Decades after Denise Smith ran a home-based child care center, she’s returning to Detroit to lead a project designed to transform the city’s education offerings for young children.
Smith was named the first director of Hope Starts Here, a $50 million effort to expand child care in Detroit and improve existing programs, a spokesman announced Wednesday.
“The fact that 28,000 Detroit children lack access to quality child care is just one measure of how far we have to go,” Smith said in a statement.
Smith comes on board as the initiative breaks ground on a $15 million early childhood center at Marygrove College that will complement a new K-12 school on the same campus.
Smith spent the last decade leading various early childhood initiatives in Michigan, including:
- Executive director of Flint Early Childhood Collaborative and Educare-Flint
- Vice president for early childhood, Excellent Schools Detroit
- Director of Great Start to Quality, the state’s child care rating system
She said her experiences as a parent and as a caregiver for her nine-year-old niece have convinced her of the importance of early education.
“Once you’ve seen the difference that having opportunity can make in the trajectory of a child’s life you know what’s possible,” she said in a statement. “Yes, it’s hard. But it can be done. Now we have the right pieces to take the limits off of children’s lives in Detroit, and we can do it early.’’