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Paragon Charter Academy Honored with Founder’s Award at Leadership Summit

National Heritage Academies (NHA) held its 21st Annual Eagle Awards on July 18 during Leadership Summit. The top honor, the Founder’s Award, was given to Paragon Charter Academy.
“Receiving the Founder’s Award is a prestigious accomplishment for our Paragon Charter Academy family,” said Brian Britton, National Heritage Academies (NHA) president and CEO. “Created to honor the vision of our founder, J.C. Huizenga, this recognition highlights our mission to transform lives. This school community has made it their purpose to infuse our Moral Focus virtues into everything they do – living them in their daily actions and words, and setting a positive example for all to follow. Congratulations, Paragon, on this well-deserved award!”

Brian Britton, NHA president and CEO, far right, congratulates the Paragon Charter Academy administrative team at the Leadership Summit for receiving the Founder’s Award.

The Founder’s Award is given annually to the school that creates a school culture which embodies Moral Focus by embedding each virtue in what they say and do in their interactions with parents, students, and staff. Survey results from the Voice of the Parent survey and Glint Engagement results are also reviewed.
“It is an honor to be recognized with the Founders Award as I know all NHA schools work hard to implement Moral Focus in their schools,” Paragon Principal Benjamin Kriesch said. “Moral focus is a critical part of our school culture and curriculum. I am grateful for the staff who have embraced our school culture and have seen the importance of modeling and teaching strong moral values.”
A few reasons why Paragon Charter Academy was chosen include:
  • The administrative staff members’ school goal this year was to view Moral Focus as their anchor as they navigated through a challenging year with students returning to in-person learning for the first time in two years.
  • They did this by continually modeling the virtues through staff-to-student, staff-to-staff, and staff-to-parent interactions. They especially wanted to focus on staff-to-parent interactions and did so by intentionally weaving the virtues into conversations with parents. Evidence of this commitment resulted in them getting the top Voice of the Parent Moral Focus score across all schools.
  • Each year, this school’s eighth graders are invited to design their graduating class t-shirt. This year’s t-shirt was designed by a student who had attended the school since kindergarten. Her design included the Moral Focus virtues listed on the back, as this is what she most remembers about her time at NHA.
  • This year, staff members also created an award to honor a long-time volunteer for her dedication to the school and its Moral Focus virtues. Each year this will be awarded to a deserving eighth-grade graduate.
  • If you visit this school, you might get some support from “Encouragement Ninjas” whose goal was to deliver individual positive notes and create encouraging posters around the building.
Brian Britton, NHA president and CEO, far right, tells the audience about “Encouragement Ninjas” at Paragon Charter Academy.

Paragon is in Jackson, Michigan, and serves 640 students in Young 5s through eighth grade. The administrative team is Benjamin Kriesch, principal; Sally Clark, kindergarten through second grade dean; Jacob Dolson, third through fifth-grade dean; Sue Delie, sixth through eighth-grade dean. Nancy Kouba is the director of school quality.
Besides Paragon, the five other schools named as the top finalists for the award are:
  • Greensboro Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Keystone Academy in Belleville, Michigan
  • Peak Charter Academy in Apex, North Carolina
  • Pembroke Academy in Detroit, Michigan
  • Walton Charter Academy in Pontiac, Michigan
The Eagle Award ceremony had directors of school quality, principals, and deans in attendance. Several other awards were announced involving parent satisfaction, employee engagement, student attendance, safety, and student enrollment. Three other awards, called Taking Flight, went to the top 5% of schools with the greatest improvement in employee engagement, student attendance, and student enrollment.
Congratulations to Paragon Charter Academy for being honored with the Founder’s Award, and to all the honorees of Eagle awards!
About Paragon Charter Academy
Paragon Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Jackson, 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

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