Unity High School is now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 academic year. Beginning its first year of operation this fall here at Mary, Mother of the Church, Unity High School will initially offer a 9th-grade class. For more information and to register, please visit unityhighschoolmn.com
Unity High School will combine a standard Liberal-Arts-plus-science-and-math curriculum with an emphasis on leadership education designed to develop character, virtue and a desire to serve. The UHS education program provides the ideal foundation for students who hope to succeed in college, pursue a trade or join the military.
Catholicism as a foundation
UHS will expose students to the beauty of Catholicism and educate them in the truth of the Church so that they truly know what it means to be Catholic. The school’s intent is for its students to develop a Catholic worldview with God at the center. The weekly schedule at UHS includes Mass three days per week, daily prayer, weekly examine, and opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. All UHS teachers take a public oath of fidelity to the Magisterium at the beginning of the school year. UHS enjoys a meaningful relationship with its host parish, Mary, Mother of the Church, its pastor Father Jim Perkl, and expects to become an important part of its youth group for extra-curricular faith-development activities such as retreats and pilgrimages.
Teenagers typically face extreme pressure to achieve academically, specialize early, and focus on the materialist goals of the secular world. The result is unprecedented levels of depression and anxiety among teens, isolation, inability to connect or communicate with others, and even suicidal ideation. Unity High School will help teens see the bigger picture, develop their faith, and grow in love for God, their neighbor and themselves. The leadership education and virtue development built into the core curriculum at UHS is meant to help students rejoice in the goodness, truth, and beauty of our world – an emphasis that is so commonly missed in the traditional approach to high school education.
Old educational paradigms based on rote memorization, cramming to study material that is forgotten the moment the test is over, or recitation of facts now readily provided by Siri and Alexa are not preparing today’s young people for the economy of the future. Unity High School will help students develop the skills necessary for effective reasoning, problem-solving, and entrepreneurial visualization. Furthermore, they will be given the tools to take the next step – appropriate action, guided by faith and reason.
A school for every student
Whether your student typically earns ‘A’s and ‘B’s or struggles to earn average grades, UHS should be a fit. While academic achievers will thrive at the school, so will hands-on learners, reluctant class participants, those needing a little extra assistance and others often left behind. With an emphasis on a core curriculum of leadership, literature, science, math, foreign language, religion, and history, UHS will emphasize education that teaches students how to think and how to turn that thought into meaningful action that serves family, parish, community or country.
Courses are delivered using a variety of means including lecture, discussion, demonstration, hands-on learning, projects, and presentation, both individually and in groups. Math and foreign language courses will be presented primarily via computer with the assistance of on-site educators. Computers allow for courses to be targeted to the readiness levels of individual students. Computers will remain in the school, be programmed for specific uses and operated under staff supervision.
Standard courses will be delivered four days per week, with Wednesdays reserved for education in leadership, character, life skills and service. These courses often will feature presentations by guests, or involve field trips. Wednesday also is the day for specialized courses in subjects such as financial literacy, computer coding, Minnesota history, economics, and vocational exploration.
Striving for excellence both in and out of the classroom
In its early years, the school will offer extra-curricular activities according to the interests of the students, parents, and staff. Coaches are expected to come from the volunteer ranks of parents. The school will focus on sports which require minimal resources, such as cross country running, basketball and track. The goal of extra-curricular athletics is to give students an opportunity to learn teamwork, self-discipline, perseverance, as well as gracious winning and losing. The general philosophy for the teams will be that everyone gets a chance to play. Teams will avoid practice/game schedules that keep them away from family dinner on weekdays; activity on Sundays will be avoided. The teams are expected to make an important contribution to the building of school spirit.
It is further anticipated the school will offer non-athletic extra-curricular activities, again reflecting the interests of the students, parents, and staff. Possible activities include mock trial, speech, quiz bowl, theatrical productions, yearbook, band, and choir. There also may be opportunities for students to form and run a school-based business.
Recognizing parents as the primary educator of their children, the school will make every effort to work with parents. Homework loads and expectations for extra-curricular activities will respect the need for ample family time, particularly on weekends.
A place for the whole family
Unity High School is committing to operate in a frugal and efficient manner in order to offer a tuition rate far lower than other private high schools in the region. The tuition for UHS for the 2019-20 academic year is $6,500. Much work has been done to try to reduce or eliminate the barrier of a tuition rate beyond the means of typical families in the South Metro. The financial structure of the school itself is meant to provide an important lesson to students: that it is possible to do a lot with a little, that thrift is virtuous, that numerous public assets are available for everyone’s use, and that nothing should be wasted.
Unity High School is expected to be a small school – perhaps fewer than 25 students in its initial years, possibly growing to as many as 300 students by its 10th year. UHS strives for both academic and practical excellence, emphasizing the importance of clear thinking and purposeful action. At UHS, faith and reason are acknowledged as inseparable. While UHS is a great school for the academic achiever who loves to read, it is also the place for students who prefer hands-on learning. The school is a fit for any student who intends upon graduation to continue their schooling, enter the full-time workforce, or join a branch of the military.
Meet the founders
The school is being initiated by Tom Bengtson and Matt Birk. Tom co-founded Chesterton Academy in 2008 and served as its chairman for seven years. Tom is a successful small business owner, and a recipient of a Catholic Spirit “Leading with Faith” award. Tom is the author of two books and has been involved in numerous faith-oriented initiatives for decades. Tom and his wife Susan have raised four children and are members of St. Anne’s Parish in Hamel. Matt is a former Minnesota Viking and Baltimore Raven football player, winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2013. He is a Harvard graduate with a degree in economics. He grew up in St. Paul, attending Cretin High School. He is a devoted Catholic, actively involved with Catholic Schools Center of Excellence, many pro-life organizations and other Catholic initiatives. He and his wife have eight children and they are members of St. Joseph’s Parish in West St. Paul.
This website articulates key details about the school. Many of the details are preliminary and are subject to change.
Your thoughts/comments/suggestions are welcome; contact Tom Bengtson at TomBengtson@hotmail.com.
The working name is Unity High School. The school is an effort to unite people around the Incarnation, our Lord, Jesus Christ. The name also represents the personal integrity UHS works to develop in all its students. At a time when so many secular forces work to divide us against each other, UHS seeks the unity Christ referenced in John 17:21, stating, “That they may all be one…” Upon authorization from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the school’s name likely will change to Unity Catholic High School.
The vision for Unity High School is to serve families by educating their teens to become virtuous, clear-thinking Catholics committed to faithfully serving their households, communities, parishes and the common good through pursuits that make the most of their knowledge, skills and personal gifts.
Serving families in the South Metro, Unity High School provides education in a thoroughly Catholic environment that is designed to help students succeed whether they choose to pursue higher education, discern the religious life, join the military or enter the full-time workforce.
Unity High School is organized around four pillars:
The Foundation of the four pillars is the Catholic Faith.
- All programs and activities at Unity High School are presented in alignment with the Catholic faith for the glory of God.
- Parents are the primary educators for their children. Unity High School faculty and staff work transparently in collaboration with parents.
- The school maintains high expectations for student conduct. Unity High School faculty, staff and volunteer leadership are committed to modeling and promoting positive character development through intentionally teaching qualities such as respect, gratitude, compassion, integrity, cooperation, self-mastery, responsibility and perseverance.
- Both academic knowledge and practical skills are necessary for success in today’s world. Unity High School curriculum and programs are designed to help students learn how to think, based on a broad foundation of knowledge, as well as to learn practical skills, reflective of both timeless needs and current trends.
Successful teams are intentional about the culture they create at their organization. School leadership will be responsible for cultivating a UHS culture characterized by:
- Joy that comes from being in relationship with Jesus Christ
- A hopeful outlook on the world
- Respect for the human dignity of everyone
- Teaching and instructing that leverages a sense of wonder
- Correction that encourages rather than punishes
- A desire to engage rather than to isolate from the world
- To combine the best of the Liberal Arts, science, math, character development and leadership to offer a curriculum that develops students as both thinkers and doers
- To provide a small-school educational experience where no student goes unnoticed, unchallenged or unappreciated
- To maximize the use of community assets so school resources can be focused on the delivery of our core education
- To selectively engage business, civic and church leaders in the education of our students in order to give students practical, real-world experiences which will help prepare them for adulthood
- To run a high-performing, fiscally-sound, model school
Students will be prepared for the next phase of their life and for life because they will have:
- An understanding and appreciation for the beauty and genius of the Catholic Faith
- A heart for service, looking for what they can do for others
- An ability to have true, authentic relationships based on the ‘good’ in themselves and others
- Developed communication skills, creativity, critical thinking, and ability to work within a team, empathy and resilience.
1. The tuition to attend Unity High School for the 2019-20 academic year is $6,500.
2. There is no application fee. Book fee and technology fee are included in tuition.
3. A $500 down payment is required at the time of application. Tuition payments of $3,000 are due on Sept. 1, 2019 and Jan. 1, 2020.
4. Families with multiple students at Unity High School at the same time are charged $6,000 annual tuition for each of the subsequent students. The $500 application fee applies to each application (each student).
5. $250 of the down payment is refundable should family withdraw application prior to August 1, 2019.
6. Should Unity High School decline the application, the full down payment amount will be returned.
7. For future years, it is anticipated the tuition rate will increase approximately 2 to 3 percent per year.
8. Applications will be considered as they come in. Families are encouraged to submit applications as early as possible.
9. The application process includes a student interview. School will contact applicant to arrange for the interview, which may last approximately 20 minutes.
10. Prior to admittance to Unity High School, incoming students will take a placement exam, scheduled in May. (Two days are likely to be offered as testing options.)
11. Families that believe they may need financial assistance to meet the tuition obligation should complete the standard application, and include a note requesting tuition assistance information. Unity High School uses the TADS tuition assistance process; the amount of aid available each year will vary depending on the success of fundraising efforts
How many students are likely to attend UHS?
That’s always difficult to predict. Enrollment during the initial years of a school always is lighter than later years when the school is more established. There is sufficient population in the area to expect anywhere from 25 to 50 students in 9th grade the first year. After several years, it is anticipated the school will accommodate 300 or more students in grades 9 through 12.
Is the school accredited?
We are seeking accreditation though the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools, NAPCIS.
Will the teachers be licensed or certified?
Some members of the UHS faculty are expected to have a teachers’ license, master’s degree or certification, possibly through NAPCIS. Others will be part of the staff by virtue of experience or other demonstrated ability.
Will the curriculum satisfy standard college entrance requirements?
The UHS curriculum will exceed the requirements of the State of Minnesota for high school graduation. The school will offer courses designed to meet the entry requirements of most colleges and universities around the country.
Will there be a uniform?
Yes. Uniforms are designed to remove distractions, and eliminate concern about that to wear to school. The uniform has yet to be determined, but will be pants and shirt that can be worn outside of school without it obviously looking like a school uniform. Girls will have a skirt option.
Will lunch be provided?
Students and teachers will be expected to bring their own lunch.
Will there be a gym?
Currently, there is not a gym. However, the church owns a soccer field next to the school that can be used for physical education. The school will rent gym space in the area to use as necessary. If the school flourished, plans could be made to build a gymnasium.
Does the school have a patron saint?
Not yet, but we are open to suggestions. Send us a suggestion by email with a reason for proposing a particular saint.
Does the school have a mascot?
No on that one as well. Also looking for suggestions.
Does the school providing busing?
No. Students and parent will need to arrange for their own transportation. A large parking lot is available to accommodate those who drive to the school.
Is there financial aid available?
There may be a small amount of financial aid available to families that truly struggle to pay the full tuition. The school will use the TADS tuition management system. Families seeking financial aid should enroll and fill out the TADS tuition aid request. Money will be made available as it is available.
Who are the people involved with the school’s launch?
The founding team for Unity Catholic High School is made up of Tom Bengtson, Matt Birk, Fr. Jim Perkl, Nancy Arbogast and McKaela Laxen. Tom is a business owner who co-founded Chesterton Academy in 2008; Matt is a former professional football player with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens; Fr. Perkl is the Pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church, and Nancy is the parish business manager. McKaela is Tom’s assistant and a Catholic Studies graduate from the University of Saint Thomas. Each of them has a passion for Catholic education and a long history of involvement with a variety of Catholic endeavors.
What is the governing structure of the school?
The school will form an initial board of directors in the late spring of 2019. The board will meet at least quarterly, overseeing the work of the founding team and initial staff leadership, which will do most of the work to launch and establish the school. A permanent board, including a system for electing parents to the board, will be established during the school’s third year.
What will the role of fundraising be at Unity High School?
The goal of the school’s founders is to meet 90 percent of the operating budget with tuition revenue. The remainder will need to be made up with fundraising. Fundraising is important at any school; it is hoped that the vast majority of funds raised at UHS can be used for tuition aide, one-time expenses or special projects. The school has IRS 501(c)3 designation and can accept tax deductible donations.