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Family Engagement

As families nurture, care, play, and support their children’s development, they are laying a foundation for lifelong health and learning.  All families benefit from access to information, support and education that give them the tools they want to raise healthy young learners.  Effective programs and learning opportunities for families seek to understand individual family situations and work with families, as co-learners and partners to support them to take steps to achieve their goals and realize their dreams for their children.

We have team members whose work has made us a national leader in working with and on behalf of families to create the opportunities and programs families need and want to make a difference in their own lives, for their children and for their communities.

You can learn about our Family Engagement work here.

Our Experts

Alissa Parks

Alissa Parks joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2008 and has served in many different roles for ECIC including Senior Director, Consultant, and is currently a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant supporting Great Start Collaboratives and Great Start Parent Coalitions across the state. She is a skilled facilitator and trainer and has expertise in group development and dynamics, designing and implementing effective collaborative meetings and technical assistance and training initiatives, and leading strategic planning efforts.  Ms. Parks has worked at both the state and local level leading a variety of systems reform efforts, primarily focused within the areas of early childhood, housing and homelessness, mental health and juvenile justice, substance abuse, and child welfare.

Ms. Parks has extensive experience at both the state and local level in building effective partnerships and implementing collaborative-based human service and early childhood initiatives.  Her prior experience also includes administering and coordinating 12 community change efforts simultaneously within a county boundary utilizing a variety of adaptive leadership skills and techniques.  She has also administered several statewide grant programs and has been involved in systems change efforts for almost 19 years.

Ms. Parks received her undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice with a focus on youth services and sociology from Saginaw Valley State University and her Masters of Public Policy and Administration from Michigan State University with an emphasis on evaluation and organizational leadership.  She has been trained in a variety of individual, group and planning processes including Adaptive Schools, Cognitive Coaching, and the ABLe Change Framework.

Jordan Blough-Orr joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2012 as a Communications Specialist. In August of 2014 Ms. Blough-Orr transitioned to the role of Early Childhood Specialist.   Ms. Blough-Orr works across multiple projects at the Investment Corporation with a focus on school-age children and family engagement. She continues to serve as a resource to the Great Start Network in providing network-wide training and technical assistance in the use of social media and has a particular focus on enhancing the effectiveness of communications with vulnerable parent and family populations.

 Ms. Blough-Orr’s experience includes an internship at the Investment Corporation during the development of Michigan’s tiered quality rating and improvement system for child care and preschools (now Great Start to Quality) at a time when increased attention was being paid to the many systems impacting young children in the state.  Later, working as an intern and substitute teacher in Head Start, Great Start Readiness and elementary classrooms she saw and experienced the effects of systemic inequity in impacting even the brightest child’s potential.  Subsequent training in parenting leadership and the nationally recognized Adaptive Schools curriculum has continued to expand her knowledge base and is fueled by an intense personal determination to understand enlightened parenting practice – both for herself and on behalf of those children and families for whom a strengthened support system is essential.   She combines intense passion for her work with a sophisticated understanding of new and developing modes of targeted communication.

Ms. Blough-Orr received her BA in Elementary Education with ZA endorsement in Early Childhood from Western Michigan University.  She interned successfully in early childhood classrooms and as an early childhood substitute teacher.  She has completed Adaptive Schools Training.  Ms. Blough-Orr is a certified Strengthening Families trainer.

Early Childhood Specialist

Synthia Britton joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in July 2015 as an Early Childhood Specialist. Ms. Britton will be working across multiple projects at the Investment Corporation with a focus on Infants and Toddlers.

 Ms. Britton began her career at a before-and-after school program and in a licensed child care center in East Lansing, where she supervised caregiver staff and engaged children from 0-12 in developmentally appropriate activities. As a part of those experiences, Ms. Britton observed how stressors on the family impact a child’s life and was drawn to working with and advocating for children and their families who face a range of challenges.  For example, Ms. Britton has worked in a county health department providing assistance to refugee families and provided therapeutic services to adolescents in residential facilities.  Ms. Britton’s most recent experience has been providing direct home visitation services for young children and youth, from birth through age 17.  In her role as a home visitor, she has implemented abuse and neglect prevention/intervention services and served as a parent educator. 

To be effective in her service to Michigan’s most at-risk families, Ms. Britton has drawn upon a cross-sector set of resources and knowledge including in education, mental health, physical health, and child welfare.  Her strength-based approach to working with children and families is informed by her training in Infant Mental Health and in best practices when building relationships with clients within the field of Social Work.  Ms. Britton comes to the Investment Corporation with a wealth of knowledge in working with high-risk populations, administering assessment and screening tools with infants and toddlers, data collection and analysis, and program implementation and fidelity. 

 Ms. Britton received her Master’s Degree in Interpersonal Skills with Youth and Families with a minor focus in Social Policy and Evaluation from the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Community Services from Michigan State University.  In 2015, she was awarded a Level 2 Endorsement with the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health and is pursuing her license in Social Work.

Michelle Chenier

Michele Chenier joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2010 and is a Technical Assistance Specialist working with Great Start Parent Liaisons around the state.   Ms. Chenier provides orientation for new Great Start Parent Liaison and Collaborative Directors as well as consultation, training and technical assistance to support the Great Start Network, which includes Parenting Leadership, Developing Strong and Effective Groups (Adaptive Schools), Parents Partnering for Change, and Authentic Parent Leadership & Voice. 

Ms. Chenier brings over 12 years of early childhood experience to ECIC including six years as a Preschool Center Assistant at a private preschool and two years as the Great Start Parent Liaison in Delta County.
 
Ms. Chenier received a Business Administration degree from Bay College.  Continuing her education, she is a MPHI Certified Trainer – Parents Partnering for Change and is pursuing Adaptive Schools Associate Trainer Certification.  Ms. Chenier is a certified Strengthening Families trainer.

Bryn Fortune is the Projects Manager for Parent Leadership at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.  In this role, Ms. Fortune oversees a variety of projects and initiatives in areas related to parent education, involvement, engagement and leadership.  She joined the Investment Corporation in 2009.

For over 25 years, Ms. Fortune’s career in early childhood has focused on the area of authentic parent voice, engagement and leadership in a variety of state and community models.  She has extensive background and professional experience in leadership development, adult learning theory and curriculum design, training and facilitation practices and designing for change addressing social justice challenges. Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Ms. Fortune was the Director for Michigan’s Parent Leadership Program and its training initiative for Early On (the state’s early childhood intervention system).   From the winter of 2009 until the fall of 2010, in her original role with the Investment Corporation as Director for Great Start Parent Coalition Training and Technical Assistance, Ms. Fortune oversaw the growth and development of this statewide parent volunteer network from 900 members to over 10,000.  Ms. Fortune is a certified Strengthening Families trainer.

In her current role with ECIC, Ms. Fortune oversees the planning, development, design and implementation for the following projects:

  • Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting for parent representation and leadership in local leadership Groups
  • Great Start Parent Coalition Network for Training and Technical Assistance
  • Strengthening Families/Protective Factors for the statewide Great Start Network including Collaboratives, Parent Coalitions and Great Start to Quality

Ms. Fortune received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from Indiana State University.

Kelly Kreider is Senior Director for Great Start to Quality at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC).  In this role, Ms. Kreider works across Great Start to Quality projects leading a collaborative team focused on promoting innovative, high-quality, research-based early childhood practices and policies.  She joined ECIC in 2012 as the Great Start to Quality Improvement Manager, leading the state-wide work of the Quality Improvement Consultants.  She has received training in Cognitive Coaching and Adaptive Schools – enhancing her practices and increasing her desire to provide the most productive opportunities possible for adult-learners.  Following her time as Improvement Manager, she held the position of Great Start to Quality Systems Manager, guiding the development and daily operations of the on-line parent referral system and the on-line Quality Rating and Improvement System platform, the Great Start to Quality STARS platform as well as supporting data collection and reporting related to Great Start to Quality.  And most recently, Ms. Kreider lead the implementation and project management of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant activities at ECIC as the Senior Early Childhood Specialist.  

 

Ms. Kreider began her career in early childhood education as a Head Start teacher, sparking her interest in supporting children and families with high risks.  From there she became a child care center director and family service advocate, supervising staff and daily operations of a Head Start and tuition-based child care center, as well as assisting families to identify and achieve goals and become involved in their children’s education.  She later advanced to Head Start education manager, overseeing programming, classroom practices, and classroom staff training for Early Head Start, Early Head Start Home-Base, Head Start and tuition-based programs.  During her time as an education manager, she championed a focus on developmentally appropriate practices and nurtured a passion for developmentally appropriate approaches to science and math for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  Ms. Kreider subsequently worked for the Western Great Start to Quality Resource Center at Pathways, MI as a Quality Improvement Consultant, supporting child care programs and Family and Group Home providers in their work to improve quality of care.

Ms. Kreider serves on the Governing Board of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children (MiAEYC) as President, formerly serving as Conference Volunteer Coordinator, Vice-President, Affiliate Representative, and Secretary.

Ms. Kreider earned her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Central Michigan University and her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Grand Valley State University.  She is also a certified Strengthening Families trainer and CLASS observer.

Holly Wingard

Holly Wingard joined the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2009 and is a Technical Assistant Consultant specializing in parent and family engagement and leadership.  In this capacity, Ms. Wingard provides consultation, coaching and training supporting the development of parent and family leadership skills. 

Ms. Wingard began her work in family engagement as an advocate for children with disabilities, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorders, subsequently broadening her experience in developing family leadership as Berrien County Michigan’s first Great Start Parent Coalition Parent Liaison. In that position, she was responsible for the establishment and continued growth of the Coalition, which included recruiting and supporting parents of young children throughout the county to serve as advocates for early childhood services at the local and state level.
Ms. Wingard also worked as a Technical Assistant for 14 Parent Coalitions in Southwest Michigan and as the statewide Director of Parent Leadership and Public Will Building for the Investment Corporation.

Ms. Wingard received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology from The College of Wooster. She is a skilled trainer who continues to expand her extensive experience in Cognitive Coaching, Adaptive Schools, intercultural Communication, Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START), and numerous leadership methodologies.  Ms. Wingard is a certified Strengthening Families trainer.