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.”
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.”