Greater Collaboration Provides a Great Start

by United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region

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Posted on behalf of Denise Hartsough, Director of Community Investment

Visit www.changethestory.org to learn more about the work we are doing in Education.

At United Way, we believe that positive, nurturing early childhood experiences are vital to creating a thriving community, so that our children are able to begin their journey strong and continue to succeed. We know that when we invest in children from the beginning, we can prevent a great deal of hardship later in their lives and make our community stronger. This is why United Way actively engages in the work of the Kalamazoo County Great Start Collaborative.  I am privileged to support the Great Start Collaborative’s efforts around early care and education, and parenting education and support.

The Kalamazoo County Great Start Collaborative aims to “assure a coordinated system of community resources and supports to help all Kalamazoo County families provide a great start for their children from birth to age five” (www.kalamazoogreatstartcollaborative.org). That system includes home visiting for families of children ages 0-3, and high-quality pre-kindergarten for 4-year olds.  I am excited to announce that a new grant will strengthen the system by offering scholarships for high-quality care and education for 3-year olds.  Consumers Energy has awarded $20,000 to help families of 3-year-olds in our community. Children with a scholarship for  high-quality care and education at age 3 will then move to a high-quality preK program when they are 4 years old–Head Start, state-funded preschool, or a Kalamazoo County Ready 4s provider.  Two years in high-quality programs will give participating children a great start as they head into kindergarten!

The Great Start Collaborative is partnering with Child Care Resources for this scholarship program.  Child Care Resources serves as the fiduciary of the grant and will disburse the funds directly to the early care and education providers.  Eligible families who receive the scholarship will choose from providers rated at the four or five star level in the state-wide Great Start to Quality rating system.

I am happy to have been able to help strengthen the early childhood system in our community by writing this grant with staff from the Great Start Collaborative and Child Care Resources. This is yet another example of how well our community collaborates for positive change.

To learn more about United Way, and our work on Education, Income and Health in the region, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @LIVEUNITEDbckr.