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. 

Bundles of Joy: Lions for Life Help Celebrate the Gift of Life

“Little feet make big imprints on our hearts,” read one of 30 adorable cards sent to expecting mothers at SouthWest Options for Women in Eden Prairie. The Providence Academy Lion’s For Life Club worked to give women with limited resources the opportunity to make these little feet more manageable.  On Sunday April 24,the club assembled ten care packages, each encasing three personalized cards, for mothers-to-be with the intention of relieving and exciting the women receiving their contents. 

Freshmen Rien Rose Lee and Melia Cmiel proudly show off their adorable creations and are excited to continue the tradition of the Lions for Life club in the years to come.

Cradled in each of the ten baskets were all the basics for a soon-to-be mom, from a pair of socks to a stuffed animal. Enthused club member Melia Cmiel, ‘25, recalled that assembling the contents and imagining the babies and moms that would be benefiting, especially the clothing, was the best thing she could have done on a Sunday afternoon. 

Cmiel noted, “I love to lend a helping hand in any way I can, whether it be making baskets, cards, or just being there and giving my support”! 

As cute as they can be, babies can also be quite a handful. First grade teacher Erin Lee, one of the event supervisors and mother of four attests that as a parent, raising a child, let alone a newborn, is no easy task. 

Lee said, “especially after my first, adjusting to a sleeping pattern was very demanding because the ability to sleep was a rare occurrence”. 

On top of early mornings, lack of love and support from families present another barrier to women at SouthWest Options for Women. This was why the event was so meaningful to the President of the Lions for Life club, Grace Wikenheiser ‘22.

Created by Rien Rose Lee ‘25, this charming card is an example of how the participants wanted to excite expecting mothers in anticipation of their newborns.

Wikenheiser reflected,  “while the supplies are a great help to the mothers, the support and love that they represent are what truly make a difference. These women need to know that they do not have to do this alone.” 

Cmiel also noted how exciting it was not only to put the baskets together with the “adorable” baby accessories, but to know her work was going to make an impact. 

“It’s important to me that we help and support even the smallest or youngest members of our community in any way that we can.”

Despite all of the challenges that come with being a mother, Lee firmly stated, “it’s like Christmas morning, every morning”! She noted that through all the long nights and early mornings, “you are able to get through it all because of the bond you form with your baby. A difficult task is no longer something you have to do, but something you get to do for your child.”

The true joy and excitement that comes with being a mother is something the Lions for Life club wanted to share with all the women at SouthWest Options through personalized cards. Three handmade cards, with a loving and encouraging message, were placed within each of the baskets the club put together. 

The Lions for Life club pulled out their cutest puns and brightest colored markers to design thirty handmade cards, in hopes to bring a lasting smile to another’s face.

Wikenheiser commented, “three was a somewhat random number, but I wanted to include multiple cards to express how much support these women have through the trying circumstances in which they find themselves.”

The following Monday, Wikenheiser brought the baby baskets to SouthWest Options for Women, concluding the final planned event for the Lions for Life club. This past year they displayed the American flags for the 9/11 memorial, participated in the National Day of Solidarity by remaining silent to call attention to those who have no voice, and hosted their Beard for Babies fundraiser, just to name a few, all speaking to the sanctity of life.

As her senior year comes to a close, along with her leadership in this club, Wikenheiser affirms, “I know that Lions for Life will continue making a difference long after the current members have left Providence Academy”.

Bring Both Shoes to the PA Theater: PA Players Present Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Helen Foley ’22 and James Herrera ’23, who portray the king and queen, perform in Providence academies newest musical, Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. PAW Photo Credit: Mrs. Claire Roden

After months of auditions, preparations, and rehearsals, the PA Players are proud to present Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. With wonderful performances, incredible sets, and euphonious singing, Cinderella is set to be the most intricate musical at Providence in years.  Showtimes are today and tomorrow at 7:00 PM, and Saturday, and Sunday at 2:00 PM, in the beautiful Performing Arts Center.

The story is the classic fairy tale everyone knows and loves. With its comedy, drama, adventure–and especially romance–, fans of all types of shows will surely enjoy the production.

Providence has been putting together Musicals under the direction of Mrs. Melissa Simmons since 2005. Since the opening of the PAC in 2017, the musicals have progressively gotten more and more grand. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a full-scale musical has not been performed since 2019, leaving actors eager to perform and theater enthusiasts eager to attend. 

Sydney Borland ’22 and Jack McElroy ’22 waltz in Providence musical, Cinderella. PAW Photo Credit: Mrs. Claire Roden

Another unique facet of this particular performance is that Providence has done this same musical before, in 2009. Simmons reassured, “This time will be different. Our stage is much bigger. Last time we were in the great room, and so space constraints took some of the magic away, but this time you’ll see the magic.” 

Sydney Borland ‘22 stars as the kind-hearted title character, shining in her role and truly perfecting the vocals. Her love interest, the prince, is played by Jack McElroy ‘22 who perfectly depicts the lovesick royal. 

The comedic elements of the show can undoubtedly be attributed to the stepsisters, played by Liz Burns ‘23 and Olivia Trader ‘23. Their boisterous outfits and talented performances add a whole new hilarious dimension to the play.

Another central character, the fairy Godmother, is beautifully portrayed by Kortney Onyambu ’24. Her vocals and performance are incredible and elevate the show.

The talented cast and crew complete an unforgettable ensemble. Though the cast gets the glory, the crew is truly at the heart of this year’s play.

Sydney Borland ’22 and Kortney Onyambu ’24 enchant the audience with their magical voices, in the final dress rehearsal of Providence spring musical, Cinderella. PAW Photo Credit: Mrs. Claire Roden

Olivia Bissonette ‘22, the talented stage manager who has participated in PA theater the last five years explained, “From a technical standpoint, we are doing a lot. We have almost forty sound cues, not to mention the backdrops. There’s a lot going on and it will look really cool.”

Anika Ausvold ‘24, the talented and energetic choreographer, has taught the dances of the musical numbers to the cast. Like Bissonette, Ausvold is a five-year theater veteran. She has enjoyed this production and expressed, “I love how supportive everyone is and how we have created such an amazing theater family.” 

PA Middle School students have already had a chance to preview the production. They’re calling it “Amazing!” and “Hilarious!” and were especially impressed with the special effects at the moments of transformation for Cinderella, from Broom-Sweeper to Belle of the Ball.

Without a doubt, the entire PA community should attend the event with their friends and family. All ages will be absolutely enchanted by the bright colors, beautiful costumes, and wonderful sets as the PA Players bring this classic tale to life.

Watt He Does: The Electric Life of Mr. Plucinski

“Crazy. Hair.” are the words that come to Robotics team member Nathan Hemmesch’s ‘22 mind when thinking of Mr. Michael Plucinski, Upper School Physics Teacher and Robotics Coach. Plucinski’s distinctive fluff is his trademark that helps the student body identify him from far down the hallway. But, Plucinski is more than a good head of hair: he is a man of many talents. While on the weekdays Plucinski dedicates his life to physics and his students, on the weekends, he gives his time to his family, emergency medical care, and music. 

Brothers Matthew and Mitchell Plucinski pose with their Dad, US Physics teacher, Michael in front of one of the two ambulances Plucinski works with. (Photo courtesy of Michael Plucinski)

Plucinski, who is affectionately referred to as Mr. P by his students, is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) over the summer break and nearly every Friday night for the Ridgeview Ambulance in Waconia and the Mayo Clinic Ambulance in St. Cloud. The long drive there is worth the commute, as the shifts are twelve hours long, usually running from five PM to five AM. Although this seems like a tedious and energy-draining task, he comments, “It usually is a lot of waiting for a call and being prepared to spring into action.” 

Once a call finally is made, Plucinski and his team arrive on the scene within fifteen minutes to help. He reflects, “Even though my energy over the shift ebbs and flows, I still get butterflies every time we receive a call.” Once the ambulance arrives, he and the team get to work to help the caller and, if needed, drive them to the hospital. Here, Plucinski’s physics knowledge comes in handy to help him as he drives, ensuring the smoothest ride possible for the staff and patient in the back. 

Plucinski showing his sons, Mitchell and Matthew, his “second home” on the weekends. (Photo courtesy of Michael Plucinski)

Not only does his knowledge of physics apply to EMT work, but what he learns in the ambulance also applies to his life and students. The patience Plucinski has acquired after years of waiting during EMT shifts is exhibited in the classroom.

Advanced Physics student Mary Lee Rillens ‘22 remarks, “I ask a lot of questions and he always makes sure to answer without ever being demeaning. He takes the time to make sure I fully understand everything and doesn’t stop helping until he knows I don’t have any more confusion.” 

Although his patience is the most prevalent trait his EMT background brings to the classroom, all Honors and Advanced Physics students know that he loves to pay homage to EMT work by using ambulances in word problems. “[Ambulances] are actually an amazing way to exhibit many concepts, such as the difference between distance and displacement,” Plucinski explains. 

Plucinski sharing joyful hymns on the piano during Easter Mass. (Photo courtesy of Michael Plucinski)

The brisk EMT life is only part of Plucinski’s weekends. The other half is dedicated to music, specifically to playing the piano. Musically inclined since childhood, Plucinski played the clarinet in high school and college orchestra. He has participated in a jazz-rock student band on the piano and even in a mini-teacher band with former Providence instructors Mr. Fischer and Mr. Smith. Plucinski is currently a piano sub for four separate parishes, which allows him to play regularly.  He notes, “I always find myself drawn to playing music. It is such an amazing break that lets me exercise a different part of my brain.”

Plucinski’s crazy life and various talents outside of Providence may be unknown to many, but the traits he has picked up from them shine through in his teaching. What is known about him, is, in the words of Hemmesch, “Mr. P is a dedicated mentor through and through, whether it is in listening to your latest wacky robot design, pushing your fascinations in physics, or patiently waiting for the Robotics team to get through yet another rant.”