In my 20 years of academic leadership, I have given significant consideration to how schools can best help young people to succeed. While recognizing there are various factors, I consistently return to a mindset of service as a key differentiator. What our students soon realize is acting from a mindset of service not only benefits others, it serves the person conducting acts of generosity and care by providing a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Our service immersion trips are transformative, life changing experiences. Our Eagles today are working toward a better future for themselves and others.
Every Student Matters at TG, October 2019
While watching Totino-Grace athletic teams this past week, I was reminded of the word “ubuntu.” It is often translated to mean: “I am because we are.” Ubuntu was made widely known by Nelson Mandela during his fight to end apartheid in South Africa.
Ubuntu was also the adopted motto of Totino-Grace’s 2017 state champion boys soccer team. The team played with such obvious joy as well as with and for one another. The seniors set the tone and the younger players felt respected and important. I have no doubt that the coaches helped their players become both better soccer players and better people. The team was easy to cheer on.
During the playoff run, head coach Bill Vance was quoted in a Star Tribune interview saying, “We can’t be our best selves without one another. We lean on each other and that’s the essence of what a team is.”
I’ve thought about Coach Vance’s words often and believe, in general, his sentiments reflect Totino-Grace as a whole. In one way or another, these words are lived every day at our school. You see it in our classrooms; within our service program; among our teams and ensembles. Most important, you feel it when we pray together.
Without a doubt, the first message we want our students to understand at TG is that they matter. Their voice counts. How our students feel about themselves, their classmates, and their teachers is foremost on our minds at all times. Perhaps this is why our students like coming to school -- because they feel respected. This may not seem so remarkable, but what we emphasize at TG is not always experienced at other high schools.
I was having lunch with freshmen a couple of weeks ago. One young man in the group came to TG from a public school. I asked him about the most significant difference between Totino-Grace and his previous school. He thought for a moment and said, “It seems that the teachers trust the students here.” He then added, “They also act like they like us.” If these are first quarter takeaways from one of our newest students, he is right on and an incredible, transformative experience is ahead for him and his classmates at our school.
I am because we are. That’s TG.
Live Jesus in our hearts. Forever!
Dr. Craig W. Junker, President
The first days at a new school can be daunting for any student but especially students who don't know many of their classmates, which is why Totino-Grace handles these initial days with great purpose. Orientation Day ends when the students file into the gymnasium for a final reflection. As the students enter, every TG teacher and staff member is lined up near the entrance and enthusiastically applauds the students as they take a seat on the bleachers. Clearly, the students don't know this will happen until it is taking place, and their expressions are priceless. They see that they are cared about by all adults in our building. This tradition is our way of welcoming our students to our school community. This ritual also signifies to students that Totino-Grace is a different type of school, one that will invest in them in a very deep and personal manner.
In 1966, our school was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the De La Salle Christian Brothers. We continue to remember with gratitude the ministry and sacrifice of the brothers and sisters in beginning our school and forming the strong, vibrant faith community that is Totino-Grace.
Let us remember in this Easter season that Christ has risen. He has defeated death and brought us life. My prayer is that we look for tenderness and love to always guide us. I hope you have a blessed Easter.
I have the privilege of cheering on our students in their co-curricular pursuits and am often asked about my favorite activity. It may be tempting to reply by naming a certain team, but the truth is that I am a fan of our students and cherish watching our students and teams perform. What an incredible week it's been for Totino-Grace!