Early childhood programs honored at luncheon

The Manistee News Advocate was presented the 2016 Early Childhood Champion Award at the Manistee County Early Childhood luncheon for its support of preschool to college education programs. The luncheon was sponsored by the Start Collaborative and Launch Manistee. Shown left to right are Great Start Collaborative's Patti Borucki, Launch Manistee program director Mary Ann Behm, Manistee News Advocate Managing Editory Michelle Graves and education writer Ken Grabowski.

The Manistee News Advocate was presented the 2016 Early Childhood Champion Award at the Manistee County Early Childhood luncheon for its support of preschool to college education programs. The luncheon was sponsored by the Start Collaborative and Launch Manistee. Shown left to right are Great Start Collaborative’s Patti Borucki, Launch Manistee program director Mary Ann Behm, Manistee News Advocate Managing Editory Michelle Graves and education writer Ken Grabowski.

MANISTEE — The success Manistee County enjoyed in early childhood programs in recent years has been nothing short of phenomenal.

A celebration of that success took place on Friday with the second  Manistee County Early Childhood Luncheon. This event is a joint effort of Launch Manistee and the Great Start Collaborative and it honors those who have worked hard in this area to promote the success of children as they prepare to enter the world of education.

Manistee/Wexford Missaukee Intermediate school district dual superintendent Jeff Jennette served as master of ceremonies for the event, and he praised the efforts of all of those who have made a difference in early childhood.

“We invited you all here today because through your work and passion, you have shown that you recognize the fundamental importance of giving our children a strong start,” he said. “Investing in our youngest  children makes sense in so many ways, we are not only working toward doing what is right for the child, but also for society.”

Jennette introduced Great Start Collaborative employees Patti Borucki and Mike Acosta, who work on programs in Manistee and Wexford counties.

“The Great Start team is committed to engaging and coordinating services with community partners such as the people here today,” he said. “We are fortunate to have Mike’s experience with Wexford-Missaukee in helping guide the collaborative along with Patti’s early childhood experiences and relationships in Manistee County.”

The Launch Manistee program with its “cradle to career” programming was also recognized by Jennette. Program director Mary Behm and staff members were recognized for bringing many outstanding programs to the county.

“Launch continues to work toward its visionary goal of ‘by 2020 all 3 and 4-year-old children in Manistee County will have access to a range of options for quality preschool experiences regardless of ability to pay,'” he said.

Borucki and Behm then introduced several parents to share how local early childhood efforts have impacted their children and family in a positive manner. Laura Book, Andrea Polhamus and Sarah Logan told those in attendance personal experiences experiences.

Book has been active as a Great Start representative  at the Early Childhood Collaboration meetings. She has two daughters and the oldest is 4 years old and attends the Madison Elementary School preschool. Book praised the efforts of the Madison teachers, and all they have done to assist her daughter.

A similar story came from Benzie County resident Polhamus, who is a provider of applied behavior analysis for children and young adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Her youngest son received Manistee County Early Intervention services, including occupational therapy, and shared stories on how it has helped him.

Logan is the Manistee Catholic Central preschool teacher. She talked about all the good things that are taking place in pre-school programs today.

Borucki said what attendees heard is typical of the good things happening daily.

“Today’s stories from our parents are a strong reflection of what we are celebrating here today,” she said. Investing in our youngest children makes sense in so many ways. “Everyone gains when we invest, develop and sustain early development of children and their families.”

They also honored two long-time early childhood partners who recently retired in Trinity Lutheran School preschool teacher Leslie Wagner after 30 years in early childhood programs. Honored with her was Cindy Rozmarek, who retired with 33 years of service at the Manistee ISD and Early On programs.

The 2016 Early Childhood Champion Award was presented the Manistee News Advocate.

“We are grateful to have a local newspaper play such an important role in supporting early childhood and education as a whole in Manistee County,” said Behm. “The News Advocate covers six school systems located in Manistee County and West Shore Community College ranging from preschool students to those attending college. It is a difficult task to achieve with such a small editorial staff, but something they gladly do.”

Managing editor Michelle Graves accepted the award.

“Education reporter Ken Grabowski does a wonderful job covering local school districts,” said Graves. “However, we’re just doing our jobs in reporting on all of the aspects of education in the area. We understand the importance of what everyone here is doing on a daily basis and how it impacts everyone in our community.”

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