Michigan's annual charter school event boasts student pilot, hundreds

LANSING, Michigan (May 9, 2018) – About 800 charter school supporters from all over the state gathered in Lansing on Tuesday for Charter Day at the Capitol, bringing with them a message: charter schools work. Charter Day at the Capitol was sponsored by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA), the state charter school association.

The day-long celebration of charter school success also featured one of the most original and unusual Lansing performances of all time – a high school senior who flew an airplane over the Capitol.

A high school senior named Ashley Bogardus, who earned her private pilot’s license at West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids, flew a Cessna 172 at 1,000 feet over the Capitol as the crowd below roared. West Michigan Aviation Academy had to gain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for the flyover.

“It was the perfect way to illustrate the innovative opportunities that are available to students at a charter school,” said MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry. “A high school senior took off in an airplane from her school in Grand Rapids in the morning and then flew to Lansing. It was an awesome sight, watching Ashley pilot the plane over the Capitol. Where else but a charter school could you get an opportunity like that?”

Bogardus landed at the airport in Lansing and was brought to the Capitol later in the morning. She was one of several charter school students who spoke during Charter Day at the Capitol, and told the crowd that she and her family chose West Michigan Aviation Academy because she was looking for an innovative and academically challenging school.

“I feel that’s really what our school stands for – amazing and innovative ideas that you aren’t going to find at a (traditional) public school,” Bogardus said. “I feel that’s why charter schools really stand out. In addition to the education I’ve gotten, I feel that I’ve really grown as a person. We’re surrounded by a very diverse culture, with a variety of different ideas, and we’re all able to come together. I think that’s what really sets us apart. And being able to fly – you can’t do that at a (traditional) public school!”

Charter Day at the Capitol put the spotlight on charter school innovation and excellence in all phases – academically, artistically and athletically. The winners of the Michigan Charter School Spelling Bee and Math Facts Challenge were honored; the bands from Star International Academy in Dearborn Heights and Landmark Academy in Port Huron performed; the choir from Creative Technologies Academy in Cedar Springs sang; and the state basketball champions from Detroit Edison Public School Academy (DEPSA) were honored. DEPSA made history this year as only the fifth school in Michigan history to win a state championship in both girls and boys basketball.

Rickea Jackson, a junior at DEPSA who’s one of the top-ranked basketball players in the country, spoke about the opportunities she’s gotten at the school.

“I have been attending DEPSA since the seventh grade, and I must say, this school has impacted my life in many ways, both academically and athletically,” Jackson said. “Academically, this school focuses on the most essential parts of getting into college. The faculty makes sure that all students are on the right track to graduate. DEPSA is a powerful place, and when you walk through the doors, it has a special feeling that no other school has.”

Malcolm Timmons, a junior at DEPSA, spoke about how he’s grown both academically and athletically thanks to the school.

“Before I came to DEPSA, I was an unfocused kid,” Timmons said. “But since I came to DEPSA, I’m more focused and I stay in the books. Something you get at DEPSA that you can’t get anywhere else is a college atmosphere. They prepare you for college every day.”

Quisenberry said it was important for Lansing to hear the messages that were being delivered at the Capitol.

“It’s all about giving students the opportunity to succeed,” Quisenberry said. “We heard from charter school students who were able to earn their private pilot’s license thanks to their school. We heard from standout basketball players who wanted a school that challenges them just as much in the classroom as on the court. In huge numbers, we heard from charter school parents and educators, and they were all delivering the message that charter schools work.”