It’s a wonderful thing when families find just the right school for their child. Whether parents or grandparents select a school because it’s close to home or because they want a good educational community for their child, when the fit is right, that’s a reason to celebrate. Michigan charter schools in particular provide many options for families in metro Detroit and across the state, and families have many success stories to share.
Sterling and Stacey Lester moved to a new neighborhood at the same time their granddaughter Malaya was ready to start preschool, and were happy to find Global Heights Academy in Dearborn Heights. “My wife and I were both working and Global Heights Academy was a good school and close enough that our daughter could walk Malaya back and forth to school,” Sterling says, adding that now Malaya is 11 and has had a great experience at Global Heights Academy.
The Sterling family did have a few school choices nearby and it wasn’t just Global Heights Academy’s great location that satisfied them, Stacey says. When their son, young Sterling was ready to start preschool, he also attended Global Heights Academy — and Stacey says his academic growth was nothing short of amazing.
“All of a sudden, he just excelled and we could tell he was learning a lot,” Stacey says. “He was coming home with something new to talk about every day. The school is a great fit for him.”
Global Heights Academy is a charter public school that prides itself on being a safe, nurturing environment where teachers and families can form partnerships to contribute to each child’s success. As a multicultural school, Global Heights Academy focuses on character education for the whole child and extends beyond state curriculum mandates to offer Arabic language education. Currently a preK-5 school, Global Heights Academy will add sixth grade next school year, followed by seventh grade in 2023-24 and eighth grade in 2024-25.
Global Heights Academy is authorized by Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office (GVSU CSO), Michigan’s largest authorizer of charter schools, and benefits from the support and guidance of GVSU CSO. As an academy that has partnered with Global Educational Excellence (GEE), Global Heights Academy belongs to a national network of 14 tuition-free public academies, which are open to all students. Like Global Heights Academy, GEE schools are typically language-oriented academies.
Building academic success
Now a second grader, Sterling continues to excel in school, say the Lesters. “He loves math and reading and he’s reading at about a fifth-grade level,” Stacey says. “I’m so proud of him. He will pick up and read something that other kids his age can’t.” Trips in the car with young Sterling include reading every billboard out loud.
The Lesters credit the teachers at Global Heights Academy for meeting Sterling’s educational needs, adding that he’s an intellectually curious kid who likes to stay busy in school. “He loves school and wants to be there all the time,” Sterling says. “We can tell that the teachers are there because they love teaching, not just because they want a paycheck. We grew up in traditional public schools and our older kids went to traditional public schools and we can feel a difference at a charter public school. Sterling is really learning.”
Recognizing that school success is a partnership, the Lesters connect with Sterling’s teachers whenever they have questions or concerns. “They will always let you know if your child is having a hard time,” says Stacey. “With math, Sterling is able to figure out problems in his head, but at school they want to see it on paper, so we worked it out with the teacher. Parents should never be afraid to talk to their child’s teacher.”
And, whenever they reach out to the school’s leadership, the Lesters say they are pleased with the prompt response and action taken. “Principal (Shawn) Robson is always quick to react and respond to our questions and concerns,” says Sterling. “We have developed a good relationship. We are both football fans and he really knows us. I always finish an email with ‘Go Green’ or ‘Go White’ and he responds with ‘Go Blue.’ We have bonded over that love of football.”
Sterling and Stacey Lester encourage parents who are trying to find the right fit for their child to reach out to schools and make time to visit — and if you are considering Global Heights Academy, start at the top, they say. “Go speak with the principal first,” Sterling says. “After you talk with him you will definitely make up your mind.” Stacey agrees that connecting with staff is also important. “If you don’t get good vibes from a school’s staff, everything else about that school doesn’t matter,” she says. “You have to find out for yourself.”
Safe and diverse
Carlos Nash became familiar with Global Heights Academy because he was searching for a safe place for his children to attend school. “Our kids didn’t grow up in a fighting environment and we wanted a peaceful school experience for them,” he says. Carlos and Decia Nash enrolled all three of their children at Global Heights Academy and their youngest is now in kindergarten.
“We love that it’s a diverse school and that our kids learn Arabic. It’s a good skill to have,” says Carlos, sharing a real-world experience when he and his older son were in a local store and the staff were speaking in Arabic. “My son understood what they were saying and that’s a good thing,” he says.
Decia Nash says she loves the teachers at Global Heights Academy because they take the time to work with children who may need extra help to succeed. “Some schools just say they don’t have the time to work with your kids, but they make the time at Global Heights,” she says. The older two students graduated from Global Heights Academy after fifth grade and now attend Riverside Academy West in Dearborn. “They’re getting all As and Bs there.”
Like the Lesters, the Nash family speaks highly of Principal Robson. “If we need something, he makes it happen, even if it’s just that kids and families want a basketball team,” Carlos says. “We just have to go to him with an issue and he jumps right on it. He doesn’t hesitate.”
From the school’s lunchroom staff to its academic rigor, Decia and Carlos say they’re very happy with Global Heights Academy and feel confident their youngest daughter is safe there. They encourage families who are looking for an alternative to a traditional public school to consider looking at a charter public school instead.
“It’s safe and the teachers are good. They care and make sure the kids learn. And the school is clean. We love the fact that the teachers and principal are outside every day making sure the children get into the right cars,” Decia says, adding that she appreciates how many fruits and vegetables students get for lunch.
“That’s really what you want from your school, that it’s in a good neighborhood and you have a choice about letting them walk to school,” Carlos says. “There should be more charter schools in the Detroit area, especially if they have a no bullying policy. That makes it a good school where kids don’t have to worry about going to school and fighting every day.”
Content sponsored by Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office. Learn more at gvsu.edu/cso.