GRCC to lead in new U.S. Department of Education project

Dec. 19, 2018 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Grand Rapids Community College will be the first in the state to participate in a national project to better prepare early childhood education professionals.

The project, supported by a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, will be guided by the University of Toledo.

UT faculty will join colleagues at four Michigan community colleges on Great Start for Higher Education, focusing on helping early childhood teachers with associate degrees better meet the needs of young children with disabilities and their families.

An advisory board -- comprised of Michigan experts, family members of children with disabilities, graduates of community college early childhood programs, representatives from state agencies, and other early childhood and early childhood special education professionals -- will guide the work.

“The Great Start for Higher Education project will help us ensure our graduates are well-prepared to support each and every young child and family,” said Rebecca Brinks, GRCC's Child Development program director. “This project will also enhance our program’s preparation for continued national accreditation under new standards, which have a far greater emphasis on issues of culture, language, equity, ability and inclusion.” 

GRCC will be the first to participate, followed by Mott Community College, Monroe County Community College, and a yet-to-be-selected fourth program. 

The GSHE team will provide intensive professional development for GRCC colleagues related to their emphasis on evidence-based practices for supporting children of diverse abilities, cultures, languages, and life circumstances and their families.

UT faculty member Laurie Dinnebeil and national consultant Camille Catlett, of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in Chapel Hill, N.C., will partner with Brinks as well as other campus and community partners. 

Catlett said GRCC was selected because of the nationally accredited program's reputation and Brinks' leadership and commitment. 

"GRCC is well-known as a high-quality program focusing on preparing early childhood professionals to serve the Grand Rapids' area's young children and families," she said. "Dr. Brinks' expertise in standards and accreditation will be vitally important for our work moving forward."

The grant is for $750,000 over five years starting in January  and is a competitive award based on peer review and ranking of a national pool of applications.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

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