Early Learning Matters

Strong Beginnings is an early childhood education pilot program offered to three-year-old children who experience various barriers to learning in Cass County. Heritage Southwest ISD’s Department of Early Childhood Education was awarded the grant as only one of four intermediate school districts in the State of Michigan in November, 2020. The program is modeled on Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), with modifications made to ensure suitability for three-year-old children. Research on two-year preschool programs indicates that children who enter formal education in kindergarten with two years of preschool experience show significant positive developmental differences when compared to children who attended for only one year.

Family Partnerships

To strengthen learning at home, Strong Beginnings programs actively engage and continuously partner with families in the learning process to get the best outcomes. With that in mind, Strong Beginnings classrooms feature a Family Liaison who works with families to support their goals and connect them to local services.


As of fall 2023, Cass County will have four Strong Beginnings classrooms, one is each district. Children who enroll in Strong Beginnings are guaranteed entry as four-year-olds in the Great Start Readiness Program (GRSP), ensuring two years of high quality preschool at no cost to qualifying families.


Strong Beginnings classrooms will operate in person, Monday-Thursday on a full day schedule, according to the host elementary school. All meals and snacks will be provided at no cost to families. To ensure high quality experiences as a model site, Strong Beginnings teachers will be supported by an Early Childhood Specialist and receive extensive training in supporting the developmental needs of their children using the HighScope Approach, an evidence-based curriculum based in Ypsilanti, Michigan.


Families with children aged three by September 1 are eligible for Strong Beginnings, according to qualifying factors that work to increase equity and accessibility in the community.

Michigan Department of Education

The Strong Beginnings Pilot Program was developed by the Michigan Department of Education Office of Great Start, with the support of the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five Initiative (PDG B-5), Grant Number 90TP0055 from the Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Early Childhood Programs and Services Online Intake

Unsure about applying?
If you have any questions about the Great Start Readiness Program, contact Vicki Foote at 269-445-6283 or by email at vicki.foote@hsisd.org.