New STEM-based charter school opening in Sterling Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 23, 2021

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STERLING HEIGHTS — A new charter school in Sterling Heights is focused on children from a wide array of backgrounds, with multilingual support and a curriculum specializing in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.

New Dawn Academy, located at the corner of 14 Mile and Van Dyke roads, is the latest in a group of charter schools run by Education Management & Networks, or EMAN. The school serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade and will begin hosting open houses in July.

The dates for the open house are 2-4 p.m. Saturday, July 24; 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8; and 2-4 p.m. Saturdays Aug. 14, 21 and 28. The week of Aug. 30 through Sept. 10 is open enrollment, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

There will be 18 classrooms at the 22,000-square-foot building, serving up to 450 students, with a curriculum structured and aligned with Common Core and Next Generation Science standards.

The school is authorized by Saginaw Valley State University, and it features community partnerships with the Society of Automotive Engineers and other local stakeholders as part of the STEM focus.

At press time, the school was still undergoing renovations. The building was previously a spa and health club. Work began in December 2020, and by the time renovations are complete, there will be amenities such as a science and robotics lab, a media center, a kitchen, a cafeteria, a gymnasium, offices, seven restrooms and more.

Azra Ali, the superintendent and chief academic officer at EMAN, said in an email that the school values the diversity of its students.

“Bilingualism and multilingualism are highly valued as an asset, and our staff will work closely with the students to continue to cultivate this asset-based mindset,” Ali said. “We are committed to recruiting a diverse group of teachers and paraprofessionals who will help our students succeed in our STEM program.”

Language-learning support will be available for students who don’t speak English as their native tongue. The school will use a research-based framework called Sheltered Instructional Observance Protocol to help its faculty accommodate English-language learners. Those students will also receive tailored instruction to develop their English through carefully designed lessons that promote both learning and basic interpersonal skills.

New Dawn also plans to provide students with bilingual translators. While all of the materials at the school are currently only available in English, the school will reformat the materials in other languages — such as Spanish, Arabic, Bengali and more — on a student-by-student basis.

“Ultimately, our goal is to provide an equitable and inclusive environment that provides our students with high-quality programming to achieve their personal best,” Ali said.

When asked about the difficulty of the curriculum, Ali explained that the program takes into account where each student is currently at in their learning and adjusts accordingly for a challenge level that is “just right” — pushing the student to grow but in a way that isn’t frustrating.

The core curriculum aims for a strong foundation in all subject areas: math, science, English, visual arts, physical education, foreign languages (Arabic or Spanish) and social studies with an emphasis on core democratic values.

The middle school program, for grades six to eight, also features STEM program electives including coding, robotics and cybersecurity. The science lab will be fully furnished with the newest equipment and tools to make science fun and exciting, Ali said, and the biology and chemistry opportunities there will prepare students for Advanced Placement courses in high school.

Each of the 18 classrooms have Smart Board technology. The kindergarten classes have their own restrooms and private egress. A brand-new outdoor playground is being built for students to use during recess breaks. Among the extracurricular activities will be the Sports Club, the Green Environment Club, service projects, volunteer work, and Science Olympiad and Math Pentathlon.

“New Dawn Academy places an extreme focus on individualized attention for students,” Ali said. “Teachers here will know more than each student’s name and grade. They will take the time to identify learning modalities, unique strengths and areas where students can continue to excel to be the best version of themselves. Using mixed-ability groupings, students will have opportunities to showcase their own talents and dispositions.

“We believe in the multiple-intelligences framework,” Ali continued, “and strive to provide students with various hands-on, mind-on and problem-based activities to nourish students’ interests.”

Ahmed Saber, the founder and president of EMAN, said in an email that the schools run by his company have experienced growth in enrollment each year. There are more than 20 charter schools run by EMAN across the state of Michigan. The first opened in 2003.

“We’re excited to bring our experience managing successful schools to the Sterling Heights community,” Saber said.

New Dawn Academy is located at 8200 Irving Road. To speak with an administration officer, call 855-800-STEM. Tours begin on an appointment basis July 25. For more information, visit the website at