Holy Family English Department’s Connected Curriculum

Techno Teachers: Holy Family English Department’s Connected Curriculum

Today’s students are driving change faster than ever before with their intuitive use of technology. For Holy Family Catholic High School’s English Department, that means changing the ways of teaching too.

“Technology is a tool that cannot and should not be ignored,” says English teacher Carlee Kocon. “It’s our responsibility to help prepare 21st-century learners for the 21st century with tools that are applicable and relevant to their current and future learning.”

Holy Family’s English department has teamed up to make sure students are ready for the future, weaving in technologies that emulate what students will experience in college and through real-world experiences. Their methods are the result of a focused effort led by English teacher Case Unverzagt, who created an ad hoc committee to explore teaching with technology and best practices.

“Technology remains a tool that students use in every facet of life, so I figured our teaching must incorporate technology to better reach and teach students,” Unverzagt says.

The English Department’s fresh mix of teaching and tech is a peek into how the Holy Family classrooms are evolving in a time of rapid change driven by a digital revolution.

“Technology is a tool and will never replace the ‘teacher,’” says Holy Family President Michael Brennan. “And it is far more than hardware and devices.

“I view technology as a key with the ability to transform student learning. The right technology in the hands of the right teacher is a recipe for transformational learning.”

Tech Advances Language Skills

Unverzagt points out that technology, like English, is textually focused. Therefore, the correlation between them is natural and encourages stronger writing and communication.

“Code is syntactical, and so is English,” he says. “Mistakes in coding change or destroy meaning analogous to poor grammar that obstructs meaning—text messages, Tweets, message board posts and emails all require compositional skills for creation. Many an adolescent spends time pondering the tone and context of the last Tweet or text.

“The skills we use to analyze literature and communicate ideas effectively and clearly translate immediately to reading, analyzing and creating content on technological platforms.”

The marriage between language and technology, he points out, dovetails with the English department’s overall mission:

  • Develop each student’s reading skills
  • Encourage interest in the language arts as research and leisure activities
  • Introduce students to a variety of writing styles and authors
  • Hone students’ listening skills
  • And, most importantly, develop writing as a process geared to create written pieces for a variety of purposes and audiences.

English teachers at Holy Family have collectively found ways to thread technology into their current teaching methods. Unverzagt, who teaches AP English and Honors American Literature, relies on multiple digital platforms, including Twitter, MS365, MS Teams, OneNote, various Google platforms and digital content.

Senior Creative Writing students write their pieces and share them during editing sessions.

“I try to use technology to meet students where they are in the digital universe and help them learn with and through technology,” he says.

Kocon, who has a master’s degree in Learning Design and Technology from the University of St. Mary’s, is driven to help students use technology to advance learning and creativity.

“Using technology just to use it isn’t popular, and students can sense that,” she says. “However, if you can point out the usefulness the technology provides, they’re usually all in. It’s all about balance and finding the right technology tool for the task at hand.

“In my Freshman World Literature classes, we use technology to share and edit work,” she says. “We create short slide presentations regarding chapters of text we are reading in class. Students also create their own quizzes to share to prep for later assessments, and some make online flashcards. For my Senior Creative Writing classes, students write their pieces and share them during editing sessions.”

Kocon is also quick to point out that technology has helped from the teaching perspective, too, making her more responsive and timely with instruction and feedback.

“I use various software to edit their papers and give feedback more efficiently and more quickly with voice comments, video comments or stamped comments, eliminating lengthy return time on writing pieces,” she says.

Quizzes, Apps and Creativity

Zach Brown, who teaches Honors British Literature, Speech, Contemporary Issues and College Prep Writing, utilizes Google surveys, online quizzes and collaborative documents, so students can work together and participate in class in new ways.

“Kahoot! is a great app for making a review or quiz similar to a game, and it engages students far more than raising their hands to demonstrate their learning,” he says.

Google surveys, online quizzes and collaborative documents allow students to work together and participate in class in new ways.

Brown also stresses the importance of discerning credible information sources from questionable ones, and making sure students are aware of singularly shaded information and insulated viewpoints. Instead of diving deep into the technology, he focuses on how students can use tech to better present ideas with substance. With this thinking, Brown has turned a new page on the way students “author” book reports.

“I can make the presentation of learning more inviting, so the reading and completion of the assignment isn’t as onerous,” he says. “For example, making a movie trailer in a video editing program encourages students to entice a viewer, so students work to make their work exciting and prove they can make something great. This requires students to read the book, but without the additional work of an essay looming ahead of them.”

The New Standard: Tech Competency

As Holy Family students move through various English classes, the staff has developed a benchmark of key technology competencies students need to master. Likewise, every teacher has been trained to help implement these competencies through their curriculum.

“Students need to know how to create meaningful presentations, so that they can convey their ideas in a powerful way,” Brown says. “Since new programs will always replace the old, I need to teach them how to navigate through confusion.”

“Ultimately, it comes down to successfully transitioning students from high school into college, so they are prepared to articulate their opinions and beliefs, which are subjective, as well as objectively present arguments and sides to issues. When students realize that technology can help give their voice a platform, I feel they are more engaged.”

See 2018-2019 Holy Family Course Descriptions

3 Reasons Holy Family Students Succeed

If you’re numbers driven, it is unquestionable that Holy Family Catholic High School students prove year, after year, after year that they are prepared for college.

What are the indicators? Here are some of the biggies:

  • Average ACT Score (2017): 25.4; Average ACT Score of Top 25% (2017): 31.7; Average ACT Score of Top 10% (2017): 33.6
  • 4-year College Attendance (2017): 93% (2-Year College attendance (2017) 1%, Athletic Opportunity (2017) with plans to attend college: 3%)
  • College Completion Rate 6 years out of high school: 84% (National Avg. 53%) Source: National Student Clearinghouse, tracks students for six-years in 98% of all colleges

What the numbers don’t tell is…WHY?

  • WHY do Holy Family students routinely outperform Minnesota students taking the ACT by an average of 5 points over the past 5 years?
  • WHY do Holy Family graduates succeed their first year in college?
  • WHY do Holy Family students graduate from college way above averages from other high schools, according to The National Student Clearinghouse?

“One of the things people always point to is ACT test scores,” says Kathie Brown, Holy Family Catholic High School principal. “Yet test scores are not everything. It’s important to be a thoughtful, reflective, rational thinker, and to take action when you have strengths to be active. You can’t have other people think and do things for you. That is what is important in post-secondary education.”

With that, we set out to put our finger on some of the specifics that answer why Holy Family Catholic High School students succeed in college. We asked five experts, all of whom have worked with Holy Family students and seen them succeed in college and beyond. They are:

  • Kathie Brown, Holy Family Catholic High School Principal
  • Jeanne Weber, Owner, collegeONE, helping students organize and streamline the college application process
  • Melissa Livermore, Holy Family Dean for Academic Support
  • Josh Rutz, Holy Family Counselor
  • Laura Horton, Holy Family Counselor

Based on independent interviews with each of these experts committed to helping students achieve success beyond Holy Family, there are a number of reasons why they are successful in college, starting with year one. But these three stand out:

1. Students Leave with Exceptional Writing and Communication Skills. Brown admits this can be a challenge in a society driven by digital devices. But that doesn’t change the need to be articulate, she says. When it comes to excelling in college, students with exceptional writing and verbal skills stand out among peers.

Kathie Brown: “If you can’t communicate well, your ideas will die with you. Our kids are not afraid to express their ideas. They can speak in public and they know how to write when they leave here. They are going to wind up helping their peers in college.”

Jeanne Weber: “There seems to be an emphasis on writing (at Holy Family) in more than just English class. I see a focus on writing in history and many of the other classes. This makes Holy Family kids stronger communicators than what I see from other schools. Even when they sit down with an adult, they are a little more at ease. They listen and have great communication skills.”

Josh Rutz: “One thing we consistently hear is that the workload, particularly the written papers, helps our students succeed in college. Alumni often say when it comes to knowing how to study, knowing the expectations of how to be good students and writing papers in college, they say they are well prepared. Doesn’t matter what college they attend. It seems every single student is saying they are well prepared.”

2. Opportunities Build Leadership Skills. Small numbers seem to deliver big results at Holy Family. With an average student-teacher ratio of 13:1, students can’t fly under the radar at Holy Family. Plus, they participate in extracurricular activities in extremely high numbers. The result is an expectation that Holy Family students lead.

Melissa Livermore: “Almost 100 percent of our students are involved in something, and many in more than one thing. By the time they leave Holy Family, our students have excellent time management skills because they are so involved.”

Josh Rutz: “(Holy Family) Students are not just focusing on school, but every other aspect in their lives—volunteering, work, sports, clubs, activities, and in faith and religious aspects. If anything, they’re too busy. Sometimes, they overwork themselves because they are such great leaders and want to have an impact on all aspects of life. One example: We bring kids on service trips all over the world. Those experiences change our kids in great ways. That’s why they do so well in college and after.”

Jeanne Weber: “When I look at Holy Family kids, the biggest advantage they have is the ability to participate. They have great social interactions, which comes from being in a small school, expecting students to take leadership roles and help out others. Participation helps them with leadership skills. They understand the nature of college, and that they’re going there to learn stuff. They’re just a little more well rounded and make good decisions while in college. They are substantially prepared to take that on.”

3. Holy Family Students Advocate for Themselves and Others. Often overlooked, this skill possibly should be at the top of this list. It shows confidence, drive, leadership and independent learning at a very high level.

Laura Horton: “One of the biggest things to college success is knowing how and where to advocate for yourself. When Holy Family students are out on their own, they check on academics, go to counseling services for help, and join clubs and groups to get connected and build that important social network. Being your best advocate is putting those skills to use. Sometimes, life happens. How students use these support services to tackle bumps in the road that likely come up defines their success.”

Jeanne Weber: “Holy Family students are very confident. They’re not boastful, but they are confident. If they see something that needs to be done, they do it. And they know when they need help. At Holy Family, there is an expectation that you are going to do well. Whatever that well is for you. And that’s a reflection of college.”

Josh Rutz: “Holy Family students are not afraid to ask questions. They become great self-advocates and advocates for others. We push and see growth in that from 9th to 12th grade. No matter where they are at, they are willing to ask for help or help each other out when in need. It provides that feeling of never being alone.”

Kathie Brown: “Holy Family students believe in goals. They know it takes practice and time. They know that, ‘Just because I want, doesn’t mean I can have.’ They keep going after it. I love the persistence and perseverance. When catapulted in new places, they are still OK. They know these are the things I need to do and these are the people I need to find to succeed.”

While those three reasons are the consensus favorites, there are many more reasons Holy Family students succeed in college. Here are a few additional thoughts from our experts on why Holy Family Catholic High School students are ready for a successful college experience, starting with day one.

  • Holy Family Students Think About Thinking. It is almost a lost skill in the digital age, says Brown. “They reflect about what they do and why they do it. They have great thoughts and are not afraid to express ideas.”

Livermore agrees: “We want to make sure students are geared toward learning and understanding. Not just for a grade or to check a box. We want them to learn and understand, and think about thinking.”

  • Students Experience Challenging Course Rigor. “We have high standards and hold all students to them,” Livermore adds. “This gives them confidence to take reasonable risks, such as trying new classes that they wouldn’t have before. It doesn’t scare them off, because they know how to do it, and that they can do it.”
  • Life Skills Are Taught at Holy Family. “Students leave here knowing what they need for a successful future,” Horton says. “They’re able to collaborate with peers; work with professors and faculty; and develop a sense of service and true caring for others. These all translate into aspects they’ll use in their lives and the working world.”
  • “Family Network” = Success. “The family atmosphere here pushes kids at a different level,” Rutz says. “When they have hard times and fall, they know where to turn. They come back here, turn to their families and turn to their experiences here at Holy Family that helped them grow. They have the confidence to tackle life. And life is not always easy.”
  • A Sense of Sacrifice and Direction. “I do think Holy Family kids, because their family is paying for high school, have a sense that people are sacrificing to send them there,” Weber adds. “And, maybe because of that, they have a better sense of what direction they want to head in. They can confidently take that step into college.”

Click HERE to meet alumni Ella Dahlin ’14 and see the impact a Holy Family education had on her success.

Alumni Spotlight: Ella Dahlin, 2014

Ella Dahlin: Using her gifts and sense of justice, this 2014 Holy Family Catholic High School graduate brings opportunities to others. She credits Holy Family for positively influencing and nurturing her in and out of the classroom.

“One of the most powerful aspects of Holy Family’s community is the support system that believes in its students. In high school, I felt important and valued by my teachers, staff, coaches and peers. I was taught to own who I was unapologetically. It gave me the confidence to make decisions and believe in them.” Ella Dahlin, 2014 Holy Family graduate

Alumni Profile: Ella Dahlin
Graduated: 2014
Elementary/Middle School: St. Joseph Catholic School, Waconia
University Attended: Loyola University Chicago, graduated in 2017
Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services
Holy Family Activities:

  • Campus Ministry
  • The Phoenix
  • Yearbook
  • Cross Country
  • Lacrosse
  • Nordic Skiing
  • Volleyball

HF: Catch us up—what are you doing today?

ELLA: I am an elementary site supervisor with the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove (BGCGG) in Southern California, where I’m responsible for the implementation of an after-school program for 100 students. BGCGG provides free after-school programs that focus on academic success, provide positive role models and create opportunities for children to realize their worth.

HF: What are you most proud of at this point of your life?

ELLA: I am proud of working hard to graduate a year early from Loyola, taking a risk and moving to California, and for pursuing my true passion by working towards social equity with the Boys and Girls Club. As blessed as I am, I know it is not by some coincidence. I have been able to achieve what I have today because of my amazing family, friends and educational opportunities. I was extremely lucky to attend a high school and university that shaped me into the person I am.

HF:  How did Holy Family influence your extracurricular activities while at Loyola?

ELLA: My favorite club at Loyola was the Women’s Lacrosse team, where I was a captain, treasurer and board member. If it were not for Holy Family, I would have never been introduced to the sport in the first place, so I am very grateful for my high school program.

During my time at Loyola, I was also a resident assistant and worked as a student office assistant with Residence Life. In many ways, these roles were just the continuation of (Holy Family’s) campus ministry, as I was responsible for programming, decorations and welcoming new students on campus.

My activities also included:

  • Social justice internship program
  • Volunteering at Catholic Charities Madonna House
  • Alpha Phi Omega (a service fraternity)
  • Alpha Sigma Nu (a Jesuit honors society)

Loyola is an amazing university with an abundance of opportunities, so I was able to pursue the interests that started with my time at Holy Family. Although I have some innate interests in these activities, it was Holy Family that started the fire that encouraged me to pursue them.

HF:  Did a Holy Family teacher have a particularly positive impact on what you are accomplishing today? 

ELLA: The strongest asset Holy Family has is its amazing, committed teachers. I will always remember the way Mr. (John) Dols encouraged me to take on opportunities and let my light shine. Mr. (Jacob) Dueck provided insight, created community and always acted from a place of care. Mr. (Andrew) Witchger challenged and supported me, and Dr. (Holly) Pottebaum encouraged me to dig deeper into the history of social justice in our country.

The list could continue forever, but the point is—every teacher impacted the way I thought and helped shape me into the critical thinker I am today. I am so appreciative of the holistic, caring education I received that prepared me for college and my life after college.

HF:  Do you have a favorite memory from Holy Family?

ELLA: A collective feeling that is present in all my favorite memories is one of accomplishment—planning a trip to Haiti, scoring a goal in lacrosse or contributing to Christmas convocation. Holy Family does a fantastic job at offering opportunities that actualize students’ efforts and ideas. With a strong support system, I was empowered to be uncomfortable, take risks, and work hard to make my ideas a reality.

HF:  How have you changed since leaving Holy Family?

ELLA: I have grown into a more educated and experienced individual. When I was younger, I was idealistic to a fault and have become more realistic through the years. Although slightly jaded, I am still an optimist who believes in the potential of every person. Through my experiences after high school, I realized the world is much more gray. I am and always have been an opinionated person, but I have learned the importance of listening to those who contradict me. I must understand other people’s life experiences to create a community that can come together.

HF: How did Holy Family help you be successful in pursuing your dreams? 

ELLA: Holy Family taught me that hard work, determination and a passion for what I believe in is powerful. I will never forget the class where Mr. Dols shared a quote that says:

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.”  — Marianne Williamson, author

The staff and students at Holy Family embody that idea. I was fortunate enough to receive an education that molded my character and empowered me to believe in myself. My education challenged me to apply for challenging jobs, to take on opportunities that make me uncomfortable and to own who I am as a person.

HF: How did Holy Family help build your confidence and skill set in a highly competitive world?

ELLA: One of the most powerful aspects of Holy Family’s community is the support system that believes in its students. In high school, I felt important and valued by my teachers, staff, coaches, and peers. I was taught to own who I was unapologetically. It gave me the confidence to make decisions and believe in them. I was no longer uncertain or half-hearted in my ideas but rather fully committed. This skill set prepared me both for college and now my life after college.

I’m not afraid to ask questions. I am not afraid to admit my own mistakes. I am not afraid to learn. Since I was believed in, I believe in myself, so I do not fear a competitive world. I will work hard, I will show up, I will follow my passions, and I know that with time, I will succeed.

HF: What advice do you have for current and prospective Holy Family students? 

ELLA: Take on the opportunities that Holy Family offers. Since Holy Family is smaller in size, I was able to participate in sports, clubs, and events that I may not have been able to at other schools. I started Nordic skiing my sophomore year because I wanted something to do. I joined Math League because my friends wanted to try it. I fell in love with writing when I joined The Phoenix. If you want to feel valued, if you want your name remembered, if you want to be able to join any team or club simply because it interests you—then this is the school for you.

If you already attend Holy Family, join those activities! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

SHARE YOUR HOLY FAMILY EXPERIENCE. If you have a unique story, experience or twist in life because of the positive impact Holy Family Catholic High School has had on you, share it. E-mail your story to: communications@hfchs.org. We’ll spotlight stories from Holy Family parents, students, and alumni.

Wonder where our graduates go to college? Visit http://www.hfchs.org/follow-graduates/ to see a list of colleges.

The Inside Scoop on Holy Family Placement Tests

Inside Scoop on Placement Tests: What to Know & Why to Go

FIRE 22 Families—mark January 20 on your calendar and highlight it in yellow. This is the date for Holy Family Catholic High School Placement Tests for all incoming ninth-grade students. It is your student’s first step to securing a successful academic future at Holy Family.

Parents sometimes have questions about our Placement Tests.

  • Why do students take them?
  • How is the information used?
  • What if my student has a bad testing day?

To help answer these questions, and many more, we’re sharing this list of helpful answers. It should give you a complete picture of why Holy Family Placement Testing ensures every student has academic opportunities that uniquely fit his or her needs, interests and strengths.

Q: Is there a difference between an entrance exam and a placement test?

HF: Yes. Typically entrance exam scores are used to determine acceptance into a school. Holy Family does not use entrance exams. Instead, we offer placement tests for incoming freshmen with the goal of placing students in a course level where they can experience success.

Q: Is there only one placement test?

HF: We offer three placement tests:

  • Incoming Freshman Placement Test — Broad scope of topics for all incoming freshmen.
  • Math Placement Test — Required for students interested in courses beyond Algebra I.
  • World Language Placement Test — Required for students interested in taking foreign language beyond the first level course.

Q: What are the dates for this year’s exams?

HF: The placement tests are scheduled for these dates:

  • The High School Placement Test (STS’ High School Placement Test—HSPT®) given to all incoming ninth-grade students is January 20, 2018 beginning at 8 a.m. (please arrive by 7:50 a.m.)
  • Math Placement Test is June 2, 2018 beginning at 9 a.m (please arrive by 8:50 a.m.)
  • World Language Placement Tests are scheduled on an individual basis throughout the summer.

Q: What are the test fees?

HF: The Freshman Placement Test is $25. This fee is waived if there is already an Application for Enrollment on file. There are no fees for the Math or World Language Placement Tests.

Q: How is the STSHigh School Placement Test (HSPT®) used?

HF: The test results are utilized in two ways:

  • Provide staff with a clearer academic view of the incoming class. It allows the administration to make staff and curriculum adjustments to suit the needs of the class as a whole.
  • Help identify students who need extra academic support or can benefit from encouragement to broaden their academic horizons.

Q: What subject matters does the High School Placement Test include?

HF: The exam covers a broad scope of topics, including, but not limited to: reading comprehension, vocabulary, literary elements, punctuation, spelling, measurements, area, volume, mean and functions. More information can be found on the STS’ High School Placement Test (HSPT®) website.

Q: But wait! If the Math and World Language Placement Tests are conducted after the February 2018 class registration date, how will we know which math and language classes to register for?

HF: Students should register for the math and world language classes that they intend to take in the coming fall. Once placement test results are in, students can make adjustments to their class schedule if necessary. 

Q: Does every student have to take a Math Placement Test, and is it the only factor used in placing a student in a math class?

HF: Only incoming ninth-grade students who want to register for math classes higher than Algebra I take the Math Placement Test. There are three test options: Geometry, Algebra II or a higher-level math course. Individual circumstances can be reviewed during the process to decide which test is right for a student.

Q: How can my student prepare for the Math Placement Test?

HF: There are math review packets at http://www.hfchs.org/math-placement-faq/  available online, and we host weekend review sessions prior to the placement test.

Q: Who must take a World Language Placement Test?

HF: Only incoming ninth-grade students who want to register for second year or higher Italian, Latin or Spanish courses take the exam for their language of choice.

Q: How can my child prepare for a World Language Placement Test?

HF: Students should review materials from their previous world language classes.

Q: Can a student take a science/engineering placement test?

HF: All ninth-grade students begin their science discovery with biology, and engineering studies begin in our Technology Studies program. Holy Family offers a pre-engineering course to eighth-grade students. Students who successfully complete the course earn a Holy Family semester technology credit, giving them the opportunity to take Engineering II during their freshman year and compete with our robotics team.

Q: If we have a question about where our student has been placed after receiving test results, what do we do?

HF: Let’s talk about it. Our staff welcomes dialogue with parents and students to ensure we are all on the same page. We want all students to be successful—not overwhelmed or unchallenged. If, for example, a student is on the border of testing into a higher-level math class, there is an opportunity to be re-evaluated through a summer course.

Q: If my student is placed in a class and it becomes clear early in the first quarter that it’s not the right fit, can he or she be moved up or down a level?

HF: Flexibility is important when it comes to finding the right fit for students. We encourage families to contact the student’s teacher and counselor to discuss challenges the student is facing. Often one-on-one sessions with the teacher bring the student up to speed. If the family, counselor and teacher determine a move to a less challenging course is necessary, we’ll do our best to accommodate the change with the least amount of disruption to the student’s overall class schedule.

Q: Do any of the test results move students into Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors classes?

HF: Generally the only Honors option offered to ninth-grade students is in mathematics. There are exceptions. PSAT Tests, measuring readiness for college, are taken in ninth and eleventh grades and help identify AP potential.  After ninth grade, teachers will recommend Honors and AP classes to students who have demonstrated the knowledge and skills to be successful in those courses.

Q: Do transfer students have to take any of the placement tests?

HF: Typically, no, they do not. We rely on their incoming transcripts for class placements. 

Q: If my student isn’t able to take the tests on the scheduled dates, are there make-up sessions?

HF: Absolutely! Those with conflicts on the date of the The High School Placement Test should contact Scott Breimhorst at 952-443-1955. Contact the school office at 952-443-4659 to make arrangements for another summer test date for math and world language tests. It is recommended that the math test is taken in early June.

Have A Question?

Ask about Placement Tests and we will include the response anonymously for other FIRE 22 families to see. Send your question to breimhorsts@hfchs.org


The $25 Freshman Placement Test fee is waived for students with an Application for Enrollment on file.

Apply Today

Spirit of Fire Gala is a huge hit!

Holy Family Catholic High School held its 18th Annual Spirit of Fire gala on November 11, 2017.  Parent volunteers transformed the school’s Slattery Activities and Convocation Center into a glamorous space for the 345 guests in attendance. The event exceeded its $300,000 goal, netting over $310,000, including an unprecedented $100,000 title sponsorship from Strom Engineering (Strom’s CEO emeritus, John Radick, is a current Holy Family parent.) Proceeds support school programs and tuition assistance scholarships.

Strom CEO John Radick

Themed “A Holy Family Tradition,” the evening kicked off with a cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by dinner and entertainment from the Holy Family jazz band, drumline, and vocal jazz group, Voices of Fire. Holy Family welcomed alumnus Tom Lano ‘11 as the master of ceremonies.

Joining Strom in sponsoring the evening were Silver Sponsors: KNW Group, Jaguar Communications, SevenHills Benefits Partners, Restwell Mattress Factory and LiveWell Chiropractic; Friends Sponsors: Browne+Browne Marketing, Requet Chiropractic, Charter Bank, Culvers, the Anseth family, and the Graupman family; Advertising Sponsors: Lions Tap, PK Services, and Catherine Seck of Edina Realty and a late-night snack provided by the Chanhassen Chick-fil-A.

This year’s fund-a-need focus was STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education. It raised $98,000 to allow the school to purchase additional 3-D printers and a CNC machine for the Innovation Lab, enhance the science labs and classroom equipment, replace the ceramic studio kiln, add a permanent grand piano in the Performance Center, and provide teachers with additional STEAM professional development.

A fundraiser of this magnitude would not be possible without the commitment of more than 100 parent volunteers who procured and organized the silent and live auction items, managed the logistics of setting up and tearing down the event space, supervised the junior class volunteers, and decorated the activities wing and center.

Holy Family’s new events and marketing coordinator expressed her gratitude after coordinating her first Spirit of Fire, “Through the entire planning process, I have been blown away by the generosity of our sponsors, local businesses, and parents.  I am so grateful for the parent volunteers who shared their expertise and knowledge from past events, not to mention the hours of their time in preparing and pulling off such a large gala.  It speaks volumes about what this school means to our parents and our extended community.”

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Holy Family Students Serve the Homeless

Holy Family Service Tradition: Breakfast at the Simpson House

5:00 a.m. Gracie Lund’s mobile phone comes alive, waking her on a “day off.” The Holy Family Catholic High School senior has 15 minutes to load groceries and get to the Holy Family parking lot to pick up a group of waiting freshmen ready for their first Simpson House experience in Minneapolis.

The goal: Serve a hot breakfast by 7 a.m. to homeless men and women who stayed at the shelter the previous night. It’s a simple gesture that means so much. Taking the time to serve a hearty meal and start someone’s day with a smile and a kind word.

“Simpson House is a great hands-on service project because you can see the people you are impacting,” says Lund, who learned the ropes two years ago as a sophomore. “I like seeing the people I’m helping, and it has a big impact on me as well. That’s why it’s my favorite service activity.”

Project Owned by Students

Lund and fellow senior leaders Alexis Pricco and Mark Haran have Holy Family alumnus Rob LaRose (2013) to thank for the early morning wake-ups. LaRose personally launched the service project his junior year, and it has become an ongoing tradition. The students completely organize the program, buy groceries and visit the Simpson House 15 to 18 times each year on days off, late-start days and even during the summer.

“It is unusual for a student group not to have adult supervision,” says John Vodicka, Simpson House Volunteer Coordinator & Shelter Advocate. “It says a lot about the students and their abilities, and the confidence Holy Family Catholic High School staff have in the youth.

“The students are unique in lots of ways,” he adds, “particularly in their genuine interest in serving the homeless poor, getting outside their comfort zone and spending time learning about what must be done to eliminate homelessness in our community.”

John Dols, Assistant Principal and Campus Minister, recalls how LaRose’s passion to make a difference at the Simpson House planted the seeds for a program that is now a Holy Family Catholic High School tradition.

“Rob served dinner there with his family and wondered what they did for breakfast,” Dols explains. “He found out they would have cold cereal or nothing at all. He decided to make a difference, and that he and his family would serve breakfast on his birthday.

“Then, he suggested to me that Holy Family should serve breakfast on days off and late starts. I totally supported that, but told him he would have to run it. He did for two years, and we both decided he needed to train a junior to take over if he wanted to keep it going.”

Reaching Out to Others

Six years later, students continue to make sure the Simpson House tradition carries on. Senior leaders this year took it even a step further, visiting the freshman Independent Studies (I.S.) class to recruit volunteers so they could see what the Simpson House service project is all about.

“We thought it would be good to get all grades involved this year,” Lund says. “It was actually surprising that the kids were so eager to go. We already have people for next time.”

On average, 45 to 50 Simpson House guests stay for breakfast before they have to leave the shelter each morning. Students organizing the project, who shop for groceries the night before, still use the original grocery list created by LaRose 6 years ago.

“Sometimes we change it up, making French toast instead of pancakes, or bacon instead of sausage,” Lund says. Otherwise, the list is fairly consistent. It includes:

  • 7 cartons of 18 eggs
  • 2 bags of cheese
  • 2 bags of precooked sausage
  • 2 boxes of pancake mix
  • 2 bags/containers of grapes, strawberries or other fruit
  • 4 gallons of milk
  • 1 gallon of chocolate milk
  • 2 gallons of orange juice
  • 2 gallons of apple juice
  • 2 bottles of syrup
  • 1 pound of butter
  • 1 package of napkins
  • 1 container of whipped cream

“I think it is important for Holy Family to continue this service tradition and make sure it is student led,” Lund adds. “ It gives students a chance to take leadership, organize and get kids together so they can see how they have an impact on others. That is really important.”

Dols agrees. “Sometimes, adults get in the way. This program is the students’. There is a true sense of ownership and pride,” he says. “Service is integral to our faith and an essential aspect of our Lasallian Charism. It is who we are.”

Watch Simpson House Slideshow

Big Turnout for the New Business & Marketing Club

Shark sighting! At Holy Family Catholic High School? Business sharks, that is. Nearly 30 students met at Holy Family on October 5 to kick off the newest extracurricular academic activity­ —the Holy Family Business & Marketing Club.

The big turnout shows strong interest from its leaders, parents and students in expanding Holy Family’s business offerings. And it dovetails seamlessly with the Holy Family Catholic High School goal of providing academic and extracurricular activities that allow students to gain real-life experiences.

“Many of you said you want to figure out if business is what you want to do in college and for a career,” Robb Richter said to a packed room of seniors who attended the kickoff meeting. “If you eventually decide business is what you want to pursue, you’ll learn enough here alone that should help you get that internship as a freshman.”

Richter, a Holy Family parent and, more importantly, an accomplished business leader in corporate acquisitions, is taking a no-nonsense approach when sharing his knowledge with this group of highly engaged students. Here are just a few thoughts he offered at the first meeting:

  • “I have been inside companies so deep that things scare me. You’re going to learn why we didn’t buy those companies.”
  • “If asking for money, wear a tie or break out your best.”
  • “So many companies have debt. It’s become a way of doing business. If you can avoid it, don’t do it.”
  • And when it comes to a company’s vision, “If you don’t outline what your organization wants to be or how it wants the world to see it, you won’t get past the first meeting.”

How much more real-life can you get?

Richter’s plan for the Business & Marketing Club goes deeper than sharing personal experiences. It’s a hands-on approach that gives the students full exposure to broad business topics to help them get a sense of which business tracks interest them most.

Twenty-eight sessions are scheduled throughout the school year, all conducted in the evenings, with students attending on their own time. The first nine meetings are already planned, and students will weigh in on where the program goes from there. Topics to be covered include:

  • Creating a corporate vision and mission
  • Understanding EBITA, COGS, GM and IRR
  • Creating effective business presentations
  • Understanding corporate financial statements
  • Outlining the nuts and bolts of marketing and advertising
  • Building resumes and talented teams

Also planned are field trips to Twin Cities businesses and visits from corporate leaders who will share their real-world knowledge.

The club’s sequence culminates with the students pitching their own business ideas to “shark investors” in a real boardroom. By that time, they’ll be prepared to answer the tough questions, while putting their business savvy and creativity to the test.

“I hope you get something out of this that is different from what you get every day in school,” Richter said to the students attending the kickoff.

The Holy Family Business & Marketing Club is open to current seniors at Holy Family High School, with the pilot year helping establish a broader plan for Holy Family’s curricular business offerings.

“While I was a member of the strategic planning committee, the idea of some type of business program surfaced multiple times and the demand for it was also voiced in surveys and focus groups,” Richter shares. “These seniors will help formulate the next iteration of what business and marketing education becomes for future Holy Family students.”

And that, by definition, is entrepreneurial!

Check out more activities at Holy Family

60-Plus Holy Family Extracurricular Activities

We’ve all been there. We invest in all kinds of activities for our kids to pursue. It’s part of the growing process: developing the whole person, not just academically, but physically, socially and emotionally.

Then, as high school nears, that little voice sounds the alarm in the back of a parent’s head. Is my daughter or son good enough to make the team? Can they continue with music? Get a part in the play? Compete with other students? Is high school the end of the line?

“It’s interesting comparing Holy Family to other large schools in the area,” says Activities Director Nick Tibesar. “We have kids staying with programs longer than what I saw in public schools. So often, in other schools, kids come in playing ball with friends during their summers and evenings, sometimes for years, and all of a sudden they end up as a high school freshman and sophomore not on a team anymore.”

Not at Holy Family Catholic High School. Here, students get an opportunity to participate in the sports and many other activities they are most passionate about. Plus, they often discover a wide variety of other sports, academic teams, clubs and activities they never considered.

“We encourage kids to try new things and stretch limits,” Nick says. “We want them to be involved in multiple things to fight some of the outside pressure to specialize in just one of them.”

Smaller School Size, Big Opportunities

With a student body of 400 kids, Holy Family provides unlimited opportunities to explore new things. Students often participate in more than one activity, not just during the school year, but also during a single season.

“When looking at sports, there are students who were on the trap and lacrosse teams, or tennis, track and baseball,” Nick says. “But more common is a kid who participates in both a sport and one of our academic competitions.

“We had a player on our basketball team who also was on our varsity Math League team. As a coach, I recall a half dozen times he had to go to Math League. No one acted like that was strange or gave him a hard time. We said, ‘How did Math League go? And cool you’re doing so well.’

“It’s fun to be in a culture where someone is not ostracized for picking academics over athletics.”

Endless Opportunities

With over 60 extracurriculars to choose from, your Holy Family student is destined to pursue his or her talents, while trying new activities outside of the classroom.

“There are a lot of people who chose Holy Family for the right reasons—faith-based environment, college prep, joining a community where their student is known and cared for,” Nick adds. “All of those things extend to our classroom, lunchroom and after-school activities.

“We consider extracurricular activities the last class of the day. And, they provide the same values as everything else at Holy Family.”


92% of Holy Family students participate in extracurricular activities

90% of Holy Family students participate in multiple extracurricular activities in a school year

60+ Holy Family extracurricular activities are offered each school year


British Isles Capitals Tour

By Maggie Berg ‘19

In June, a group of 50 Holy Family students, adult chaperones, and teachers traveled to the capitals of the British Isles for an educational enrichment summer trip. Junior Maggie Berg ’19 kept a travel log to share their experiences.

Thursday, June 15, 2017 – Off to London

Our large group showed up at the MSP airport for an early flight to Chicago. After a quick flight, we made our way onto the largest plane that most of us have ever been on with nine seats across. Filled with so much excitement, many couldn’t sleep while others dozed during the 8-hour flight.

Friday, June 16, 2017 – Our First Day in London

When we got off the plane, it was technically Friday; we gained six hours flying from the Midwest to London. We scrambled off the plane filled with excitement and climbed on a bus for our first day of touring London.
The first thing we noticed is that in Europe, they drive on the left side of the road and the drivers’ seats are on the right side of the car. This is because when people used to ride horses they would ride on the left so they could hold their swords in their right hand during a duel or, instead, extend a hand peacefully.

Our first stop in London was the Covent Garden for lunch, shopping, and entertainment. In the main square, there was an entertaining street performer on a unicycle and lots of different types of architecture. To get around the city, all 50 of us took London’s subway transportation, the Tube, for the first time. We were overwhelmed by the new experience of subway lines and routes, but would soon master them.

Everywhere we went there were new people to meet and we enjoyed listening to their British accents. Our next stop was Trafalgar Square, which had the National Gallery, Nelson’s Column and multiple statues. From the top of Nelson’s Column we could had a perfect view of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. These breathtaking sights made us excited for the rest of the journey. We enjoyed a dinner of chicken and mashed potatoes at a pub and then headed to the hotel.

Saturday, June 17, 2017 – Visits to famous places and glimpse of the Queen

Today our local tour guide took our bus around the bank area of London. We jumped off the bus in front of building across from St. Paul’s Cathedral and took a quick elevator to the top for the best view in all of London. All of London’s most famous buildings were visible in the distance.

Our next stop was the Prince Albert Memorial commissioned by his wife, Queen Victoria, after his death. She lived 40 years longer and only wore black after he died.

We visited Westminster, which has Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Parliament building. The tower that everyone thinks is Big Ben is actually called the Elizabeth Tower and the bell inside is Big Ben.

From Westminster we hopped onto the bus to Windsor, a small town where Windsor Castle, the residence of Queen Elizabeth is located. Windsor had fun shops and restaurants. At the top of the hill was Windsor Castle. The castle has multiple buildings; the oldest was built in 1070.
While we were there, the Queen was returning from her “birthday” celebration in London, and we saw her she rode by in her black Range Rover.

After visiting the castle, we returned to London for fish and chips, a classic British meal. That night, the majority of our group went on the Jack the Ripper tour. The tour brought us to the East End of London, away from tourists. The tour put us back in the late 1800’s and we were brought on the path of the murders committed by a man no one has ever been able to convict or identify. We were able to put ourselves back in time as witnesses as we listened to the tour guide explain to us the evidence and different conspiracy theories that are still being discussed to this day. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017 – Sunday Mass at St. Paul’s Basilica

In the morning, we went to St. Paul’s Basilica for Sunday Mass. This service was different from home for all of us; it was a music-less Mass, everything was spoken. Everything was nice and direct and finished in 45 minutes. The rest of the day was free time until dinner. Most of us checked out the infamous luxury department store, Harrods. Others went on a Harry Potter tour, which brought them to different locations where the movies were filmed.

Monday, June 19, 2017 – Leaving the busyness of London

Today we took a train all the way through England north to Scotland. There were many rolling green hills and a calm peacefulness compared to the busyness of London. We toured Edinburgh on the bus and then drove up the hill to Edinburgh Castle. The castle overlooks the entire city of Edinburgh. After we toured the castle, the time was ours to explore different parts of the town and shops. The roads were filled with hundreds of people and many bagpipe players. For dinner we ate at the Spirit of Scotland. Some people tried Haggis, which is a traditional Scottish meet, or sheep heart. We ate and enjoyed a traditional Scottish performance from singers, dancers, a violinist, and a bagpipe player– a true delightful taste of Scottish culture.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – From Scotland to Northern Island

We all took a bus to Cairnryan, Scotland, and then a ferry to Belfast in Northern Ireland. The ferry was similar to a cruise ship with lots of seats, entertainment, and food. After we arrived in Belfast, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Irish Sea. Of course, we had a potato dinner, a typical meal in Ireland. It was fun to think that today we woke up in Scotland and went to bed in Ireland.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 – On the edge of Ireland

In the morning we all drove to Bushmills, Northern Ireland. The drive was beautiful with rolling green hills and many sheep, but on top of that was a stop to Giant’s Causeway. We walked down and we were literally on the edge of Ireland and could see where the land cuts off at a cliff. As we walked down toward the shore, there were these amazing hexagonal shaped rocks to climb. They were formed from volcanic activity over 60 million years ago. We soon learned of the legends of the rocks that say they were rocks thrown into the sea by giant Finn McCool.
Later, we visited the other side of Northern Ireland called Londonderry or Derry, a naming dispute between the nationalists and the unionists. Derry has a recent history of attacks from the Irish Republican Army, also known as the IRA, and lots of peaceful movements to unite the Protestant and Catholic sides of town. There were many peace murals and a peace bridge connecting the two sides of town. After a long day of touring all of Northern Ireland, we landed back in Belfast for dinner at our hotel.

Thursday, June 22, 2017 – An afternoon at the Titanic Belfast

Today we took a tour around Belfast and got off the bus to sign the peace wall and leave our mark in Ireland. We learned some Irish slang like the word “crack” means “fun” and “boot” is a trunk of a car.

After the tour we visited the Titanic museum. The museum is as tall as the original Titanic and is built to look like the iceberg that it hit. The Titanic was constructed in Belfast and cranes used to build the ship remain standing. We were supposed to drive straight from the museum to Dublin, Ireland. We left Belfast and 15 minutes later, our bus broke down. After two hours waiting for bus, we were began the 2-hour bus ride to Dublin, Ireland. We enjoyed the whole Irish experience by eating dinner at a pub and then we were off to the “hotel”.

It wasn’t quite a hotel. Technically called “student accommodations”, it was a boarding school and its property was quite cool. We were all able to explore the grounds including an old castle on campus. There was a tunnel made out of bushes tall enough to fit our whole tour group. They also had “footgolf” which is like a combination of soccer and golf. A small group of us took a walk from our accommodations to the Irish Sea. The ocean was beautiful and we found some great shells and met an adorable puppy.

Friday, June 23, 2017 – A day to explore

Today was our exploration day in Dublin, Ireland. We saw many important landmarks including St. Patrick’s Cathedral. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. We saw the Book of Kells, which is the oldest book containing the four Gospels and is housed at Trinity College. We then had free time to shop around and visit different museums. We met for an Irish meal of beef and potatoes. Some people stayed at the dinner longer for an Irish dance performance while others went back to the accommodations for free time. For our last night in the British Isles we ordered a late night snack of many giant pizzas for all of us to share.

Saturday, June 24, 2017 – Back to home

We woke up at five in the morning to start our long trek home. After a flight delay we finally made it on the plane for an 8-hour flight to Chicago. Because our flight was delayed, we missed our connection, so instead were once again on a bus for six-hour ride home. We were reunited with our families, dogs, and friends. We also brought back many new experiences and stories to share.

The opportunity to travel throughout the British Isles was an amazing experience. Seeing the sights we’d only read about in our textbooks helped us all learn so much more about the history and cultures of the countries we visited. We have gained a new knowledge of people and places around the world and let’s hope that’s just the beginning. The whole experience made the countless hours of traveling and the patience needed to enjoy a new part of the world worth it.

See a video of their trip HERE. View a gallery of Maggie’s photos from the trip HERE.

2017 Ready Tee Fire is a huge success!

Thank you to the sponsors, golfers, and volunteers who made the 2017 Ready Tee Fire Golf Classic a HUGE success! This year’s event was one of the largest in our 21-year history with a full field of 145 golfers and a record number of alumni participating. The event raised a budget-breaking $45,000 of net proceeds to support Holy Family programs.

2017 Ready Tee Fire Golf Classic winning teams are:

Open Division: Noel Rahn, Rich Balm, Tom Peterson, Joe Gleason
Second Place: Tim Browne, Andy Olson, John Bohmbach, Jim Bergerson
Alumni Division: Ryan Swanson ’14, Dylan Woolf ’14, AJ Spaulding’14, and Joey Marooney ’14
Women’s/Mixed Division: Chris Moakley, Marty Moakley, Meaghan  Moakley ’13, and Mike Brennan

2017 on-course game winners are:

Hole #2 Closest to the Pin: Karen Menzuber
Hole #4 Men’s Longest Drive: Tom Peterson
Hole #4 Women’s Longest Drive: Alexis Pricco ’18
Hole #9 Longest Putt: Mike Iversen
Hole #10 Women’s Longest Drive: Meaghan Moakley ’13
Hole #10 Men’s Longest Drive: Adam Dooley
Hole #16 Closest to the Pin: Joe Finley
Hole #18 Longest Putt: Jeff Felmlee ’08

Thank you to the following generous sponsors:

Platinum Sponsor
Strom Engineering

Silver Sponsors
Klein Bank
Rahr Manufacturing
PK Services

Bronze Sponsor
BiG Athletics

Prize Sponsors
2nd Swing

Friends Sponsors
Merrill Lynch/The Polhen Terris Group
Charter Bank

This event would not be possible without our 14 student volunteers and 11 adult volunteers. Thank you for your time!

Click HERE to see the Facebook album of the day.