Grand Rapids, MI – Gospel recording artist and Pastor, Marvin Sapp says he was determined to make a dream of his late wife, MaLinda Sapp, come true: creating a school that linked academic education with performing and fine arts.
It’s a dream he shared with her, and now the Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology (GREAAT) charter is set to open in September. He said they both understood the benefits of encouraging students’ interests and abilities.
“My wife worked very hard on this concept of implementing the arts in a core curriculum focused on academic excellence,” said Sapp.
MaLinda died of cancer in 2010. “I believe very strongly she has been there with us, guiding our team.”
“I am excited because we have created something In Ellington that is going to be unique to West Michigan and change how young people learn.”
The school’s arts curriculum will include instrumental music, vocal music, dance, graphic arts and theater arts.
Located at 600 Burton St. SE, on the campus Kingdom Square, Sapp said the new public arts-integrated middle and high school will open to initially 225
students in sixth, seventh and eighth- grades on Sept. 4. Enrollment information is online.
Plans are to add a grade each year until 12th grade for a total of 525 students. School applications are available online. Sapp’s church, Lighthouse Full Life Center, is also on the nearly 17-acre campus that will house the new school.
Bruce Harger, director of charter school operations for Lake Superior State University, said they received the schools application in January and their board is expected to grant formal approval on Friday, April 27. He said the curriculum, stable financing and the uniqueness of the program being offered were all key elements in the decision.
“We want to open a school we think is going to succeed, not fail,” said Harger, who said the school will be modeled on their Concordia Academy in Petoskey.
As part of the approval process, Harger will tour the facility and interview GREAAT board members on Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. On May 3, led by president Samantha Howell, the Ellington Academy Board of Trustees will convene its inaugural meeting at 3 p.m. at St. Henry Hall Education Center, on the Kingdom Square Campus, to complete the charter approval process.
Sapp said they are engaged in a $5 million capital campaign in which they are seeking community support. He said a new school building will be built on the campus but until then, students will use another campus center. He said he doesn’t see the school as competing with Grand Rapids schools but offering families another type of opportunity for children to succeed.
“Ellington isn’t trying to be anything other than a partner and a school that offers an alternative style of learning toward achieving an educated community,” he said.
The public started hearing about the project in 2008 when the Sapps founded GREAAT and were looking at becoming one of Grand Rapids schools public-private partnerships. Sapp said they had been turned down by other charter sponsors prior to talking with the school district but their model didn’t work out.
Sapp said they got close to being authorized after that but didn’t get the nod. After his wife died, he said he and his team refocused, retooled and began aggressively pursuing their dream again.
“About nine days after she died, I said there was no way I was going to allow this dream of ours to go to the grave with her,” Sapp said. “We are getting ready to do something wonderful to enhance the education community but it’s bittersweet without her here but I know how proud she is of us.