Consumers Energy donates to Great Start and Launch Manistee programs

Consumers Energy recently donated $8,000 to the Wexford-Missaukee-Manistee Great Start Collaborative and $50,000 to the Launch Manistee program. The company has been a big booster of early child education and donated $88,000 in the past three years. Shown left to right are FiveCAP Head Start's Mary Trucks, Launch Manistee's Mary Ann Behm, Manistee County Community Foundation's Laura Heintzelman, Kennedy Elementary School principal Matt Kieffer, Consumer Energy's Eric Gustad, Wexford- Missaukee's-Manistee's Great Start director Mike Acosta, Wexford Missaukee-Manistee's Great Start Collaborative's Patti Borucki, Great Start's Kristina Bajtka and Great Start's Cherly Matson.

Consumers Energy recently donated $8,000 to the Wexford-Missaukee-Manistee Great Start Collaborative and $50,000 to the Launch Manistee program. The company has been a big booster of early child education and donated $88,000 in the past three years. Shown left to right are FiveCAP Head Start’s Mary Trucks, Launch Manistee’s Mary Ann Behm, Manistee County Community Foundation’s Laura Heintzelman, Kennedy Elementary School principal Matt Kieffer, Consumer Energy’s Eric Gustad, Wexford- Missaukee’s-Manistee’s Great Start director Mike Acosta, Wexford Missaukee-Manistee’s Great Start Collaborative’s Patti Borucki, Great Start’s Kristina Bajtka and Great Start’s Cherly Matson.

MANISTEE — Consumers Energy realizes that the success of tomorrow relies on educating the children of today.

It is the reason the utility company has been a great partner with the Wexford-Missaukee-Manistee Great Start Collaborative and the Launch Manistee program. The company recently donated $50,000 to Launch Manistee and $8,000 to the Great Start Collaborative for their programs.

“Supporting early childhood education is a priority for Consumers Energy because it’s an important first step to building a strong Michigan for tomorrow,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation. “We support this and other Great Start efforts throughout Michigan to care for the communities we serve and prepare this state’s next generation of leaders.”

The $58,000 in donations brings the total that Consumers Energy has invested in Early Childhood programs over the past three to $88,000. It is something that Manistee Intermediate School Superintendent Jeff Jennette says is invaluable to helping the educational process.

“We are very lucky and grateful to have businesses like Consumers Energy supporting early childhood programming in the Manistee area,” said Jennette. “Our local districts are seeing students being better prepared for kindergarten and it is donations like these that help give our children a great start to education.”

Bloodworth added that programs like Launch Manistee that assist students from “cradle to career” are a vital asset for area children.

“Launch Manistee is an innovative, cooperative initiative that reflects a shared appreciation of the relationship between a quality preschool experience, achievement in K-12 education, completion of post-secondary programs and success of individuals and communities,” said Bloodworth. “We are pleased to support an initiative that builds for Michigan’s future and helps develop the future leaders of the communities we serve.”

The grant application for the $50,000 was developed jointly by the community foundation, which provides administrative and fiscal management for Launch Manistee, and the Alliance for Economic Success.

Laura Heintzelman, executive director for the Manistee County Community Foundation, said that the funding will be used to support the continued development of Launch Manistee and priorities for action, including providing tools for high quality preschool programming.

“We want all Manistee County students to reach their full potential,” Heintzelman said. “With support and encouragement like this, we can collectively get this job done.”

Launch Manistee’s Mary Ann Behm said the grant from Consumers is greatly appreciated and added that Manistee County has really embraced the initiative.

“We are thrilled by the generous support of Consumers Energy for today’s children, future generations and the competitiveness of Manistee County in the global marketplace,” said  Behm. “A diverse team of leaders from Manistee County has unified around a common agenda for dramatically improving our scorecard of success of students from early childhood through their careers.”

Launch essentially is working toward two goals with the first one being that by 2020, all 3- and 4-year-old children in Manistee County will have access for quality preschool experiences regardless of ability to pay. It is an area that is lacking as currently just of 50 percent of children in that age group are enrolled in a preschool program.

That second focus is that it is expected that by 2025, 60 percent of Manistee County residents (ages 25-64) will have a post secondary degree or high quality credential. It is estimated that by that time 65 percent of all jobs will require some advanced educational training.

Manistee County adults are currently far behind the curve in that area with only 28.49 percent having at least an associate degree. It is something Launch Manistee is determined to change.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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