A new partner: Creighton’s Magis program


This year marks the start of what will likely be an ongoing relationship between Ascension Catholic School and Creighton University. Sixth grade teacher Shamir Brice is earning his Master’s degree as a part of Creighton’s Magis Catholic Teacher Corps.


The program has been in existence since 2002, serving schools in Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin and South Dakota. The first teachers were placed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area last fall. In addition to Mr. Brice, there are two Magis participants at Cristo Rey and two at Risen Christ School. These teachers commit for two years to serve in the Catholic schools in which they are placed and to live simply based on professionalism, community and spirituality. The Magis teachers in the area live together in a Christian community, which provides a support network for them. They center their lives around spirituality and attend retreats with other Magis teachers.


Statistics show that the program is succeeding in its goal of developing a corps of talented, highly motivated and faith-filled educators to meet the needs of Catholic elementary and secondary schools:
82% of Magis graduates continue to teach in Catholic schools.
92% remain involved in education.
2,000 students are taught by Magis teachers annually, and that number is growing.


Shamir was attending John Carroll University near Cleveland, Ohio, when he heard about the Magis program. “Even though I was accepted into other programs like Teach for America, I choose Magis because I was committed to serving in a school community that embraced and shared the core principles of the Christian faith and strove for the excellence of all their students,” Shamir said.


He came to Ascension eager to learn from the other teachers and administrators here. “Working at Ascension has helped develop my communication, organizational and interpersonal skills. I think that I am a patient person naturally, and working with the scholars has shown me that patience is such an important skill in life. I feel that I am helping the scholars I work with to grow as young people and as Christians.” Faculty and staff have been very welcoming, he added. He finds they challenge him to be the best he can be as a person, a teacher and a Christian.


For more information on the Magis Catholic Teacher Corps., go to


Missing Mr. Harrison


This August, for the first time in 43 years, teacher Steve Harrison won’t be among the staff members welcoming scholars back to Ascension Catholic School. Mr. Harrison, a well-liked and highly respected 8th grade teacher, retired in spring.
“I love coming to school,” he said. “I’ll miss it because I loved teaching.”


Ascension was Mr. Harrison’s first and only teaching job. He graduated from college in December 1971 and was hired in August of 1972. Mary Hoff, a friend of his parents, had just retired from teaching 4th grade, and he was hired to replace her. He recalls interviewing with co-principals Sr. Mary and Sr. Patrice: “Five minutes in, they were explaining what kind of kids I was going to have in my classroom.”


Mr. Harrison taught 4th grade for three years. When a spot teaching junior high opened, he took it. The students he had during that first year of teaching became his students again the first year he taught 7th grade. “That’s why I stayed,” he said. “They were a great bunch of kids.”


Many of the students at that time came from families who were lifelong parishioners. Mr. Harrison got to know many of the kids and their families quite well.


Among the challenges of that era was the lack of formal curriculum. Teachers devised their own plans, which Mr. Harrison said was good in many ways. “I had to train myself to really be a teacher,” he said. The school days consisted of an hour and a half of literature and language arts, an hour and a half of math, and shorter lessons in social studies and religion.


He’s proud of the success of former students, many of whom are now doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professionals. He’s been invited to former students’ weddings and walked brides down the aisle. Now he hopes to have more time to golf, travel and read. He’s not sure of much else, except that he will miss Ascension. “This is a great place,” he said. “It fit me.”


What’s his secret to success as a teacher? “You have to let your true personality come through,” he said. “You have to get to know kids aside from the academics. Compliment them. They will let you into their world. When they know that you care about them, you will get performance out of them.” Flexibility was key to Mr. Harrison’s long teaching career. “You have to learn to bend and change, be open-minded, learn to adjust. Have a sense of humor. Tell kids when you were wrong.”


Kids want to learn, he added. “They will give you more than you ever imagined.”


Reinforcing the positive


Patriot Pesos were a hot commodity at Ascension Catholic School this year. The little red slips are part of the school’s behavior modification program, which is helping reinforce students’ good decisions.  “It’s a way for us to try to concentrate on the positive and reinforce positive behavior,” Principal Dorwatha Woods said. Scholars earned pesos for being respectful, responsible and safe.  Behaviors that earned pesos included listening to instructions, following directions, exercising self control, Christian kindness and good work. What can you buy with a Patriot Peso?  One student purchased the privilege of giving Art Teacher Dave Hoffmann a buzz cut!  Classes could pool their pesos for an extra field trip or pizza party.  Ms. Woods  offered a cooking class. The program paid off for both the staff and the students.

Ascension featured on TPT show


The partnership between MacPhail Center for Music and Ascension Catholic School, which has been flourishing for more than 25 years, is featured on a Twin Cities Public Television’s Minnesota Original show.  On the show, Principal Dorwatha Woods discusses the benefits the partnership has for Ascension students, including increased self esteem and proficiency in math.


See the show here.


Core Knowledge Heritage Night:

A chance to show what we’ve learned


Core Knowledge Heritage Night was a time to honor the many cultures represented at Ascension Catholic School, especially acknowledging our Hmong students this year, and demonstrate what our scholars have learned. “It’s a night to showcase who we are and what we are studying,” Principal Dorwatha Woods said.


Student performances in the church included a skit about the life of Frederic k Douglass, poems and songs sung by our school choir. A highlight of the evening was our children modeling their beautiful native clothing. Afterward, families shared a meal prepared by several Hmong families of egg rolls and fried rice. Student art work and other projects were displayed in the cafeteria.


Core Knowledge nights, held several times during the school year, highlight student learning in various areas or curriculum, including science and literature.


Here are some photos of the event.


Mentor relationships benefit all


Twenty-two of Ascension School’s 5th and 6th grade boys are participating in a new program called Leaders of the New School that pairs each one up with a high school student in a mentoring relationship. The high school mentors, all 9th graders at Robbinsdale Cooper High School, will visit Ascension once a month.  The students will get to know each other and participate together in life-strengthening activities.


The project, in its pilot year, is a joint effort of Hennepin Technical College’s Gear Up program (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs ) and TRIO: Educational Talent Search program. Both of these programs aim to help students complete high school and advance to post-secondary education.


Lisa Roney, director of the TRIO program, is one of the leaders of the mentorship program.  She said Ascension was chosen because the school shares those goals. “Ascension has that college-going mindset they instill in their students,” Ms.Roney said. Ascension also is a good fit because many of the high schoolers grew up in North Minneapolis, so they are familiar with its challenges.  There also are bilingual mentors for Spanish- and Hmong-speaking Ascension scholars.


“Our students want to be giving  back to their communities.  They can be role models for their communities.  When our boys are seniors, many of the younger boys will be 9th graders,” Ms. Roney said.


The program leaders hope to do a joint tour of Hennepin Technical College so all the students can see what college is like and experience some of the exciting possibilities of careers they may not have considered. Doing a ropes challenge course at Century College for team building is also possible.


After a successful pilot year, Ms. Roney said the program directors will seek grants from The Bush Foundation and My Brother’s Keeper to continue and possibly expand. Other leaders of the mentoring program are Jeremy Clark and Robert Walker, both from Hennepin Tech, and Andrew Woods,  9th Grade Dean of Students at Cooper High School.


“I’m really excited. I think this is going to be a good thing,” Ms. Roney said. “They boys really come through when they are mentoring and responsible for someone else.”

Students provide support to one another.

Filling the gap in dental health


Bringing dentists to the students who need them is the goal of a new partnership between Children’s Dental Services (CDS) and Ascension Catholic School.


CDS is a non-profit agency located in Northeast Minneapolis. The dentists, hygienists and technicians set up a mini dental office in the school. They bring all the equipment they need including an xray machine, dental chair and specialized tools.   Parents must sign their children up for the service, which includes xrays, cleaning, an examination and further treatment if necessary.


Dental care is something that is greatly lacking among Ascension students, Principal Dorwatha Woods said.  Many children are registered and will be receiving these services.


Learn more about Children’s Dental Services here.




Nutrition is an important part of learning


Parents and students alike are learning the importance of good nutrition on academic achievement and health at Ascension Catholic School.


All Ascension students get a very nutritious breakfast, lunch and snack each day; these meals include fresh fruits and vegetables and no preservatives.  The school also as been a “no-sugar zone” for many years.  Now, in partnership with Urban Ventures, the school is teaching how better nutrition can be incorporated into the students’ home lives.


At regular workshop nights, parents are learning that eating nutritiously can be economically possible ­– and tasty, too! They gain new insights into how to create meals quickly and cost effectively, according to Principal Dorwatha Woods. “Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to take all day,” Ms. Woods said.


Students are introduced  to new tastes and textures in an effort to  inspire them to choose more variety when they are preparing meals and snacks for themselves.

It’s Catholic Schools Week


This week, Jan. 25-31, is Catholic Schools Week, and Ascension Catholic School has much to celebrate!


“It’s important to highlight the impact of faith-based education on the moral climate of our society,” Principal Dorwatha Woods said. “Ascension Catholic School students are civically involved, morally conscious and academically strong. They are on a trajectory for a strong future.”


The school community is marking the week with three special events: One is DEAR time, a half hour when everyone in the school “Drops Everything to Read.” Another is Intercom Bingo, a student favorite.  And lastly, the school is holding an essay contest for students, who will write about what they like about Ascension School.


Everyone is welcome to join us for a school mass at 9:30 a.m. this Wednesday, Jan. 28, at Church of the Ascension. The school is also displaying students’ science projects at its Core Knowledge Science night, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29.


Families considering enrolling their children at Ascension are invited to a tour at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27.

A beautiful day for a marathon walk


The Ascension Catholic School community raised more than $17,000 in this year’s Marathon walk.


Each of the students asks family members and friends to make a gift to the school in exchange for the time spent walking.  All the school children line the sidewalk in front of the parish center on Bryant Ave. N, and are sent on their way by Pastor Fr. Michael O’Connell and Principal Dorwatha Woods.


The older children walk a route that stops at Boom Island on the Mississippi River; there they have a bit of time to play and relax. The younger children walk a shorter route.


Thank you to all who contributed to make this annual event a success.


Here are some scenes from the day:


 Welcome to our new website


When we began discussing updating our websites, our goals were to give you more information, more photos and make the sites more attractive and easier to use.  We think we accomplished those goals, and hope you will agree.


All of the enhancements you will find as you explore the new sites were done with YOU in mind.


Here are some highlights:

• The homepage will regularly feature news you can use to become more involved in and informed of the many activities swirling around our campus.

• There are links in the top left of the homepage that let you easily navigate between the Church of the Ascension site and the Ascension Catholic School site.

• The links at the top right of the homepage allow you to switch quickly between the Spanish and English language sites of both parish and school.

• Prayer requests for our parish Prayer Circle may now be submitted online through the Prayer button at the top right.  You will also find the School’s weekly Memory Scripture there and, on the parish site, a link to the next Sunday’s Scripture readings and a weekly reflection.

• Parent and Scholar Information is all accessible from one page.  You will find the weekly newsletter, school handbook and other important information there. Events for school families are listed on the Scholar and Family Calendar.

• If you’d like to visit our campus, you will find Mass times and special parish events on our parish calendar. Our school Community Event calendar lists opportunities for which you can register to come and learn how to engage as a volunteer or donor.

Please spend some time exploring, and come back often!


Ascension School receives $45,500 in grants


The Catholic Community Foundation has awarded grants totaling $45,500 to Ascension Catholic School for the 2014-15 school year; the money will provide tuition aid for families and general operating support.



These grants are made possible in part by generous donors who contributed to The Legacy Fund of the Catholic Community Foundation, an unrestricted fund dedicated to serving the greatest needs within our local Catholic community.


Anyone can give to the Catholic Community Foundation to support the spiritual, educational and social needs of our Catholic community. The Catholic Community Foundation is an autonomous organization that manages charitable funds and provides grants to parishes, schools and other nonprofits in our community.


For  information on contributing to existing funds that support Catholic ministries or to explore ways to support other causes, please contact Kelly Webster, Vice President of Development and Donor Engagement, at the Catholic Community Foundation, 651 389-0875.



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