Great Start earns Champion Award

MANISTEE — Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) — Manistee Intermediate School District received the 2018 Champion Award at Friday’s Fourth Annual Manistee County Early Childhood Celebration Luncheon.

Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) received the 2018 Champion Award at Friday's Fourth Annual Manistee County Early Childhood Celebration Luncheon. Shown (left to right) are Erin Pontiac, (Great Start Collaborative Parent Liaison), Crystal Harthun, Great Start to Readiness Program (GSRP teacher, Brethren), Mary Ann Behm (Launch Manistee program coordinator), Liz Walker (Great Start Readiness Program early childhood specialist), Cheryl Matson (Great Start Readiness Program Early Childhood administrator) and Jennifer Abel (GSRP teacher, Manistee), Seth Hopkins (Great Start Collaborative Coordinator, Manistee), Sandy Turk (GSRP teacher assistant Manistee) andMichelle Lickman (GSRP Teacher Bear Lake) (Ken Grabowski News Advocate)

Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) received the 2018 Champion Award at Friday’s Fourth Annual Manistee County Early Childhood Celebration Luncheon. Shown (left to right) are Erin Pontiac, (Great Start Collaborative Parent Liaison), Crystal Harthun, Great Start to Readiness Program (GSRP teacher, Brethren), Mary Ann Behm (Launch Manistee program coordinator), Liz Walker (Great Start Readiness Program early childhood specialist), Cheryl Matson (Great Start Readiness Program Early Childhood administrator) and Jennifer Abel (GSRP teacher, Manistee), Seth Hopkins (Great Start Collaborative Coordinator, Manistee), Sandy Turk (GSRP teacher assistant Manistee) andMichelle Lickman (GSRP Teacher Bear Lake) (Ken Grabowski News Advocate)

The award is giving annually to a group, organization or entity that helps in supporting the Early Childhood field in Manistee County. Previous winners include Consumers Energy Foundation, the Manistee News Advocate and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

The annual luncheon to honor these champions is hosted by Launch Manistee and the Great Start Collaborative. Launch Manistee program director Mary Ann Behm said that the Great Start Readiness Program is extremely deserving of the honor.

“Their vision and expansion of programming during the 2017-18 year has led to increased preschool options and participation for Manistee County children and families,” said Behm. “The Great Start Readiness Program is a high quality preschool program servicing 4 year olds in Manistee County.”

Behm praised  the efforts of GSRP early childhood administrator Cheryl Matson and early childhood specialist Liz Walker. She also cited teachers from the program including Jennifer Abel (Manistee), Crystal Harthun (Brethren), Michelle Lickman (Bear Lake) and from Onekama Leaps and Bounds Amy Brown.

“This program began in 2012 when the Michigan Department of Education awarded the Great Start Readiness grant to the Manistee ISD and Wexford Missaukee ISD as a consortium,” said Behm. “This program is free to eligible families meeting certain risk factors and children attend the preschool program four days a week for 30 weeks.”

Behm said all the programs utilize Creative Curriculum or High Scope as their curriculum and Teaching Strategies Gold or COR for their assessment.

Parents who were assisted with preschool and early childhood programs told their success stories at Friday's Fourth Annual Manistee County Early Childhood Celebration Luncheon. Shown (left to right) are Seth Hopkins (Great Start Collaborative coordinator, Manistee), Tekerya Schrepper, Tracy Quintero, Kelsey Carpenter, Charlie Patrick, Shannon Patrick, Frankie Patrick and Erin Pontiac (Great Start Collaborative parent liaison).

Parents who were assisted with preschool and early childhood programs told their success stories at Friday’s Fourth Annual Manistee County Early Childhood Celebration Luncheon. Shown (left to right) are Seth Hopkins (Great Start Collaborative coordinator, Manistee), Tekerya Schrepper, Tracy Quintero, Kelsey Carpenter, Charlie Patrick, Shannon Patrick, Frankie Patrick and Erin Pontiac (Great Start Collaborative parent liaison).

During the first four years Manistee County offered two GSRP preschool programs: Bear Lake (which is located at Brethren and serviced children from Bear Lake and Kaleva Norman Dickson schools) and Five CAP Inc. Each program serviced 16 children for a total of 32 countywide.

“This year through collaborations and several meetings with county schools and agencies the Manistee ISD has expanded the opportunity for 4 year olds to attend preschool in 2017-18 school year,” said Behm. “This year programs were offered at Bear Lake, Brethren, Next Generation Learning Center and the Manistee Area Public Schools. This expansion increased the number of 4 year olds receiving an opportunity at no cost, high quality preschool from 32 to 56, almost doubling this program in size in a one year period.”

“This is a very prestigious honor and it is wonderful in bringing everyone together as we have here today,” said Matson. “One of the things that made the expansion possible this year was the collaboration between our Great Start Collaborative, Great Start Quality Resource Center, Launch Manistee and FiveCAP Head Start.”

Matson said by working together it has really brought a different meaning for what is done for early childhood development in this community.

“I have been excited what we have been able to do for all 4 year olds and all young children in the community over the past four years,” said Matson.

Manistee Intermediate School District superintendent Jeff Jennette said quality preschool education is vital to a child’s future.

“Evidence tells us that a person’s life successes and their health and emotional well-being have their roots in early childhood,” said Jennette. “We know that if we get it right in the early years we can expect to see children thrive throughout school and their adult lives.”

Jennette added that through the hard work of these many people in early childhood programs they are gaining on the opportunity for more families to get their child off to a good preschool start.

“We are all aware of the hurdles we face in early childhood work and the challenges many of our families face,” said Jennette. “This adds validation to the importance of the work being done in Manistee County.”

What is also helping many families acquire access to preschool and early childhood programs is the Manistee County Preschool Scholarship Program. Haley Doyle, Manistee County Community Foundation and Launch Manistee AmeriCorps Vista member told those in attendance about the scholarship program.

“In our two years of existence we have awarded approximately $6,000 to 24 families  and children which has enabled those children to participate in a quality preschool setting,” said Doyle. “Our preschool scholarship committee would love to be able to do even more. Many times due to need and limited funds available we are only able to award partial scholarships.”

Doyle said they presently are initiating a challenge to the community to match the Great Start Collaborative’s contribution of $2,500 for scholarships.

Great Start Collaborative’s Seth Hopkins said it has become easier for families to find out what things are available to assist their child and help with preschool opportunities.

“I would like to share an exciting new website that is currently being developed to assist with providing a comprehensive website with family resources and programs in one location,” said Hopkins. “The website is www.manisteefamily.org.”

Great Start parent liaison Erin Pontiac also introduced four guest speakers who told those in attendance how they have been helped in providing great services to their children’s preschool needs.

“I have had the opportunity over the past few months to meet many people involved in the early childhood community here in Manistee County, not only the many people involved in the organizations that aim to give our children the best start possible, but also families that we are striving to reach through these programs,” said Pontiac.

Speaking on their personal experiences were parents Tracy Quntero, Tekerya Schrepper, Kelsey Carpenter and Shannon Patrick.  All praised the local preschool services that are available in this area.

 

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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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