Team

Mary Manner

Great Start Collaborative Coordinator

Mary Ufford Manner, originally from Ashtabula OH, attended Interlochen Arts Academy and fell in love with northern Michigan.  After receiving her Bachelors and Masters of Science in Zoology from Michigan State University, and living in various places around the country, Mary returned to Traverse City to raise her family.  Her professional work has been in formal and informal science education for children and families, with a focus on ecology and fresh water resources.

“I often marvel that the older I get, the younger my audience becomes.  As a twenty-something I vowed to never work with people younger than college-aged, and planned my career path accordingly.  As a thirty-something mother of three young boys, volunteering in their preschools and elementary schools was the right thing to do.  And while I was there, I came to the realization that kindergartners are the very best experimentalists.  The curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm they exhibit are the hallmarks of great scientists, great artists, great engineers, and everyone who feels a passion for their work.  You might say I tumbled into early childhood, but now that I’m here—I’m here to stay.  My goal is to ensure that all children get to experience the wonder and enjoyment of learning, and to find their passions.”

mumanner@tcchamber.org 
Work: 231-995-7114
Cell: 231-632-5510

Missy Smith

Great Start Parent Liaison

Missy Smith is a mom to 4 lovely daughters, a lifelong resident of Michigan, and passionate about the education of young children. She was an elementary classroom teacher for over 10 years and holds degrees in education from both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, working with children for over 30 years.

As a parent of twins as well as a daughter with special needs, Missy has a unique understanding of issues facing parents of young children. She regularly serves the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital within the Michigan Congenital Heart Center and the American College of Physicians to ensure that patients and families receive the highest quality care.   At home in Traverse City, she advocates for the needs of people with Down syndrome as an active member and former president of the Down Syndrome Association of Northwest Michigan.  As the owner and founder of Gun Safe Mom, she began a national conversational initiative to prevent children from independently accessing guns in the home.

“Being a parent is my most important work.  Our children, no matter how they come to us, have so much to offer the world and deserve our complete respect and devotion. Children are the culmination of our most powerful efforts and emotions and there is nothing more worthy or satisfying than to witness their growth into compassionate, creative, hard-working, thoughtful, and giving members of society.”

missy@greatstartkids.com 

cell: 231-342-5433

Amanda Stevenson

5toONE Network Manager

Amanda Stevenson always knew she would work with children. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Family Life Education from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point she began her career working as a Teaching Assistant in a Head Start classroom in her hometown in the Upper Peninsula. While she loved the daily interaction with students, she wanted to work with the families as a whole. That is when she moved to Traverse City to work with the Great Start Collaborative as an AmeriCorps VISTA for two years and helped develop 5toONE into what it is today. She is grateful that she is able to continue working with this amazing team to help families in Northern Michigan.

astevenson@tbaisd.org 

cell: 906-399-0816

Ashley Stradinger

United Way AmeriCorps VISTA

Ashley Stradinger, born and raised in Traverse City MI, moved home to begin her career after receiving her Bachelors in Community Governance & Advocacy from Michigan State University. Working as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Great Start Collaborative is an amazing opportunity that allows her to continue to build her skills and knowledge of child development while working with families from her community.

astradinger@tbaisd.org

work: 231-995-7116