September 2021


Great Start Collaborative News and Events

Great Start Parent Coalition

Families Connect Flyer 1
Families Connect Flyer 2

Kalamazoo County Great Start Collaborative is excited to host (virtual) Parent Coalition Meetings on Wednesday, September 29th at 7:30pm and Thursday, September 30th at 2:00pm. Parent Coalition Meetings are opportunities for parents and caregivers to connect and take action on ways we can help support families in our community. The meetings will take place on Zoom and last one hour, and all participants will have a chance to win a $25 gift card! If you are a parent or caregiver, we would love for you to join us! Your voice matters.

Choose which meeting time works best for you:
Click here to sign up for Wednesday evening meeting
Click here to sign up for Thursday daytime meeting

Great Start Collaborative Quarterly Meetings

Our first Quarterly meeting of the 21/22 year was a great success. Parent Liaison Ashley Drenth and the Trusted Advisors talked about all the great connections they have been making with local families. Talking Is Teaching Campaign Manager Jen Stroven and Literacy Consultant Katy Clark presented on the Kalamazoo County Talking Is Teaching Campaign and shared a crosswalk of Early Literacy Essentials, birth to Grade 3.

If you are interested in the December Quarterly make sure you RSVP and save the date.

Native American Family Meet-Ups

We are so grateful to Monica Washington Padula and Robin Greymountain for their tireless efforts to connect with Native American families. The Great Start Collaborative has received funding from the Michigan Department of Education and the Native American Heritage Fund to lead monthly Family Meet-Ups for families with children of ALL ages. These monthly events (whether held virtually or outside) teach traditions such as Mkaazin-Making (moccasin-making) and create connections among families. This group reaches out to families who may live far from their tribal lands or might not be "federally recognized" and works to create relationships and connect families to needed resources across Kalamazoo County.

As we approach Idigenous Peoples' Day on October 11th and the month of November, we encourage you explore some wonderful resources to deepen and change the conversation with our young ones about indigenous people in our community.

Children's Books Written by Indigenous Authors
Classroom Resources on Native American History
Educator Resources from the National Museum of the American Indian


Talking is Teaching Early Literacy Campaign

Wrapping up Summer with Talking is Teaching!

The Kalamazoo County Talking is Teaching Campaign had a great summer holding seven Literacy Walks throughout the county. Caregivers, parents and children enjoyed exploring the literacy yard signs and many of the parks held special storytime events in partnership with local libraries. Special thanks to our many partners: Kalamazoo City and County Parks and Recreation departments, Kalamazoo Public Library, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Comstock Township Library, Galesburg-Charleston Library, and Sunshine Kiwanis. And thank YOU for sharing these opportunities with your colleagues and families!

Stay tuned to see these colorful yard signs spread throughout the county at various businesses and organizations - and please reach out if you would like to host yard signs at your organization!

Back to "School" even at Home!

Kalamazoo County Talking is Teaching is here to support our littlest ones' "back to school needs" whether that be at home, in daycare or in preschool. We are excited to introduce our Preschool Literacy Toolkit, available for electronic download. This is a wonderful early literacy tool for families at home or in centers and care facilities.
Link to Preschool Toolkit


As the school year gets started, we are excited to re-launch our monthly themes! Starting with our September Books Toolkit


Great Start Collaborative Staff

Sarah Drumm, Program Coordinator, 269-250-9635

Deirdre Bartells, Program Assistant, 269-250-9664

Ashley Drenth, Parent Liaison, 269-250-9665

Jen Stroven, Talking is Teaching Campaign Manager, 269-250-9701


Great Start Collaborative Vision

A Great Start for every child in Kalamazoo County: safe, healthy and successful in school and life.

Great Start Collaborative Mission

The purpose of the Great Start Collaborative is to ensure a coordinated system of community resources and family supports in Kalamazoo County.

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