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Early Childhood Education : People

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The Fine Art of Parenting

Hardest job in the world? You betcha. Parenting Communities in Leelanau County helps with the challenges of parenting young children and preparing them for school success. 

Yvonne Davis

Yvonne Davis retired in 2008 from a career as an elementary teacher and educational administrator, but rejoined the workforce in 2010 with Lift Up Through Literacy, a program of Kalamazoo Public Schools. Since she has always had a focus on family, she considers her executive directorship a dream job, allowing her to connect with parents and children through the program.  

Ann Kalass

When Ann Kalass, chief executive officer of Starfish Family Services in Inkster, was growing up, she realized early on that not all children had the same opportunities as she did. Today, she’s driven to make sure vulnerable kids get the education they need to start off life with a strong footing.

Pat Sosa VerDuin

Pat Sosa VerDuin leads Ready for School with a passion for preparing children for school and for encouraging their parents to be informed and engaged. When parents, volunteers and community are all engaged in early childhood education, everyone wins.

Dr. Marijata Daniel-Echols

With a background in research, policy, and evaluation in the early childhood education arena, Starfish Family Services’ new vice president of early childhood policy and programs, Dr. Marijata Daniel-Echols, has learned to welcome progress in large or small doses. She brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the Inkster-based private nonprofit in hopes of improving life outcomes for vulnerable children.

Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh

Dr. Nkechy Ezeh, CEO for the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, says in the early years she sometimes felt like the only voice advocating for vulnerable children in Grand Rapids. Today, she says, there is still a long way to go, but "at least the journey has now started."

Jason Lee

Jason Lee, Executive Director of the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), believes that if children have a solid education rooted in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and are prepared to pursue a career as an engineer, they can do anything. A recent survey of program participants showed that 90 percent of respondents graduated from high school.  

Travis Williams

Leader Travis Williams has worked for the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway since its 2000 inception and has been thoroughly involved with the nonprofit’s development. Williams uses experience in business development, nonprofit management, strategic planning and partnerships to drive the center’s growth and advancement.

Sandra L. Standish

Sandra Standish has been a staunch and prolific child advocate in Kalamazoo County for over three decades. The former Superintendent of Comstock Public Schools now leads Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, an initiative that strives to make sure all young children in the county have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education. In just one year, Ready 4s has doubled its enrollment.

Timothy J. Bartik

Dr. Timothy Bartik, author and economist, is an outspoken proponent of universal preschool and a research expert in the areas of early childhood education and state and local economic development. His opinion, in both realms, is that equity matters more than almost anything, and he has written several books on this subject matter.  

Richard Clanton

Richard V. Clanton, CEO of United Methodist Community House, wants all children to succeed, regardless of their life circumstances. And, he’s proud of how his agency has improved the lives of at-risk Grand Rapids children through nationally accredited child development and after-school centers, summer day camp, and a literacy initiative.

Erin Melcher

Erin Melcher places a strong value on financing quality education – an investment that she says will pay off now and later. As the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center‘s principal and executive director, she knows firsthand the importance of fostering student achievement at her K-5 learning institution.

Michael Earl

Every child, and every family, deserves a chance to achieve. It’s that fundamental belief that drives everyone at Oakland Family Services, up to and including CEO Michael Earl. He’s inspired by seeing children who face difficult circumstances believe in their ability to achieve whatever they set out to do. 

Cindy Ruble

As executive director of the Educators’ Task Force, former Lakeview superintendent Cindy Ruble connects and represents all of Battle Creek’s education leadership, including those at private schools, charters and colleges. The ETF manages programs designed to benefit and support children in their education – from birth through adulthood. 

Michael Poma

As executive director of the Baraga Houghton Keweenaw Child Development Board, Michael Poma works to see that children keep up with their peers in school. However, what keeps him awake at night is wishing he could make his services accessible and affordable to more people, especially needy children.

Kari Walker

A vision for better outcomes for at-risk children drives Kari Walker, The Guidance Center’s president and CEO. His Downriver agency is both a catalyst for community change and a haven for local children and families. 
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