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My Town: Kent County campaign spreads the word about free preschool | Community Spirit

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My Town: Kent County campaign spreads the word about free preschool
My Town: Kent County campaign spreads the word about free preschool
------------------------NEWS RELEASE---------------GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (First Steps Kent) – A collaborative team of parents, educators and advocates in Kent County launches a coordinated spring-summer marketing campaign for state-funded free preschool this week. Designed with bright colors, bold graphics, and adorable children, the materials focus on the benefit of preschool for little ones throughout the county. Campaign posters, flyers and yard signs will be shared by schools, preschools, doctors’ offices, salons, grocery stores and more—essentially, any organization serving parents of preschoolers. “We don’t have buckets of money for a big advertising push, so we are taking it to the streets with our amazing network of parent volunteers, community advocates, and grassroots activists,” said Judy Freeman, director of Great Start Collaborative for Kent County. Great Start is the statewide network of early childhood providers. “Although the final vote on funding has not yet occurred in Lansing, we can’t wait. We anticipate thousands of calls, so parents, submit your applications now.” Free preschool will be available for children who are 3 or 4 years old by October 1, 2014. Parents can call 616-447-2409 to ask questions and submit an application; assistance is available in English and Spanish. The freepreschoolkent.org website will feature essential information as well. Kent ISD is hosting the website, managing the call center, and providing preschool teachers to most of the school districts. “We strongly encourage parents of preschoolers to call now for fall,” said Mike Ghareeb, director of early childhood education for Kent ISD. “Just like the campaign says, success starts early… and the earlier parents call, the better their chances of getting a free preschool enrollment by fall.” Families qualify for free preschool based on their income or other factors such as special needs, foster care, or high risks. Guidelines vary based on the age of the child. “If in doubt, by all means call,” said Rebekah Fennell, executive director of First Steps Kent, an early childhood advocacy organization. “The call is free. The information is invaluable. And starting early? [It's] priceless.” Free preschool partners in Kent County include Great Start Readiness Programs sponsored by: Grand Rapids Public Schools, David D. Hunting YMCA, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, Ellington Academy, Head Start, Hope Academy, and Grand Rapids Community College. More partners will be added in June 2014. Additional Great Start Readiness Programs are provided by Kent ISD through the following school districts:
  • Byron Center Public Schools
  • Caledonia Community Schools
  • Cedar Springs Public Schools
  • Comstock Park Public Schools
  • Forest Hills Public Schools
  • Godfrey Lee Public Schools
  • Godwin Heights Public Schools
  • Grandville Public Schools
  • Kelloggsville Public Schools
  • Kenowa Hills Public Schools
  • Kent City Community Schools
  • Kentwood Public Schools
  • Lowell Area Schools
  • Northview Public Schools
  • Rockford Public Schools
  • Sparta Area Schools
  • Thornapple Kellogg Schools
  • Wyoming Public Schools
The districts with the most income-eligible children are Grand Rapids, Godwin Heights, Godfrey Lee, Wyoming, Kelloggsville, Kentwood, and Comstock Park. Last year, districts within Kent ISD had free preschool openings that went unfilled because not enough qualifying families applied.