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Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County



The purpose of the Jackson Great Start Collaborative is to maintain an early childhood network with diverse representatives from all areas of the community including, education and childcare, health and human services, businesses, faith-based organizations, and families.  Together we work to ensure Jackson County children are born healthy, developmentally on track, ready to succeed when entering school, and are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. 


The Great Start Collaborative began as "Project Great Start" under Governor Jennifer Granholm in her 2005 State of the State address.  The governor described "Project Great Start" as a new movement that will challenge us to recognize that education begins at birth, not when a child enters school. In 2006, Jackson County was one of the first counties in Michigan to launch "Project Great Start" and quickly began developing a coordinated system of community resources and supports to help all families provide a Great Start for their children.  

In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder furthered the efforts of Granholm by creating the Office of Great Start, located in the Michigan Department of Education, and set forth four clear outcomes to guide state, local, and private efforts affecting the health and well-being of children from the prenatal period to age 8.  These outcomes are:

1.  Children are born healthy.

2.  Children are healthy, thriving, and developmentally on track from birth to third grade.

3.  Children are developmentally ready to succeed in school at time of school entry.

4.  Children are prepared to succeed in fourth grade and beyond by reading proficiently by the end of third grade.  

Current News and Happenings

Since it's launch in 2006, the Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County has grown to form a countywide network with diverse community representation.  Together, we focus on the needs of children and families, realizing that the children at the greatest risk of not achieving the four early childhood outcomes (based on income, family and home environment, developmental ability, and race or ethnicity) must be served first. 

It is because of the formation of our countywide network with over 30 community partners, that we are able to provide information and services to families and young children in a wide range of areas, including: 

  • Physical Health
  • Social-Emotional Health
  • Family Supports
  • Basic Needs, Economic Stability, and Safety
  • Parenting Education
  • Early Education and Child Care

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 the following community highlights and accomplishments:

  • Establishment of a strategic plan to guide the work and direction of the Great Start Collaborative.
  • 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.

  • Early Literacy efforts: Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program (2008-2017), Summer Literacy Labs (2018-2019), Jackson County Little Free Libraries (2018-Present), and Jackson Reads (2020-Present)

Subcommittees of the Collaborative, made up of families, educators, community and social service agency members, meet on a regular basis to discuss, plan, and coordinate early childhood programs and services that will improve early childhood outcomes. Meeting minutes from both our Family Support and School Readiness subcommittees are kept up-to-date and meeting locations and times are listed on our calendar.  Take a look - if you want to help make a difference in our children's lives and future outlook; consider joining in on a meeting. We would love to have you join us!

The more voices we have, the stronger our impact in Jackson County will be!

contact us

6700 Browns Lake Rd., Jackson MI 49201

Preschool Hotline: 517-768-5130

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Our Staff

Kelly Sheppard - Early Childhood Consultant

Bridget Griffith - Early Childhood Coordinator

Kathy Schaefer - Early Childhood Administrative and Data Support Specialist 

Jean Allison - Early Childhood Specialist

Wendy Bell - Early Childhood Specialist

Catherine Brubaker - Early Childhood Specialist

Karyn Head - Early Childhood Specialist

Kymalee Gresh - Early Childhood Specialist

Erica Bullinger - Early Childhood Specialist

The materials are funded through a grant provided by the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential.

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