Drs. Marvin L. and MaLinda P. Sapp’s enthusiasm for youth education is a personal journey.  Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and graduating high school in the Grand Rapids Public School District guide their dedication to the youth in the community.  Twenty-four years later, Pastor Marvin and MaLinda announced plans for opening the Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology.  The Academy is named after Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, an American composer, pianist, and band leader who was one of the most influential figures in jazz.  The Sapps believed that the performing arts would increase a student’s ability to think critically, analyze information, express their uniqueness and gain relevant knowledge that would prepare them for global success.


Dr. MaLinda Sapp convened a design team of parents and community members from the area, local educators and university professors to discuss expanded school choice through a public charter school.  The design team envisioned a learning environment that would value the individual learner and nurture the uniqueness of each student’s expressions of intelligence. This would be done while creating daily opportunities for academic and performance success, increasing self-confidence and self-awareness, and global preparedness.


More than 100 students in grades 2–12 enroll in Ellington Academy’s after-school extended day learning program.  Students enjoy lessons in the performing arts, technology and Spanish, and receive small-class tutoring in a choice of core curriculum subjects.  Through this after-school program, the founders of Ellington Academy have compiled a growing list of parents interested in enrolling their children in the Academy full-time.



Through the efforts of a nine-member development team, GREAAT Schools, Inc. is awarded the Michigan Department of Education Charter School Planning and Implementation Grant.  Additionally, the support of community leaders, regional and national partners ensures that the Ellington Academy will be the first and finest performance arts and technology middle/high School in West Michigan.  Our students will have first-rate opportunities to study a college-ready academic curriculum and high performing arts curriculum.



Lake Superior State University approves charter for the Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology.


  • Rev. Dr. Marvin L. Sapp, senior Pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, award-winning gospel recording artist, and board president for GREAAT Schools, Inc. Dr. Sapp is focused on national and local support and partnerships for the performing arts and education program evaluation.
  • Cynthia Springer, chief executive officer of GREAAT Schools, Inc. and corporate human resources manager at Macys, Inc. Cynthia ensures alignment and adherence to grant, board and contract policies.
  • Dr. John Hair, retired educator, jazz musician and trustee of West Michigan Arts Academy. Dr. Hair’s focus is on the performing arts curriculum, educational administration and compliance with school law.
  • Dr. Damon F. Arnold, director, student services for Laker Academics at Grand Valley State University. Dr. Arnold’s focus is on teacher/leader recruitment and training in working with at-risk students, as well as student advising and advocacy.
  • Candace Matthews, chief marketing officer at Amway Corporation. Candace’s primary responsibility is marketing strategy.
  • Ingrid Scott-Weekley, managing director of administrative services for the City of Grand Rapids. Ingrid provides guidance on GREAAT’s compliance with federal, state, local and authorizer requirements, as well as on human resources and business operations.
  • Samantha Howell, sales advisor for sales & marketing at Amway Corporation. Samantha provides guidance on educational performance data and facilitates “Train- the-Trainer” activities for the development team members and GREAAT staffing partners.
  • MiKaila Sapp, 10th grade student at Northpointe Christian. MiKaila represents the student voice on the development team. Her future plan is to become a successful business entrepreneur. MiKaila is responsible for student clubs & activities and she is co-coordinator of student fund-raising activities.
  • Percell Singleton, 10th grade student at West Michigan Aviation Academy. Percell represents the student voice on the development team. His future plan is to be an architect. Percell is responsible for coordinating Ellington Academy’s Student Artistic Expressions and he is co-coordinator of the student fund-raising activities.
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