Great Start Collaborative of Kent County
A group of local professionals and parents working together to help ensure all children have a great start in life.
Our Vision: Every young child in Kent County will enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and life.
The Great Start Collaborative (GSC) of Kent County serves as the local infrastructure for governance, planning, investment, advocacy, and innovation for Michigan’s Great Start system. Our collaborative is part of a network of 55 Great Start Collaboratives working in every county in Michigan through the Michigan Office of Great Start (OGS). Charged with ensuring that all children birth to age eight, especially those in highest need, have access to high-quality early learning and development programs and enter kindergarten prepared for success, OGS has outlined a single set of early childhood outcomes against which all public investments will be assessed:
- Children born healthy
- Children healthy, thriving, and developmentally on track from birth to third grade
- Children developmentally ready to succeed in school at the time of school entry
- Children prepared to succeed in fourth grade and beyond by reading proficiently by the end of third grade
In 2013, the Office of Great Start developed Great Start, Great Investment, Great Future: The Plan for Early Learning and Development in Michigan. This comprehensive plan contains six recommendations and numerous priority action items for advancing early learning and development.
Kent County’s GSC works to ensure that OGS’s outcomes and recommendations are realized in our community through the collaborative efforts of parents of young children, members of the faith and business communities, local philanthropic organizations, educators, and leaders of the local public agencies providing the majority of early childhood services in the community. The GSC assesses the needs of young children and families in their communities, identifies community assets for addressing those needs, and plans for systemic change.
To learn more about the work of Kent County’s GSC, read our Strategic Plan for 2015-2018.
Nurturing Parent Power Workgroup
All parents want to give their children the strongest possible start in life. For years, parents have been interested in more resources to help support their children’s early development and future success. In 2016, a group of parent and systems leaders, as members of the newly established Nurturing Parent Power workgroup of the Great Start Collaborative of Kent County, came together with a common goal: to find a way to communicate to parents of young children the most important, actionable information about how to help little ones get a strong start in life.
With genuine passion for the potential of parents and deep knowledge of the early childhood system, this group of parent leaders, systems influencers, and decision makers answered the clarion call with a forward-thinking action agenda for cultivating the power of parents. The aim was clear: leverage and support parents as the singularly profound contributor in preparing children for school readiness. The charge was explicit: find proven strategies that could be readily deployed in homes of young children across the county. The core requirements were direct: select only research-based solutions that could be easily communicated, digitally modeled, and broadly disseminated to parents across Kent County.
Under the branding of Success Starts Early, Success Basics is the newest offering in a suite of parent-facing information resources in Kent County, now all housed here at SuccessStartsEarly.org. This robust, comprehensive clearinghouse serves as a one-stop shop for parents in Kent County. This site responds directly to parents' request for support in being confident advocates of their children’s success.
Success Starts Early hosts Kent County Success Basics videos, tips, and tools highlighting and demonstrating five fun, easy, and powerful ways for families to help children grow smarter. In addition, the website provides caregivers with easy access to free preschool sign-up, and important information on several early childhood topics.
As Success Starts Early continues to develop, new resources will be added to the site. This rich portal of useful information will provide links to everything from social services to child development Q&As, from early education resources to fun family activities. Soon Kent County parents will be able to access everything they need through successstartsearly.org.
The NPP Workgroup’s members include:
- Believe 2 Become, an initiative of the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation
- Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC)
- Family Futures
- First Steps Kent
- Grand Rapids Community College
- Grand Rapids Public Schools
- Great Start Parent Coalition
- Groundwork Community Consulting
- Head Start for Kent County
- Kent ISD
- Steelcase Foundation
- Strong Beginnings
Success Basics is a member of the Basics Learning Network, which began with the Boston Basics Campaign and is now a coalition of local initiatives working to make sure every child gets a great start in life.
Ready 4K and Challenge 5
In 2011 a group of parents, educators, early childhood service providers, and other advocates collaborated to create the Kent County Community Plan for Early Childhood. A shared vision emerged—“that every young child in Kent County will enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and life.”
One strategy called for “providing families with consistent information about parenting.” The Parent Messaging Kent County Workgroup was created and tasked with “creating, developing and prioritizing clear and simple messages about parenting, health and child development.”
Special thanks to members of the Parent Messaging Workgroup:
Pam Cohn, Catholic Charities
Reyna Garcia, Parent
Shatawn Brigham, MLK/KSSN
Tom Hanley, Spectrum Health
Trish Reid, Parent
Amanda St. Pierre, Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Candace Cowling, Family Futures
Dianna Baker, Kent County Health Department
Kathleen Neumann, Head Start for Kent County
Amy Turner-Thole, Rebekah Fennell and Judy Freeman of First Steps.
Success Starts Early is the outcome of the dedication of many partners, all committed to help parents help their children succeed.