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GRCC receives $1M grant to support 'Play and Learn' groups

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Posted at 10:46 AM, Jan 06, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College’s “Play and Learn” groups will be better able to support the community’s youngest learners and their families thanks to a $1 million grant from Kent County’s Ready by Five Early Childhood millage.

It’ll be divided over 2022 and 2023, according to a news release Thursday.

GRCC is one of 28 organizations sharing the $9.7 million generated by the millage, which Kent County voters approved back in 2018.

“When we say GRCC supports lifelong learning, that includes our community’s youngest residents,” GRCC President Bill Pink said in a statement. “Our Play and Learn groups strengthen the relationships between children, their families and caregivers and their schools in order to make the transition into kindergarten as smooth, comfortable and successful as possible. That solid foundation can help a student be more successful all along their educational journey. That helps them, their families and our community as a whole.”

A Resident Proposal Review Board composed of parents and community members reviewed all proposals requesting funding.

The First Steps Kent Board of Commissioners signed off on the recommendations, which the Kent County Board of Commissioners approved this week.

“We continue to see a great need from families in Kent County,” said Annemarie Valdez, president of First Steps Kent. “The number of proposals we received exceeded the amount we had to allocate, which shows that this millage is necessary and continues to make an impact. We are grateful for the support of Kent County residents. This continues to be a vital investment in young children across our community and families need these resources now more than ever.”

GRCC’s Phyllis Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory operates the Play and Learn groups for children up to age 5 to help parents and other caregivers learn skills and strategies to prepare for success in school. The groups meet at the preschool and six other locations, and officials say the curriculum aligns with state Department of Education expectations for kindergarten readiness.

Back in 2020, GRCC received more than $671,000 from the millage to support the Play and Learn groups.