Rising to Greater Heights New Charter School Opens in Flint



Greater Heights Academy is one of three brand new charter schools in Flint. Lisa Leimeister, the new director of Greater Heights, has lofty goals for her students! And she plans to meet those goals by following the school’s Mission Statement: “To achieve individual academic success for all students through a positive family/school/community partnership.”

A replication of a public school academy in Holly, GHA is dedicated to high academics and a strong character program, in hopes of replicating the success that Holly Academy has experienced. The new school is a “dream come true” for Lisa, who was the assistant director at Holly Academy for eight years. Prior to that, she taught grades 3, 6, 7 and 8, as well as spending five years overseeing a children’s ministry at an inner city Flint mission church helping those in need. “I fell in love with the people of Flint and the kids,” she said. “They touched my heart.”

After the ministry, her dream was to open an inner city charter school in Flint where she could implement Holly Academy’s program – and watch it flourish. Holly Academy has been very supportive of her effort, donating furniture, textbooks, handbooks and curriculum to help make her dream a reality. “Holly Academy is a huge support system,” says Lisa. She began her search for a building three years ago, placing her faith in God. Lisa truly believes it was divine intervention when the building of the former Kingdom Academy on Pasadena Avenue became available. “They took excellent care of the facility,” she said excitedly. Her team worked fervently throughout the summer to ready the space, installing new carpet and applying a fresh coat of paint to prepare for its opening this month.

GHA admits students from kindergarten through fifth grade, and they expect 300 students to attend this year. The school receives per-pupil funding from the state and is governed by Central Michigan University, similar to Holly Academy. CMU sets high standards, which Lisa says is a good thing. “I love accountability,” she says. “We are an open book.” There is a dress code, but with clothing donations from Holly Academy parents, the transition will be very affordable for students, says Lisa. In addition to a board of directors, the staff consists of 12 classroom teachers, five special education teachers, reading intervention helpers and para-pros.

To get the word out to the community, GHA held a carnival on August 10. Lisa was pleasantly surprised to see around 300 people attend, eager to learn about the school. “It takes a community to take care of our children; schools can’t do it alone,” she added. Many parents from Holly Academy and other community members volunteered their time to make the carnival a success. Staff and teachers were on hand to introduce themselves to the community, and attendees were given tours of the facility.

Greater Heights Academy occupies 12 acres of property that will soon be turned into a soccer field, football field and basketball court. The playground was donated by the Academy of Flint. In addition to several classrooms, there is a science lab, gymnasium and music room. The classrooms are colorfully decorated and large windows fill the rooms with natural lighting. Mounted in the office hallway is the school’s crest – a fierce-looking eagle. When someone commented on just how fierce it looks, Lisa replied, “It’s perfect: the people of Flint display ferocity, strength and determination.” The school colors are yellow and blue, with yellow signifying sunshine, hope, and happiness, while blue represents trustworthiness, dependability and commitment, which Lisa says is an ideal description of GHA.

According to Lisa, every charter school chooses an unmet need on which to focus, and GHA has chosen to address health and wellness in the areas of healthy eating, physical fitness, and emotional health and self-esteem. She is particularly proud of the school’s Parent Center – called the Eagles’ Nest – which is equipped with a bank of computers parents can use to work on resumes or meet their own educational needs. “Building positive relationships with our parents and students is a priority at GHA,” says Lisa. “We know that in order for a child to be successful, we must rely on their first educator: their parent.”

Lisa receives a lot of support from her staff, many of whom followed her to GHA from Holly Academy. The assistant director is Travis Craven, former physical education and math instructor. “Our desire is to offer our families the best education available in Genesee County,” he said. “I feel like we will make a difference here.”

New Charter Schools in Flint

Two other charter schools will open in Flint this year:

WAY Academy-Flint will follow the model of the WAY Academy in Detroit, offering a blended-learning curriculum to grades 7-12. WAY stands for “Widening Advancements for Youth.” The school is chartered by Lake Superior State University. Genesee STEM Academy is a charter school for K-6 students. The program at Genesee STEM Academy is strong in science, technology and math and is chartered by Saginaw Valley State University.


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