Our Team

Russ Gregg

Head of School & Co-Founder, Hope Academy


Background: Russ Gregg (B.A., Global Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison) has served as Head of School since Hope Academy’s founding in 2000. He has been a resident of the Phillips neighborhood since 1994. In 1999, he was an administrator at Calvin Christian School in Edina, and quit his job to help lay the groundwork for a Christian school for his urban neighbors. Russ and his wife Phyllis, who also teaches at Hope Academy, live four blocks away from the school. They have three grown children. Russ serves on the Board of Directors of the Society for Classical Learning. Russ Gregg is available to serve as a speaker or panelist. Russ has served on the Board of Directors of the Society for Classical Learning and writes and speaks nationally on Christian classical education in under-resourced communities. To contact Russ Gregg about speaking opportunities, email spreadinghopenetwork@gmail.com.

Areas of Expertise and Topics: Visionary Leadership, Governance, School Culture, Classical Education The Achievement Gap, Urban Christian Education, The Case for Christian Schooling, Sermons on various Biblical passages

Dan Olson

Executive Director, Spreading Hope Network


Background: Dan Olson serves as Executive Director of Spreading Hope Network, where he oversees strategic direction, networking urban Christian educators, and serving aspiring school planting groups in discerning the call to start and lead new schools in their communities. He also serves as Managing Director of Anselm House, a center for Christian study at the University of Minnesota. For three years, he directed the donor ministries team of the The Gospel Coalition, after having overseen advancement and operations at Hope Academy from 2006-2014. Dan began his career in Christian Education at Minnehaha Academy, where he taught English Literature, Speech and Debate. He received his bachelor’s degree in communications from Wheaton College (IL), and a master’s degree in Christian Studies from Regent College (Vancouver, Canada). In addition to helping lead children’s ministry at his church, he serves on the board of directors of Hope Academy. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Lucy, and their four children.

Areas of Expertise and Topics: Christian Stewardship and Development Model, Governance, School Operations and Policy, Leadership Assessment

Debbie Harris

Educational Coordinator, Spreading Hope Network

Background: Debbie Harris graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a Bachelors Degree in Liberal Studies (with a California K-8 certification) and has spent fifteen-plus years as a classroom educator, primarily in the elementary grades. She has taught at Foundations Academy in Boise, Idaho and at Hope Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she has also served as Dean of Teaching Staff and Curriculum. Debbie has focused on mentoring teachers in classroom management strategies and classical techniques since 2002. She has also been a speaker and consultant with the CiRCE Institute. She lives in Oakdale, Minnesota with her husband and two sons.

Areas of Expertise and Topics: Classroom Governance, Classical Pedagogy, Elementary Curriculum and Instruction, Coaching Teachers, Shepherding a Child’s Heart

The Problem

We believe the persistent achievement gap among at risk youth in our nation’s cities reflects a crisis of access: a famine of educational opportunity centered on God and His Word. Public and charter educational approaches aren’t able to address the heart of the issue.

Our Solution

Spreading Hope seeks to serve at risk youth in urban communities by serving Christian leaders called to start and lead schools inspired by Hope Academy’s model.

Join other leaders who are pursuing the remarkable!

Our Vision

Our vision is to aid in the planting and strengthening of locally run urban classical Christian schools who embrace our six school culture values, our five core distinctives, and our Grow Slow approach (see Russ Gregg’s “Dream Big, Start Small, Grow Slow” talk here).

Today, Hope Academy serves nearly 500 students k-12 in urban Minneapolis, with 75% of our student population meeting low income guidelines. Roughly 90% of funding ($4.5 million in 2016-2017) coming from private philanthropy, and ~10% coming through a “family share” tuition amount – with most families paying between $75-90/month total, regardless of the number students enrolled.

Spreading Hope was founded thanks to generous support of donors to the Growing Hope Campaign and in response to the outpouring of requests from groups to visit Hope Academy to learn how they can start a school in their city.

What We Offer You

Spreading Hope exists to ignite a movement of God-centered schools serving at-risk youth in our nation’s cities. We spread the model of Hope Academy in Minneapolis – a leading school in the classical, Christ-centered, urban schooling movement.

  • Initial $25K Seed Money 100% 100%
  • Hope Academy Proven Model 100% 100%
  • Ongoing Leadership Consulting 100% 100%
  • Nuts & Bolts How To Plan 100% 100%

Hope Academy is a flagship for our Christian schools. The development and growth of Christian schools like Hope Academy is so encouraging. CSI is excited by the school planting efforts of the Spreading Hope team.

Jeff Blamer

President, Christian Schools Intl. (Grand Rapids, MI)

I am so thankful for Hope Academy and the Spreading Hope team. We started our school for low income urban youth in 2014 and are now serving nearly 80 students in grades K-5. I simply can’t imagine where we would be without their support and direction. 

Doug Fern

Head of School, Faith Academy (Iowa City, IA)