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.”

And We’re Back: College Fair Returns to PA

Private or public university? In state or out of state? Small or large campus? These are the questions high school students ask themselves every year. And with thousands of institutions to choose from, it can be difficult to navigate the college scene. Such is why, on Wednesday, April 6, PA College Counseling offered students in grades 9-11 the chance to attend a college fair, surveying those options in person, on PA’s own campus.

Hudson Kinne ’25 stops by the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point table to ask some questions.

For the first time since the pandemic, Providence hosted over one hundred college and ROTC representatives, including one international school: Franklin University in Switzerland. There were many activities for students and college representatives to participate in throughout the day. Representatives enjoyed lunch in the gallery, where they learned about PA’s mission from Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders.

PA students also led tours and seniors offered panel discussions on life at PA. In the early afternoon, students attended breakout sessions discussing the college search for freshmen, applying for aid and scholarships, Catholic higher education, STEM programs, military options, intercollegiate athletics, fine arts programs, private universities, public universities, honors communities, and going into college with undecided, undeclared, or undetermined majors. The events of the day culminated in Gym A, where students and parents met with representatives individually and gleaned information about potential future schools.

College Counselor Mrs. Paige Von Bank explained, “The main goal [of the college fair] is to help our students become more aware of the many post-PA options and to help them start the college search discussions and process.” 

Indeed, the college fair gave students a diverse range of options to consider as they prepare to leave PA in a few short years.

James Herrera ‘23 shared, “I shouldn’t exactly narrow my search or hope for one college. Even if I did want to go to a particular school, that shouldn’t stop me from searching and looking into other schools.”

Dylan Perrill ’23 and Luke Wachholz ’23 meet with a representative for the University of Kansas to learn more about the school.

Furthermore, the college fair was a hands-on opportunity to better know what to expect for the discerning process and the college experience itself.

“I’ve got a better idea of what I actually need in a school,” Gabrielle Hippler ‘25 reflected on her first college fair. “I used to have this vague idea of ‘college’ and just figured the right school would come to me, but now I have seven schools to consider that all seem kind of ‘right’.”

Not only did the knowledgeable counselors and representatives make impressions on the students, but they also got to know PA students better.

“I heard from numerous college reps about how well behaved, polite, and inquisitive our students were,” Von Bank enthused. “This event made me proud of our students and proud to be a member of the PA community!”

After the exciting day of college searching, students returned home with pamphlets, widened perspectives, and plenty of food for thought as they get ready to embark on the next chapter of their lives.

Speaking towards State: Providence Academy Speech Team Triumphs in Sectionals

A typical Thursday for high school students probably does not include wearing formal business attire and presenting a speech 3 to 4 times in front of a judge and timekeeper. However, members of the Providence Academy Speech Team did just that on April 7, as they ventured to Maple Lake High School to compete in the Section 2A tournament. 

Violet van Gyzen, ’24, Skylar Bartz, ’23, Sandra Alb, ’24, Aly Marshall, ’23, and Kortney Onyambu, ’24, smile after receiving awards in their respective categories. PAW photo credit: Megan Simonson

“Speech is a MSHSL sanctioned activity, which gives students the opportunity to work on public speaking skills through a variety of categories,” explained coach Megan Simonson. 

The competitive categories include: Discussion, Informative Speaking, Original Oratory, Creative Expression, Poetry, Storytelling, Duo Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Great Speeches, Extemporaneous Reading, Extemporaneous Speaking, Poetry Reading, and Prose Reading. 

“Through speech, I’ve learned a lot about things I never would’ve otherwise researched,” emphasized captain Skylar Bartz, ‘23. “It helps me educate myself on important issues and learn to talk about them with some kind of authority.”

Bartz has indeed learned how to speak with authority, as recent judging confirmed when she earned her ticket to State in the Discussion category.

Though the speech team started out with just five members, in the past few years, it has quadrupled in size and become a contender against peer schools because of the participation of students like Bartz.

The growth of the program “gave us a consistent, supportive, and driven group that competes,” said Simonson. “The fact that we have students in every category except one helps gain points.”

In the week leading up to sections, most team members worked on memorizing and tweaking their speeches. However, for Bartz, “It was more mental. I didn’t do much other than approaching the competition with a goal in mind and a certain level of confidence.”

Aly Marshall, ’23, accepts her award and “ticket to state.”

The speech team not only gave it their all, but also made school history, placing 6th out of 14 teams and sending three members to the state tournament. Bartz,  Aly Marshal,  ‘23, and Violet van Gyzen, ‘24, will represent PA at Eastview High School on April 23 in Discussion, Humorous, and Storytelling, respectively.

“I’m so proud of how we did at sections! For a small school, we do really well, and our placement shows that we put in a lot of effort and dedication,” van Gyzen–who ‘finaled’ for the first time in her speech career and earned a spot at State–remarked. 

Simonson shares van Gyzen’s sentiments. “Join Speech!” she exclaimed in the wake of their recent success.

Simonson continued, “We are always excited to have new members, and even if you are super nervous to get up in front of a group of people, you should just try it. You can compete at whatever level you’re at.”