In 'The Groove': J.C. Huizenga sponsors dance contest to support healthcare workers

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National Heritage Academies Founder and Chairman J.C. Huizenga has joined the list of regional business leaders and companies supporting The Groove, encouraging more than 8,000 scholars attending his 12 West Michigan charter schools to join the dance competition and support frontline healthcare workers.

Messages from principals at 12 NHA schools in Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon counties went out to parents and guardians on May 15, launching a friendly competition between schools as a way to join the community-wide effort and “come together while staying apart” due to COVID-19. The Groove utilizes an app-based program developed by two Grand Rapids entrepreneurs, allowing residents in 13 West Michigan counties to choose songs, record and upload 15- or 30-second videos with their smoothest dance moves, and vote for their favorites.

Every dance shared through the app results in a donation to the newly formed West Michigan Hero Fund, which will be administered by Hope Network and used to support frontline healthcare workers. There is no cost to enter as money is generously being donated by sponsorships from West Michigan businesses, including Huizenga, Amway, BISSELL, Lacks Enterprises, Rockford Construction, and others.

One student from each of the 12 NHA schools will win $100 and a trophy for their efforts. The top three NHA schools with the most dances uploaded will receive cash prizes that can be spent on remote learning tools, family resources, PPE for students and families, and summer learning supplies. The four-week dance
competition ends June 5. The Groove is also offering the top vote getter a cash prize of $10,000.

“We are delighted to join this community-wide effort to support healthcare heroes in West Michigan,” said Huizenga, who opened the first NHA charter academy in 1995. “They are truly risking their health and their lives by caring for those with coronavirus and deserve all of our respect for their selfless work.

“While we continue to honor Stay Home orders in Michigan, we are starved for community. This is the time when our scholars would be enjoying spring activities and preparing to wrap up another successful year. Encouraging participation is a way we can safely come together as a community, support healthcare workers, get moving, and have a little fun while doing so.”

Launched May 1 by Jeff Bennett, The Groove is a cross between TikTok and America’s Got Talent. Its goals are two-fold: first, funds raised will be donated to Spectrum Health, Mercy Saint Mary’s, Metro Health-University of Michigan Health, and Cherry Street Health Center. Second is to provide an outlet for residents who are deprived of social interaction in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Ionia, Barry, Allegan, Montcalm, Newaygo, Oceana, Mecosta, Osceola, Lake, and Mason counties to connect, have fun, and show their support for frontline healthcare workers.

More than 8,000 students attending 12 NHA schools in Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon counties have been invited to participate in The Groove, including: Chandler Woods Charter Academy in Belmont, Cross Creek Charter Academy in Byron Center, Eagle Crest Charter Academy in Holland, Excel Charter Academy, Knapp Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, Ridge Park Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, River City Scholars Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, Timberland Charter Academy in Muskegon, Vanderbilt Charter Academy in Holland, Vanguard Charter Academy in Wyoming, Vista Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, and Walker Charter Academy in Walker.

 “The Groove is a fun and engaging way to connect our West Michigan community of scholars, while underscoring our moral focus curriculum,” said NHA CEO Brian Britton. “Since each dance equals a donation to an area hospital or clinic, it allows our scholars to demonstrate the values of compassion and generosity in a meaningful and tangible way. We’re looking forward to a lot of creativity in the coming weeks and proud to participate in this community event.”

 Huizenga founded NHA in 1995 when he established Excel Charter Academy in Grand Rapids. NHA has grown to include a network of 90 charter schools serving more than 60,000 students in nine states and employs more than 5,000 team members. Huizenga expanded his focus with the 2008 creation of PrepNet, a network of six high schools that serve nearly 2,500 students. Huizenga has been recognized for his pioneering work in education reform with a Silver Pioneers Award from the Center for Education Reform.

As chairman of Huizenga Group, he employs 1,400 in 13 enterprises that manufacture automotive components, package pharmaceuticals, and provide electrical services. He also is active in community organizations, serving on the governing boards of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the West Michigan Policy Forum, the Acton Institute, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and the Salvation Army. He is committed to the Grand Valley State University community, serving as a GVSU Foundation director, a Seidman Business School Advisory board member, and a board member for Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies.

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