Summer Adventure at the Grand Canyon: Our Top 5 Moments


An important part of each student’s experience at Morgan Park Academy is tied to our mission to prepare the global leaders of tomorrow and our belief that learning can and should take place outside the classroom. This comes to life most vividly in our school-wide Global Week each March, our immersive world languages program with optional international trips — and most recently, our travel opportunity for middle school students each summer.

This summer, a dozen sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders joined my fellow Humanities teacher Sandra Burgess and me to explore the Grand Canyon and the wondrous state and national parks of Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.


We experienced so much in five days! As Ms. Burgess put it, “You know you’re on a great trip when every day your students say, ‘I changed my mind; today has been my favorite day.'”

Somehow, though, we managed to pick five experiences that stood out as the top highlights from our trip! Continue reading


Meet Our Staff: Tanuja Rathi

Tanuja Rathi - Morgan Park Academy

Please help us welcome our new Director of College Counseling, Tanuja Rathi!

Mrs. Rathi combines the business skills developed in her previous career as a management consultant with her experience as a college counselor for Chicago Scholars, where she helped underserved students with the college application process.

A member of the Illinois Association of College Counselors, the American College Counseling Association, and the National Association of College Counselors, she holds an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned her college counseling certificate, with distinction, from UCLA.


Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

I strongly believe in the MPA education and how it helps prepare students for the future. My husband and my two oldest daughters are MPA alumni and I have one more daughter who will graduate in 2018. I have seen the value of the MPA education and how it has prepared them for college and beyond. I am excited to be a part of this wonderful faculty.
Continue reading

Meet Our Staff: Mary O’Malley


Welcome to our new Director of Admissions, Mary O’Malley!

A native of Morgan Park and graduate of Latin School of Chicago, Knox College, and Northwestern University, Ms. O’Malley has spent the majority of her career in independent schools, working to help students find the next phase of their education.

As Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at La Lumiere School, she built enrollment strategically across three diverse populations: day students, boarding students, and international students. She also worked as the Assistant Director of College Counseling at Latin School of Chicago and most recently served as a College-Persistence Counselor at Chicago Jesuit Academy, a full scholarship school for African-American young men on Chicago’s west side.


Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

It doesn’t take long to see why MPA is so special. I’ve been familiar with the school for my entire life; I grew up right around the corner, on Lothair Avenue, where my parents still live. I sought out this opportunity because I wanted to work at a school that was committed to educating the whole child. In today’s society, it’s easy to get ahead by taking others down. I firmly believe that a school community should stand for and teach a set of core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, diligence, kindness, cooperation, and service. Morgan Park Academy does this in spades. Continue reading

Summer Safety Tips from Nurse Conley

With summer break just around the corner, we are gearing up for lots of outdoor summer fun. Here are a few tips to help keep your child safe and healthy during summer break.Nurse

  1. Promote water safety: Never leave children unattended in the pool; have them wear properly-fitted life vests when participating in water activities.
  2. Protect against the heat and sun: Always wear sunscreen and/or hats when outside in the sun, and never leave children unattended in the car even if the window is cracked; cars heat up very quickly!
  3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water. Beverages containing sugar (like soda pop and juice) can cause dehydration, but a frozen water bottle can provide cold refreshment for hours.
  4. Stay cool: Take cool showers, wear light clothing, relax in an air conditioned space, and drink cold beverages. Heat stroke is serious and can be life threatening. If you suspect that someone may be suffering from heat stroke, call 911.
  5. Protect against bug bites: Use an effective insect repellant when going outside and remove any objects with standing water from around your home.
  6. Protect against injuries: Protect against concussions and head injuries by making sure your child wears a helmet when riding their bikes and scooters, and using skateboards and roller skates. Make sure your child is monitored at all times when riding in places where there is traffic.
  7. Educate about stranger danger: Remind your child to never talk to or go with anyone (male, female, or child) that they do not know.
  8. Protect against animal bites: Remind your child to never touch or pet an animal that they do not know.
  9. Notify caretakers about allergies: Warmer weather means more insects and fun treats. Remember to remind caretakers about any allergies that your child may have and provide all necessary medications.
  10. Prepare for next school year: Summer doctor and dentist appointments can fill up quickly. If your child will need a physical examination or medical paperwork completed for the 2017-2018 school year, schedule appointments now to avoid the end-of-summer rush.

I hope you all have a fun and SAFE summer and I look forward to seeing you next school year!


By Nerissa Conley, R.N., PEL-CSN

Ms. Conley is Morgan Park Academy’s school nurse.

What Parents Need to Know about Signing up for Project Week

Our school’s mission statement focuses on educating the whole child and global leaders. What better way to accomplish these goals than by providing students opportunities to learn in the real world outside the classroom? During Project Week 2017, our students experienced a variety of global and cultural activities: they immersed themselves in the Japanese culture; explored the unique geological features of Iceland; home stayed with their German peers; performed field studies in Greece and Italy; visited leading companies and prestigious universities in Silicon Valley; adventured into the Yellowstone and learned how to make movies; visited different immigration communities in Chicago; experimented with 3D printing; and tackled various alternative sports. The greater world outside the school wall extended in front of our kids.

worldEach fall, the students look forward with great anticipation to the new events and trips offered. As soon as the Upper School faculty returned from the 2017 Project Week trips in March, they started to work diligently to create a variety of exciting and unique learning opportunities for Project Week 2018. The descriptions of the new trips will be available this summer on our website. The Project Week online catalog is an all-in guide for information such as important dates, descriptions of the trips, and costs.

The consideration of the trips starts with the online catalog. Please read the catalog with your child and discuss the many options available. We have tried to provide a variety of choices in terms of educational objectives, costs, and destinations. Your child will tell you excitingly where they want to go, but please remember that parents make the final decision; that’s why the online registration must be signed by the parents.

When you sign up for the trips, please be aware of both the financial and time commitments for these trips. Do not harness yourself with a financial burden that will cause stress; there are several affordable trips. Also, note that some trips may run longer than the designated week into the following week of Spring Break. Double check the dates and make sure it will not intervene in your family vacation plan.

Besides financial and time commitments, there are other factors that you may need to consider before you sign up. For example, do you have any important family events during Project Week that may prevent your child from travelling? Does a particular trip require a visa? Visa application processes can be very tedious. If the destination does require one, will you have time and energy to handle it?

In addition, it is also a good idea to discuss the responsibilities associated with each of these amazing opportunities. Such responsibilities could include, but are not limited to: keeping good grades, working part-time to save money for the trip, helping with household chores, tackling the challenges of some outdoor activities, or serving people in an unfamiliar culture as part of their trips, etc. In this way, students would know what is at stake, and what they need to do to earn such an exciting experience.

You will have the whole summer to consider these trips. The online registration opens in September. On the registration form, you will indicate four project choices in the order of preference. Every choice counts. Every year, I hear some parents and students saying, “We only care about the 1st choice. For the rest, we just randomly picked some.” I can imagine how disappointed they would be if they were not getting their 1st choice. I wish I could offer everyone his/her 1st choice but unfortunately it is unrealistic.

Here are some principles that can help guide the selection process:

  • Mixed age groups are optimal.
  • Everyone gets one of their four choices.
  • Seniors who have never traveled should have the opportunity to do so.
  • Away trips should have even (not necessarily equal) numbers of boys and girls for overnight accommodations.
  • We need to meet the minimum number of individuals in as many projects as possible.
  • Students should never participate in the same project twice.
  • Giving Upperclassmen a first or second choice is a goal, though not always possible.
  • Final consideration we take into account: past behavior in projects, group dynamics, past project selections, etc.

The purpose of Project Week is to expand the student’s horizon by learning new things and making new friends, and to bond with students and teachers across grades and disciplines. Project Week helps to create new and enduring friendships with other students and exemplifies the idea that the greatest learning experiences often come from knowing other people just a little bit better.


By Dr. Heng Zhao

Dr. Zhao teaches Mandarin and is the Academy’s Upper School Global Leaders Coordinator.

Personal and Professional Growth in College

As our senior students are heading toward completion of their high school career, they are now thinking about the mark they will make at the colleges they will attend. I have no doubt in my mind that our students are prepared to continue their academic, personal, and professional development through the opportunities that their colleges will offer.

karenblogConsidering this, I am often asked by students and parents alike what to look for in a college. While this answer will vary for each individual student (i.e. program of study, size, location, etc.), some factors which I discussed in an earlier blog, there are a few others that I believe will apply to all.

I think it is important to find a school that will foster a student’s growth both inside and outside of the classroom. For a variety of reasons, a school with field or internship experience built into the curriculum and opportunities to learn from and engage with faculty is important. An internship can offer a closer look at an area of interest or field of study that the student is pursuing. It may ignite a student’s passion and additionally open the door to future employment. Working with and developing relationships with faculty through research or assistantships is also invaluable. Due to the time spent together, faculty can offer insight on a student’s future professional goals and how to achieve those goals. Through consistent interaction, faculty members are able to provide more comprehensive recommendations to a student’s future employer or graduate program.

Part of fostering a student’s growth outside of the classroom is a college’s emphasis on global learning. At MPA, project week and service-related experiences pave the way for our students in global learning. We encourage students to continue enhancing their global knowledge beyond high school. Colleges often offer field-based and/or service-based travel experiences for their students. Students can immerse themselves in a place that is foreign to them, learning more about the people, culture, and way of life in a new environment. Participation in service can provide a student with a sense of humility, self-awareness, and an enhanced level of empathy. These lessons will follow a student beyond the educational environment. Students should consider researching these offerings prior to their entry into the colleges they are pursuing.

Finally, gathering knowledge on a school’s career center is also imperative to the process. While it is always important to learn what services are offered to current students, an equally important factor is services offered to graduates. Are employment opportunities shared with graduates? Is career center staff available to work with students on cover letters, resumes, etc.? What efforts are taken to guide students regarding employment, graduate school, or other postgraduate programs? Schools can often provide statistics on the postgraduate plans of their alumni. This can give students a sense of the support provided to graduates.

While many factors will play a role in the college search process, these are a few that have become increasingly common. Students should seek out a school that will enable their personal, academic, and professional growth.


By Karen Horvath

Mrs. Horvath is our College Counselor.

The Importance of Faculty Professional Development

Some may wonder about the purpose of having faculty professional development days. What about the conferences or workshops teachers attend? Are they necessary? Just like any other profession, teachers need to attend workshops, conferences, and other training sessions to stay current, collaborate with and learn from others, or inspire them to try new things in the classroom.

schmidt1One of the main reasons professional development is necessary is so teachers stay current in the field of education, which is constantly evolving. New initiatives and technology are continually added to programs, but teachers need to be trained so they feel equipped in the classroom. During our recent Professional Development day in April, all faculty took part in workshops. The PreK-8th grade faculty attended a session on Responsive Classroom, which provided strategies for positive management and character-building that will be implemented next year in the Lower and Middle Schools. These strategies will make students aware of expectations both inside and outside of the classroom to ensure consistency. The Upper School faculty took part in a Project-Based Learning workshop which allowed them to work on ways they can incorporate PBL into their current syllabi. As we work toward these initiatives, we will offer support to the teachers to promote a successful integration.

Collaboration with colleagues or attending workshops with others in the field of education is imperative to professional growth. Sharing ideas within grade levels or departments allows teachers to see what their peers are doing and how they can help one another. Members of our faculty have a wealth of knowledge that can be shared, if given the opportunity. In addition, attending workshops and conferences outside of school is beneficial because not only are teachers gaining useful information from experts, but they can network with other educators and trade ideas that can be effective in the classroom or the school. When teachers attend a workshop or conference, part of the requirement is to be a resource on the topic for other faculty members.

Professional development opportunities are inspirational. They may be just the spark a teacher needs to try something new in the classroom or an administrator the willingness to implement a new initiative at the school. If some of our teachers had not visited another school to see Responsive Classroom in action, we may not have decided to pursue training. Having teachers inspired by Project-Based Learning influenced others who wanted to learn more about it, which led us to bring in a consultant. Sometimes that is all it takes — for one person to be excited about an idea and spread that energy to others.
The next time you are curious about what happens on faculty professional development days or when your child says his teacher was not in school because she was at a workshop, you will know that they are learning things that can positively impact education. This summer, we are pleased to be sending teachers and administrators to workshops and conferences addressing topics that range from content-based approaches to school leadership and design. Also, plans are underway for training that will take place during the faculty preparation week at the end of August. As educators, we should always continue to learn, grow, and improve!


By Jennifer Schmidt

Mrs. Schmidt is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction.