S aginaw County Great Start Collaborative 
January 2016



Save The Date
May 5, 2016


Happy New Year!

As we move into a new year, we often reflect on the past year and all that took place. The Great Start Collaborative had quite an exciting year and saw many changes and new beginnings. Within this newsletter we will share some of those updates, as well as share information on what you can look forward to as we move into 2016.


Welcome Farren Samuels!
New Parent Liaison

Farren Samuels is the new Great Start Collaborative Parent Liaison. She was born and raised in Saginaw County, graduating from Nouvel Catholic Central in 2005. After that she pursued a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration/Marketing from Northwood University. She lives in Thomas Township with her son, Dallas, who is 7 with Autism. Her family has used the Birth-3 services, which helped her tremendously with the diagnosis of her child and connecting her with other resources in the county.

Farren has 3 years experience in marketing for a rehabilitation center that serviced adults and children. She currently holds her Real Estate License that she does alongside of the Parent Liaison role. She has a passion for volunteering, especially when it involves women and children. She has been a part of the Junior League of Saginaw Valley for 6 years. She worked on the committee that has done a Christmas party for the Bay Area Women's Shelter, stuff the backpacks for low income families, and a fitness day for the children at the First Ward Community Center, to name a few. Farren also has experience being a CASA for the CAN Council where she was a child advocate.

Farren is compassionate about making changes in the community for families. She strongly feels healthy children, school readiness and parent training is what it takes to move a community forward. She values all feedback and suggestions you can contact her via email at fsamuels@sisd.cc or by phone at 989-399-7458.


Moving Forward Into 2016
New Strategic Plan Leading the Way!

The Great Start Collaborative (GSC) worked hard for almost a year to complete their new strategic plan. This plan was completed in September 2015, and work on the new goals and objectives began in October. This plan will guide our path for the next 3 years.

Many thanks go out to the GSC Board, Parent Coalition and numerous community members that provided invaluable input and time to complete this plan!

To view the plan and find out more information about the work of the GSC, please visit our website at:



Parent Recognized at 
Parent Coalition Holiday Party
Jennifer Letson was recognized at the Parent Coalition's Holiday Party in December for her participation in the Healthy Families America home visiting program.  She was the first participant in the home visiting program and has achieved completing 90% of her weekly home visits since she enrolled in January 2015!  This demonstrates dedication and commitment to strengthening her family.  Jennifer resides in Chesaning with her 5 year old son, Cameron, and her 10 month old daughter, Mariah (pictured here).  Congratulations Jennifer!  

Parent Voice

On November 16th, our Parent Liaison and 4 parents attended the 23rd Annual Parenting Awareness Conference in East Lansing. The focus of this conference was relevant information and important issues facing today's parents and families. The keynote presentation "How to Speak Strength" was given by Maureen Hollocker of Northern Advocate Consulting. Following the keynote, the conference broke into three 75 minute session workshops. Workshop topics included adolescent brain development, wired to move, ACT/raising safe kids, parenting in the digital age, understanding what bullying is and isn't, human trafficking and much more.

On December 9-10th, our Parent Liaison attended the Strengthening Families Conference in Lansing. This conference was hosted by the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC). During this two day conference, Farren learned about the Strengthening Families framework and the 5 protective factors that include:
  • Parent resilience (kids do better when families are strong and positive)
  • Social connections (kids do better when families have trusting, respectful relationships)
  • Knowledge of parenting and child development (kids do better when families understand how kids grow and learn)
  • Concrete support in times of need (kids do better when families are resourceful and have access to help when needed)
  • Social and emotional competence of children (kids do better when families help children understand their emotions and feelings)
Farren is very excited to speak more about these protective factors during upcoming Parent Coalition meetings!


Family-Friendly Business Spotlight Winner

The Great Start Collaborative (GSC) has selected the CAN Council Great Lakes Bay Region for it's Friendly Business Spotlight Award for January-February 2016.  The CAN Council is a recognized leader in children's advocacy and education.  Their mission is building communities where children are free from abuse and neglect.  


Parents who volunteer with the GSC Parent Coalition helped choose this award designation.  One parent who nominated the CAN Council stated, "on many occasions, when a family visits the CAN Council it's not under the best circumstances. The staff tries to make the little ones feel as comfortable as possible."  The CAN Council's family-friendly environment also includes a miniature toilet and sink in the restroom for children, as well as beautiful artwork on the walls and kid-friendly reading materials. You can find out more information on the great things they are doing by visiting their website at www.cancouncil.org. 


Congratulations to the CAN Council on their continued service to families in our community!  


May 5, 2016

More to come soon!


Julie Kozan               Farren Samuels
GSC Director             GSC Parent Liaison
jkozan@sisd.cc          fsamuels@sisd.cc
989.399.7452            989.399.7458

You can also visit our website at www.greatstartsaginaw.org

All children will enter kindergarten safe, healthy and ready to succeed 
in school and in life.