Great Start is Michigan's nationally recognized state-wide initiative to foster school readiness and life success for young children.
Governor Jennifer Granholm launched Project Great Start in her 2005 State of the State address. The governor described this new initiative as a movement that challenges us all to recognize that education begins at birth, not when a child enters school.
Click here to learn more about the statewide Great Start system
The Great Start system began as an initiative of Governor Jennifer Granholm in 2005 to ensure that every child in Michigan enters school ready to succeed. In 2006, Jackson was among the first counties in Michigan to be awarded a planning grant from the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) to begin developing a coordinated system of community resources and supports to help all families provide a great start for their children.
Since 2006, Collaborative membership has grown to over 35 members that include business leaders, parents, faith-based organizations, charitable organizations, human service, non-profits, child care providers, physical and social & emotional health and other community stakeholders. The collaborative meets on a regular basis to plan and coordinate early childhood programs and services resulting in improved collaboration and service delivery to better serve the needs of young children and their families.
The community of Jackson and those involved with the Great Start Collaborative recognize that an investment in early childhood is an economic issue for Jackson County and are committed to bringing about change in early childhood issues. This is evident through these community highlights and accomplishments:
Involvement of community members from all sectors in collaborative meetings, trainings and events through the dedication of time, staff and resources.
Strategic partnerships among early childhood programs, parents, providers and other community agencies
Identification and analysis of current community services through partnership with
Central Michigan 2-1-1
Development of a community awareness campaign for early childhood issues
Subcommittees, comprised of Great Start members and community members, have been convened to begin working on these issues to move the work of Great Start forward.
Child Care & Early Education
Pediatric & Family Health
Social Emotional Health
Since it began in 2006, the Collaborative has helped support parents with young children in Jackson County in many ways, including:
Support for early literacy:
In 2008, the Collaborative received a start-up grant from Consumers Energy to implement Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
for all children ages 0-5 in Jackson County. Each registered child receives one age-appropriate book each month until their fifth birthday. In March 2011, the 100,000th book was mailed and the program continues to serve more than 4,000 young children county-wide. The number of children served grows each day. The program continues today thanks to the generosity of businesses and individuals in the Jackson area.
Child care tuition assistance: In 2008, the Collaborative launched a Child Care Scholarship Pilot program that provided support to more than 20 children during 2008 and 2009. During its pilot phase the program provided up to $5,000 per year to help pay for quality child care while their parents attended school and worked. Due to its success and increased demand for services, the program continues to be administered by Child Care Network
with the support of Consumers Energy and United Way of Jackson County.
Continued growth and development of the Great Start Parent Coalition
, a diverse group of parent leaders committed to the success of young children in the Jackson community.
Early Childhood Endowment Fund established at the Jackson County Community Foundation to allow local support for early childhood to grow, as well as provide sustainability to both the Imagination Library and Child Care Scholarship programs. Donations from businesses, organizations and individuals are continuously sought to ensure longevity. Download the Imagination Library Donor Card to make a tax deductible donation today.
Improving kindergarten readiness is being approached from many angles. The Great Start Collaborative is currently in its fourth year of a county-wide school readiness assessment project in partnership with the Jackson County Intermediate School District
. The assessment uses a nationally normed tool to determine the foundational literacy skills of entering kindergarteners with an emphasis on skills that help children be ready for success in school. The results are compiled annually and shared with early childhood professionals as well as the education and early childhood community at large to ensure alignment of a child’s birth to five learning environment with the skills needed to be ready to succeed in kindergarten. Data is also used to determine the effectiveness of early childhood programs and services in the community.
Whether you are a parent, a professional, or anyone involved in the life of a child, we invite you to participate in Project Great Start. For more information about the Great Start Collaborative please email us.