Upper Mississippi Academy

A nonprofit organization

Upper Mississippi Academy is a public charter school providing high-quality education for students in grades 6-12. UMA’s experiential, collaborative environment encourages dynamic teaching and learning through an interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional instructional approach.

Our Vision

UMA — Diverse, Innovative, Inclusive, Supportive, Academic!

"My daughter loves school and is constantly telling me about her academic day. Learning through doing has made all the difference for her."

Our Mission

Fueled by curiosity, Upper Mississippi Academy serves our students and staff by engaging in innovative, authentic, and challenging educational experiences.

"UMA supports students and staff to investigate their passions through student-centered project-based learning. As a teacher, I can use the skills I've gained outside of teaching and bring them into the classroom to enrich students' learning. I choose to work at UMA because of the focus on building community within our school so the students learn important skills like empathy and social-emotional skills."

Our Approach

Framed by the outcomes and values of the four Learning Pathways, classes and courses at Upper Mississippi Academy incorporate a “teacher as designer approach” to promote student achievement and academic growth as well as to create an optimal environment for interdisciplinary instruction and multi-dimensional learning experiences.

Classes and courses are rigorous, relevant, and relational and, curriculum is built around the elements of experiential learning. 

Students engage in projects that:

  • Are interdisciplinary, self-directed and long-term;
  • Are connected to the local community;
  • Involve community experts;
  • Provide an opportunity for experimentation, failure, reflection and improvement;
  • Ask students to seek, create and/or transform knowledge;
  • Allow a final product with many potential forms;
  • Document the learning process; and
  • Are presented to the community by the creator(s).

"I am always struck by the amount of energy I feel when I am at this school. You can literally see the active engagement occurring between teachers and students! "

Our History

Upper Mississippi Academy has been in operation since the Fall of 2013. Our school began at Fort Snelling. At the start of the 2015-16 school year, UMA was located in the St. Francis school building in the West Seventh neighborhood of St. Paul.  Cramped for space with our growing enrollment, UMA sought a new location with room for expansion and moved out in June 2019. Upper Mississippi Academy is now located at 19 Exchange Street in downtown St. Paul, in the same building as the History Theatre. Formerly known as the McNally Smith College of Music, the site has been renovated and remodeled by Mortenson Construction, providing two additional classrooms, small office space for support services and wider hallways and stairwells.

"As a teacher and a parent of two children, who did not always feel accepted at their school, I love the way UMA is very welcoming and open to all our students, no matter their background. I am impressed at how everyone here works very hard to make our students and families feel safe and welcome."

What Sets Us Apart

At UMA, we understand that learning is a distinct, personal process for every student. As such, we encourage individual learning styles and natural abilities while moving toward academic and lifelong goals.

  • Our goal is to have 25 students per classroom, although sometimes classes are smaller and sometimes they are slightly larger. We believe these class sizes support our overall educational philosophy and core beliefs as well as facilitate close relationships between students, teachers, and peers.
  • Through our unique approach of interactive and engaging learning, UMA meets each student where they are and challenges them to not only achieve success but push themselves past their own perceived limits. We provide support to students with IEPs and 504s and have a full-time social worker to attend to student and family social-emotional wellness. 
  • School bus transportation is provided free of charge to middle school students and provides Metro Transit passes for high school students. School bus service takes the form of hub/central stops and includes parts of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Some UMA families from other areas carpool to/from school or to/from transportation hubs.
  • We offer electives based on student and staff interest, potential electives for future school years include Anatomy, Botany, Creative Writing, Culinary Basics, Current Events, Entomology, Environmental Science, Film Studies 2, French Cooking, Game Design, History Through Musicals, Intro to Coding, Intro to Robotics, Intro to Western Philosophy, Japanese Cooking, Journalism, Land Stewardship & Management, Marine Biology, Mythology, Ologies, Pattern-Based Art, Personal Finance, Science of Magic, Theater, Wilderness, Woodworking, Zoology

Learn more about Upper Mississippi Academy on our website at umissacademy.org.

Organization Data


Organization name

Upper Mississippi Academy

Tax id (EIN)




BIPOC Serving

BIPOC Serving


19 E Exchange St
Saint Paul, MN 55101



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