Recently, our community received the good news that the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) — a high-quality, primarily state-funded preschool program — would be maintained for the 2020-2021 school year. The commitment and partnership of Traverse City Area Public Schools, the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, as well as investment by community philanthropic partners, made this possible. The agreement to continue the program preserves more than $800,000 in state funding for our community and also ensures that 112 area students, and their families, continue to have access to the early education experience — an essential component to preparing young learners for school readiness and future success.
In addition to the success of preserving GSRP programming for the coming school year, there is an important commitment on the part of many partners — including TBAISD, TCAPS, the Community Foundation, Rotary Charities, United Way of NWMI and others — to work together to identify a long-term, sustainable solution that ensures this essential early education opportunity remains in our region for the future.
Quality childcare opportunities and strong preschool experiences, like what is offered through the GSRP program, are critical components to supporting our region’s youngest learners, positioning them for success as they begin their K-12 education. The significant gap in available quality childcare in northwest Michigan has already reached crisis proportions nationwide and in our region. In addition, the latest data showed only 44 percent of children in our five-county region were deemed kindergarten ready, a key predictor of future educational achievement for students.
The experience of the last several weeks demonstrates the power and opportunity of cross-sector collaboration. Following the difficult decision by TCAPS to discontinue GSRP programming, philanthropic partners joined in discussions with TCAPS and TBAISD leadership to consider solutions to maintain GSRP in our community for the 2020-21 school year and beyond. Through the process, we found partners in the philanthropic community ready to invest in our local students and families. We were joined by the Biederman Family Foundation, Dan Edson (president of the American Proficiency Institute), Oleson Foundation, Art and Mary Schmuckal Family Foundation and United Way of NWMI — together committing $75,000 needed to ensure continued access to this important preschool programming.
Like with the Urgent Needs Fund, which has contributed nearly $600,000 to support area nonprofits responding to COVID-19 impacts, the Community Foundation is proud of the role it was able to play in this case. When news of the potential loss of the GSRP program became known, donors and community partners looked to the Community Foundation and its philanthropic partners for creative problem solving and solutions. This is an important and meaningful example of what is possible through partnership, collaboration and strategic philanthropy. Working together, our government, education, business and nonprofit community can make a real difference in the lives of the people we serve.
About the author: David Mengebier is the president and CEO of the Grand Traverse Regional Community. The Community Foundation for Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties emphasizes creating healthy, resilient, thriving communities by serving donors, awarding meaningful grants and scholarships and participating in collaborative leadership on important community issues. For more information, visit www.gtrcf.org or call 231-935-4066.