Expanded Programs Funding Announcement


Barbara Berens

Development & Special Projects Manager


616.451.8281 x227


Local Non-Profit to Ensure More Children are Ready for School through Partnerships with Parents and Families

Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage awards $608,000 to Vibrant Futures

(Grand Rapids, Mich., January 27, 2022) The families in Kent County will be able to receive services that improve the health and school readiness of young children thanks to a new round of Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage funding that was approved this month.

Vibrant Futures was one of 19 community based organizations to receive funding for two of their programs:

  1. Little Scholars a parent coaching model and
  2. Little Learners an early literacy program through play.

Having first received funding in 2020, Vibrant Futures is able to build upon its’ success with developing children and parents’ confidence in scaffolding learning with continued funding.  Little Learners & Little Scholars were launched in March, 2020.  Even with the challenges of providing programming for families in the pandemic, Vibrant Futures persisted successfully supporting children, parents & families either in person, via zoom or at outdoor locations wherever caregivers felt comfortable.

“Our young children are counting on us to help them reach their full potential.  When parents and caregivers are equipped and confident with key techniques to bring out the best in their children, young children thrive.  Little Learners and Little Scholars are the perfect conduits for facilitating profound growth in our precious children,” says Chana Edmond-Verley, CEO of Vibrant Futures.

A Resident Proposal Review Board comprised of parents and other community members reviewed all proposals requesting funding. In September, that group’s recommendations went to the First Steps Kent Board of Commissioners, who administers the millage funding, and was approved by the Kent County Board of Commission.

Little Scholars is part of the Parent Support category where programs include home visiting and child safety initiatives. Trained providers, such as parent educators, regularly visit families in their home or comfortable meeting place to offer a variety of one-on-one education and support.

Little Learners is part of the Early Learning category where programs include facilitated early literacy and play groups. These groups guide parents and/or caregivers with young children through facilitated play activities that model learning opportunities and build an understanding of child development principles.  An important new focus of the collaborative effort in 2022 is early literacy to address the gap in the number of children school ready and reading by 3rd grade.

Programs like Little Learners and Little Scholars bring strong evidence towards supporting improved language ability and listening and communication skills in young children. “We are proud of the impact our Little Learners and Little Scholars programs are having on our community’s children and their families.  We appreciate the confidence that Kent County voters and First Steps Kent has in Vibrant Futures’ ability to serve children and  move the needle on key early literacy measures.  Ready by Five is a great vehicle for collective impact,” says Chris Williams, Board Chair for Vibrant Futures.


 Vibrant Futures with legacy in Kent Regional 4C and a national youth serving organization has over 100 years experience serving the West Michigan community., We hold the vibrant promise of every child, youth, family, caregiver sacred to ensure vibrant futures for all.  Vibrant Futures creates cradle to career opportunities and experiences that hold sacred the vibrant promise and potential in every child, youth, family and caregiver to ensure more vibrant futures for all.

Kent County voters approved the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage on November 6, 2018. The six-year millage generates approximately $5.7 million each year of dedicated funding for community-based early childhood programs, ensuring children and their families have access to vital services. All millage dollars go through an independent audit and are reported to the Kent County Board of Commissioners each year to ensure taxpayer funds are spent wisely and transparently.

 The Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage provides dedicated and sustainable funding for programs that improve the health, school readiness, and well-being of children under age five in Kent County. First Steps Kent is the administrator of the Ready by Five millage funds.