Charlton Heston Academy – Historical First Day
Beginning on April 24, 1973 St. Helen Elementary hallways were filled with laughter of young children as they journeyed through their elementary education. On June 10, 2010 the last bit of cheer ended in tears as staff and students said goodbye to their long time school. A school that had given way to generations of students. This was also the day that a community fought back the tears and put their foot down…demanding that this school closing be undone.
Through the leadership of Jennifer Jarosz and Veronica Bridson a group formed, known as Rural Education Matters (REM), to determine what they could do to make sure that the children of St. Helen would have a school to call their own. Through meetings, research, and presentations the group realized that they must pursue a charter school. A public school option for parents that would provide free enrollment, academic options, and an overall solution to an empty school building.
Forming alliances as far away as Lansing the group ventured out to advocate for their community. Meetings with the community were held and representatives of charter schools and various advocacy groups shaped the knowledge of REM members and supporters.
In 2011 a group known as MAPSA (Michigan Association of Public School Academies) approached REM to testify before the Michigan Education Committee in Lansing. MAPSA was lobbying for the cap on charter schools to be lifted. Following multiple trips to Lansing REM Board members formed alliances and shared experiences with multiple State Representatives which led in part to the passing of SB618 which in effect removed the cap on charter schools thus allowing state universities to provide more charters to communities seeking an educational option.
In the summer of 2012 it was announced that Lake Superior State University (LSSU) would provide a charter to REM for the opening of Charlton Heston Academy. On September 4, 2012, 2 years and months after the last day of class, the school building in St. Helen is once again filled with laughter and the tears are of joy. The school is currently home to 222 students in grades K-8.
Reprinted with permission – Roscommon County Weekly September 7, 2012 issue