From Baby Scholars to Early-college Learners, Successfest Celebrates Education

These moms and children were among the many graduates of the Baby Scholars program honored at Successfest

It was called Successfest, and it sure felt that way to the mothers who took the stage with their preschool children.

They were the most recent graduates of a program called Baby Scholars, which helps parents get their five-month to 5-year-old children get off to a good educational start.

“Parents, you are the key to your children’s success,” program supervisor Tequia Adams told the group. “Your babies are going to rock the world because of you!”

“Naivon’s graduating! That’s right!” shouted Michael Ruffin with a big smile, as his grandson came on stage with his mother, Nikia Rembert.

The ceremony was a high point of Successfest, a festival of educational initiatives co-sponsored by Grand Rapids Public Schools and Believe 2 Become, a partnership of families, schools and community organizations. The July 16 event drew thousands to the Gerald R. Ford Academic Center for an afternoon of school support services, honors and fun.

GRPS Superintendent Teresa Nealwelcomed the crowd and thanked the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, which supports Believe 2 Become. Neal said the day was all about letting people know what services are available as a new school year approaches.

“This is our way of saying, ‘Hey people, we’re ready,’” Neal said. “Summer’s almost over, right? We’re ready.”

Mia Sherman, 2, enjoys playing with tops and rulers at one of many information booths

Information and Services Galore

Parents jammed booths to sign their children up for kindergarten and services such as the Women, Infants & Children program (WIC). They picked up information on everything from the Migrant Education Program, to safe food preparation from the Kent County Health Department, to job services from Goodwill Industries.

GRPS Library Media Services technician Jan Baker handed out leaflets on the Overdrive Summer eReading program and the Summer Reading Challenge, a partnership with the Grand Rapids Public Library. Prizes of Beats headphones and Kindle Fire tablets will be given to the most rabid readers and dedicated bloggers at an Aug. 13 celebration at John Ball Park.

“They’re reading all summer,” Baker said of GRPS students accessing more than 2,000 available titles. “These kids are loving it.”

Aquinas College math instructor Shari Ciganik hung out with Nichole Mansfield and Keryn Crutcher, GRPS high school students taking part in an eight-week college-prep program at Aquinas.

“They work us just as hard as they work college kids,” said Nichole, a student at Innovation Central High.

At the Baby Scholars tent, supervisor Tequia Adams said data has started coming in showing the four-year-old program is yielding good results in terms of parent intervention and child behavior. The aim is to make sure parents have the skills they need to get their children ready for kindergarten, she said.

“We all know from birth to 5 is the most critical stage of development,” Adams said. “For parents to be more intentional with their response to parenting, that’s our goal. That’s going to make the difference.”

Wuese Terwase, a Nigerian immigrant, said she’s seen the difference in her 2-year-old daughter, Nissi, before taking the stage in the graduation ceremony.

“I learned so many things, and now I’m the best teacher for her,” Terwase said. “Now she has so many words, all thanks to Baby Scholars.”

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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