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Excel Charter Academy Raises Over $9,700 for Fight Against Heart Disease

Excel Charter Academy, opened in 1995, was National Heritage Academies’ (NHA) first school. With this comes a lot of traditions that have remained consistent over the years.

This was Excel's 19th year raising money for the American Heart Association through the Kids Heart Challenge, formerly Jump Rope for Heart. The goal was to have as many students as possible participate and this was a success! With 178 student participants, Excel raised their largest donation to date with a total of $9,707.18 to give back.

Jump Rope for Heart participants

The Kids Heart Challenge (KHC) is a fun and exciting event where students learn about their hearts while helping others by raising money for the American Heart Association. It prepares children for success through physical and emotional well-being.

Each kindergarten through fifth-grade class discussed heart health and overall healthy habits, such as food and drink, physical activity, sleep, managing stress, etc. To take it a step further, students were challenged to do something to help others. Students who raised $20 or more earned a bonus physical education class session with others in their grade level.

“It’s important to instill in students to give back at a young age because looking for ways to make a positive difference for others is something that research shows has a direct relationship to contentment and feeling a sense of purpose, and therefore reducing anxiety,” said Matt Sicilia, physical education teacher at Excel. “It ties in so well to NHA Moral Focus virtues."

Excel students enjoying Gym class

At Excel and all NHA schools, there is the foundational belief that kindness and strong hearts and minds can impact the world in significant ways. Every month Excel features a different Moral Focus virtue because they care about developing the whole student, heart and character included. “The fundraiser ties closely to Moral Focus by respecting your own body by keeping it healthy,” said Sicilia. “KHC also ties into compassion by giving to help others suffering the effects of heart disease, as well as reducing the risk for others from developing heart disease later in life.”

What makes Sicilia most proud is that the KHC brought so many students and their families together in one united and selfless mission, and that is to help others by giving and making the world a better place.

By donating to the American Heart Association, Excel joined the fight against our nation's No. 1 and No. 5 killers — heart disease and stroke. Donations help fund lifesaving research, advocate for better health, improve patient care, and reach at-risk populations.

“It makes me feel extremely proud that our students care for others and desire to give to this meaningful cause,” said Dan Bartels, principal at Excel. “It is important that students at a young age are mindful of the needs around them and realize that they can encourage others in a variety of ways.”

About Excel Charter Academy
Excel Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

Visit Excel Charter Academy's blog to read more stories like this.