Community Center Receives High Rating For Early Care, Education Program

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Greater Midland Community Center recently received a higher quality rating for its early care and education programs, demonstrating the level of care and education they provide to area children and their parents.

GMCC’s Early Care Program was awarded a four-star rating, moving up from a two-star rating three years ago. The four-star rating puts the tuition-based program in the top 10% of Quality Care in Midland County, said Kristen McDonald, CEO and president of Greater Midland.

The rating is part of Michigan’s Great Start to Quality program, which evaluates infant, toddler and pre-K education programs based on five main categories: staff qualifications and professional development; family and community partnerships; administration and management; environment; and curriculum and instruction.

The goal of the rating, which is a scale of one to five “stars,” is to help parents decide where to send their children for pre-kindergarten education.

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The Great Start to Quality program is under the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start. It is implemented by an independent, public non-profit called the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.

McDonald, who is also one of the chief architects of the ECIC and was appointed to the Executive Committee of the ECIC by Gov. Rick Snyder in July 2017, said it is difficult to go from a two-star rating to a three-star rating and even more difficult to get to a four.

Although, she said Greater Midland’s star increase was due to some changes in curriculum in addition to an emphasis on staff development.

“We really worked intentionally on adopting an evidence-based curriculum and focused a lot on the professional development of our staff and working in partnership with parents and families to think about how we can support kids at every single stage of development,” she said.

Every classroom at the center has a daily lesson plan and every child has an education plan tailored specifically to them. To track growth, the programs use key development indicators, McDonald said.

“Ninety-six percent of our kids meet their developmental milestones every single year,” she said. “And we’re enormously proud of that, particularly since more than 65% of the kids we serve qualify as low-income.”

However, she admitted that Greater Midland couldn’t do it alone. While the community center’s personal fitness program helps bring in most of the funding for the early care program, there has been outside support as well.

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“Part of the reason we have been able to make these leaps forward in quality is because we have a very generous philanthropic community here,” she said. “So, everybody from Kiwanis to the Strosacker Foundation have really supported our work to improve our curriculum and the increase professional development of our staff, and even help to purchase materials for our classrooms. Had we not had that level of support, I don’t think we would have been able to do this.”

McDonald said the only reason the early care program did not receive a 5-star rating is due to the environment category. She said the building infrastructure, as it is now, would not allow for a five-star rating due to things like no direct access to the playground and the fact that there isn’t a toilet in every classroom.

“There are things structurally that this building doesn’t accommodate that would have allowed us to get to a 5-star rating,” she said. “But everything else, in terms of our curriculum, what happens in the classroom; the interaction with our staff; qualifications with our staff are five-star.”

However, the community center’s program does offer some perks in that the kids are able to access all the other facilities, such as the pool, McDonald said.

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"The light in a 3-year old’s eyes when you tell them it’s their day to visit the pool is like nothing you’ve ever seen,” she said.

In addition the to the community center, Greater Midland has three other early care locations, each with their own star rating. Together, they are Midland County's largest early care provider.

The Greater Midland Community Center is located at 2205 Jefferson Ave. To learn more, visit http://www.greatermidland.org/childcare/

Q & A: Former camper and now counselor Griffin Chapman

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Q & A: Former camper and now counselor

Earlier this week I had the pleasure to speak with Griffin Chapman, former camper and now counselor at Greater Midland Summer Camps. The 16-year-old Junior at Dow High School is a pleasant young man that clearly has a passion for giving back. In the banter below you’ll learn about his experiences at Summer Camp, including “one of the best moments” in his life, why he wanted to become a counselor, and by the end, see what it is like trying to conduct an interview with such a popular young leader.
-Adam J. Salgat | Digital Specialist

How old were you when you started attending Greater Midland Summer Camps?

When I was 10 years old we moved here to Midland. I started that summer.

What did you think about it when you first started?

Griffin, once a camper that climbed this rock, now hangs with Lexi as she plays with friends.

Griffin, once a camper that climbed this rock, now hangs with Lexi as she plays with friends.

I remember my first day they had a bounce house and it was just like a good way to start off I guess because counselors were in there and we were just having fun. Right away I felt like, I was like at home.

What kind of relationships in the last six years have you created with those counselors?

It's crazy because a lot of people that I'm close with and are friends with now I've met at camp. Brett, the counselor I met right away at camp, we're good friends now - and there's other people that I've met and over time made a strong connection with.

What did you enjoy most while attending as a kid?

Probably in general, just the people because that just makes it, that makes it what it is - because like I said it just kind of felt like home and because I was here every day for the full day camp and it just kind of felt like I was coming to hang out with my friends all day.

Photo from 2016 with Brett, Griffin and crew.

Photo from 2016 with Brett, Griffin and crew.

It felt kind of like a family, I suppose.

Right, yeah.

Tell me about why you wanted to become a camp counselor. First you were a junior counselor, right?

Right, yeah.

And now you're a full camp counselor. Tell me about why you wanted to do that?

Well, being a camper here, a lot of my role models were counselors, like Brett, I mentioned. He's a big role model. Just a great guy. I realized that I can make an impact, because he definitely made an impact on me. So, being able to make an impact on the kids that are my campers now instead of me being the camper is just kind of a cool experience.

What do you enjoy most about spending time with the kids?

I think just all the funny stories because you know kids and they're crazy and they'll say some crazy things and funny things. It's just always a fun time here with the kids definitely.

Tell me a little bit about what you like about what our camps have to offer. You’ve probably done a lot of different types of camps over the years.

I think it's just crazy that we have so much to offer and so many kids can come in and experience the camp for themselves. We have engineering camps and then we have all these sports camps and all these dancing camps and everything like that. It's just crazy. There's just so much to offer and there's so much that kids can do and they just kind of can find their own little niche in here and they always have a great time. I've never seen a bad experience here.

If you knew a family with some young kids, what would you tell them to get them to sign up for camp and what experience would you share?

I would definitely share, oh, there's one experience I always share. When I was 12, 11, maybe I was in the full day camp and I think it was Survivor week at full day. We went down to Barstow Woods and we made a game. We made our own game. We created all the rules and created everything and it was one of the best moments ever in my life. It was super fun and super cool and everybody had a great time and that's the one thing I think of when I think of this camp here. So, I guess I would tell them that you'll make memories here for sure. You'll have something to hold on to.

Any other fun stories that you can think of that you want to share?

Honestly thinking about it, I can't think of one specific one, but I just know that every day was always fun.

[Camper] She fell down in some leaves.

Oh, great, can you brush that off?

[Camper] Yeah.

Okay, cool. 

Anything else you want to add about your experience with Greater Midland Summer Camps?

Not really, I think I've mentioned everything in general. It's a fun place to work and be, all around a good time. Hey, what's up? Are you leaving?

[Man] She is leaving.

All right, Libby, I'll see you tomorrow. 

[Libby] This is my grandpa.

Oh, hi, Grandpa, hey. I'll see you tomorrow, bye.

That was cute. Griffin, thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.

No problem!

Greater Midland Family Centers Thank Local Donors for $38,891 in Grants

Generous donations from the Midland Kiwanis Foundation and the Youth Action Council of the Midland Area Community Foundation provide support for local initiatives

MIDLAND, Mich. – Greater Midland North and Coleman Family Centers received a total of $38,891 in recent grant funds to create and expand local initiatives.  The grants were awarded by the Midland Kiwanis Foundation, $31,815, and the Youth Action Council of the Midland Area Community Foundation, $7,076.

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Midland Kiwanis’ funds will be used to provide support for the Partners in Education program, helping to foster quality education for young students.  Specifically, the support will be used for preschool scholarships, classroom materials and playground updates.

Midland Area Foundation’s funds will be used to expand access of Greater Midland’s programs and build infrastructure. 

“We are so grateful for the financial support from the Kiwanis and the Midland Area Community Foundation. These funds will help us to enhance our facilities for our Early Care & Education program and to provide scholarships to preschoolers and teens,” said Liz Conway, the Executive Director of the North and Coleman Family Centers.

The Midland County Youth Action Council is a project of the Midland Area Community Foundation, and is made possible through the council of Michigan Foundations and supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg foundation. The Midland Area Community Foundation provides philanthropic leadership to strengthen our community by fostering collaboration and giving today and in the future.

Greater Midland North and Coleman Family centers are located in Midland County and are aimed at inspiring self-development, providing educational enrichment, and encouraging positive physical activity. 

-- To learn more about Greater Midland North and Coleman Family Centers, visit greatermidland.org/NFC or greatermidland.org/CFC.