing off to their many duties of the night.

Mr. Wrede remarks on how meaningful these donations are not only to the school but to himself. “The funds that are raised go straight into the operation of the school,” he says. “This is very important to me both as a staff member and as a parent, to know that these funds will end up right back in the school”.

PA mom and Gala attendee, Mrs. Maureen Flynn, described the night as one of the best galas she’s ever attended. She noted: “This year’s gala was beautifully executed and wildly successful in both attendance and generosity. You could tell a great deal of thought went into setting the theme with decorations and music.”

Dr. Elizabeth Schnobrich and Meghan Milovich enjoy some fun conversations in the Juice Joint.

Wrede also noted the generosity of the gala attendees, saying “Walking around, you got a real sense of excitement, love, passion, and commitment to the school, which was reflected in their giving.”

Fitzgerald said that “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something generous about him”. The immense generosity of PA families has made the 2022 Annual Gala a roaring success, with the nifty celebrations going well into the night. 

A Grand Day For Grandparents

While warmer weather has certainly taken its time coming to the Midwest this spring, a warm welcome was easy to find on the PA campus during the annual Grandparents’ and Special Persons’ Day. On Friday April 22nd Providence Academy Upper School hosted the first Grandparents Day in 3 years! Over the course of two days, between Lower, Middle, and Upper School divisions, PA welcomed nearly 700 guests to campus. Schedules were packed with welcoming and engaging events from start to finish.

Mckennah Anderson’25 seen in a heartwarming greeting with her grandma.

After grandparents were greeted by their students in the PAC lobby and given corsages, each division offered a glimpse of the curriculum, with a spin on lesson plans so guests could engage with current student material.

Lower schoolers worked on art projects, performed a fun Minnesota song, and shared Minnesota facts. Middle school students worked on logic puzzles in math, interviewed Granparents in History to learn “where [they] were when…”, and showed off translation skills in Latin. Upper schoolers put on mini theatrical productions, engaged in debates, and even gave Grandparents and special persons a tutorial on how to use graphic calculators.

PA Faculty Mrs. Claire Roden expressed “We were happy to have such a great turnout, but number of attendees did present some challenges.” Custodial staff worked overtime to make sure classrooms had enough seats while faculty and students parked off site to free up spaces and give special persons red carpet treatment. To help accommodate guests of honor, parents, staff, and even students volunteered to help with photo booths, set up, and tours around the school.

Historically, special guests have enjoyed a famously delicious PA Lunch. One drawback about welcoming so many PA community members on site at the same time is that the PA Great Room couldn’t entertain so many people at once.

Wrede lamented, “Unfortunately, due to the number of people, we had to do away with lunch and take a more coffee and pastries approach.” The inability to dine with guests is certainly a bummer for students and guests alike, but it’s likely that the upward trend in attendees will continue in the future.

With the increase in numbers, staff are looking into other ways to keep the day special and improve the experience for all involved. Looking ahead Mr. Wrede said, “I’m hoping in later years lower school students will perform in some way for their grandparents in the PAC.” He added, “I would love to bring back the opportunity for teachers and specialists to interact with grandparents.”

Ellie and Chase Millerbernd with their grandparents Michael and Barb Stence.

First-grade teacher (and PA parent), Mrs. Sarah Millerbernd is no stranger to the events of Grandparents’ Day. “My parents have come to visit for Grandparents’ Day for 14 years, but I think this year was more special due to not having it these past couple of years.”

Millerbern reflected, “I think it is very important for Grandparents/special persons to see where these kids spend a majority of their time every day.”

Mrs. Carol Berg, grandmother of Clare Kistler ’24 echoed her sentiments. Berg shared, “The best part of being here was getting to spend time with Clare in such a beautiful place.” Kistler is new to PA this year and enrolled in Moral Theology as well as Studio Art II.

Clare Kistler with her grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Berg visiting with a family friend (and PA parent) Mrs. Jennifer Tomaschko

“My grandparents really enjoyed talking to Dr. [Arthur] Hippler because my uncle attended Thomas Aquinas College with him, but I really enjoyed showing them the Art Studio,” Kistler remarked.

“We love to see how far the school goes to make us feel welcome and loved. The beauty and faith of this school gives us hope,” concluded Berg.

Senior Sentiments: A School Year Chock-Full of Memories

As graduation day approaches, the Class of 2022 can’t help but reminisce about their time at Providence. Most seniors share the sentiment that 12th grade has been the best year of high school. Previous years pale in comparison to the bond seniors have made as a class over the past eight months. 

They started the year off with a bang as they watched the sunrise together on the first day of school. Then, they carried their excitement through football games and festive fall activities, such as the senior retreat. 

“The senior sunrise and retreat brought us together and forced friend groups to mix who otherwise wouldn’t have had a reason to. We hadn’t had that in high school at all until then,” reflected Emma Kelly ‘22. 

Seniors Matthew Narog, Paul Hogan, Macallister Clark, and Matthew Wooden cheer for PA’s Girls Basketball at the final state tournament game. Their enthusiasm even caught the attention of the cameramen.

Seniors have also undergone PA graduates’ dreaded right of passage: senior speeches. Since November, seniors have been sharing personal stories, points of interest, and comedic relief with their classmates and teachers. Some speeches have even produced stories the class still talks about daily.

For example, for a couple weeks earlier this year, speeches were held in the Great Room rather than the Performing Arts Center. During the first speech delivered in the new location, a lower school student ran, panting, right between the speaker and the audience. The comedic timing was impeccable as everyone fought to keep their chuckles inside. However, as soon as the speech came to a close, students couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably. 

“All the seniors had the same reaction: don’t laugh, there’s a speech going on. I tried so hard not to, but every time I’d push it out of my mind, I’d see him running all over again and burst into laughter,” admitted Mary Rillens Lee ‘22, still laughing.

Luckily, the speaker knew none of the laughter was for the speech, but solely for the child who had no idea he’d encounter speeches around the corner as he was trying to catch up with his class.

Mary Rillens Lee ’22 serves Emma Wohlwend ’22 and Sophie Koch ’22 their waffles with a smile at seniors’ “Pancake and Waffle Day.”

The fun continued as seniors supported the Girls Basketball team’s journey to state. Several senior boys left no stone unturned as they arrived at the final game in tuxes and paint-covered faces. 

“We wanted to test the bounds of our school spirit. I didn’t think anyone had painted their faces before, so we figured we had to try it. We even got the commentators to notice us!” reflected Paul Hogan ‘22.

Over the course of the last few months, seniors have found a way to make regular school days something to look forward to. In March, a handful of seniors hosted “Pancake and Waffle Day” in which they made and served breakfast to seniors and teachers throughout morning classes.

Seniors Paul Hogan, Jack Lindberg, Matthew Narog, Macallister Clark, and Ryan Keller sing “Hakuna Matata” with Upper School English teacher Mr. Adam Schmalzbauer and Physics teacher Mr. Michael Plucinski on seniors’ karaoke day.

Macallister Clark ‘22, the student who coordinated the event, exclaimed, “What ties people of all backgrounds together? Waffles! We knew the idea would land because everyone loves waffles and you can make them however you want.”

Senior fun doesn’t stop at assorted breakfast food. Most recently, when weather put a damper on the senior cooker, seniors devoted the time to chips and karaoke. Almost all the class crammed into Upper School English Teacher Mr. Adam Schmalzbauer’s classroom for the last period of the to share some tunes and eat some chips.

PA’s seniors have made the most of their last year of high school. Although it may appear their time in the sun is over, it’s quite the opposite. The group of sixty-eight still has four weeks left at PA, and they’re determined to enjoy every minute of it.